This week’s warm remembrance of Australian-born journalist Betty Lee, who passed away earlier this month at age 93 in Toronto, appears in the paper where she made her most lasting contributions, the Globe and Mail. It was penned by another very capable Toronto-based writer, Lisa Fitterman.
Lee began making her mark at the Globe and Mail in 1959, when she returned from a six-year undocumented professional stint in New York City. From Fitterman’s obituary:
Over the years, Lee wrote numerous important features and series, including one in 1963 about Arthur Lucas, a soft-spoken giant of a man with a long criminal history who, with Ronald Turpin, had been hanged at Toronto’s Don Jail the year before. Their deaths would mark the last time capital punishment was enforced in Canada and Ms. Lee, who used trial transcripts and extensive interviews to produce the series, sharply questioned the fairness of Mr. Lucas’s double-murder trial from the get-go. She wrote that every bit of evidence presented had been circumstantial and not a single witness placed him at or near the house in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood where two bodies were found…
Lee traveled the world for the Globe, won a National Newspaper Award for a lengthy hard-hitting series on the insurance industry and, in 1972, became the first female Southam Journalism Fellow at Massey College, at the University of Toronto, to be allowed to use the college on a daily basis – just like the men.
Fitterman, on her personal blog, links to the obituary with the tease: ‘How amazing to think of a time when newspaper scribes were given a year to write articles such as a 32-part series on the insurance industry!’ In the early 1970s, Lee also wrote in the Globe and Mail about how her retina became detached while watching Last Tango in Paris. It was the beginning of long-lasting vision problems.
Lee’s partner Dorothy Knight, who survives her, inspired her to write the 1975 book Lutiapik, all about the latter’s experiences as a nurse in the Arctic region. RIP.