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Lieutenant Colonel Shirley Robinson

One of Aspen Robinson’s vivid childhood memories is visiting her Great Aunt Shirley in Ottawa and hearing her say, in a live television interview, that the Canadian National anthem should reflect gender equality.

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Shirley Robinson

“I was with her, she told the camera, that the national anthem should say “in all of the command” not in all our sons’ command,” she said.

The comment was on brand for Lt. Col (ret) Shirley Robinson, a woman who spent decades of her life challenging gender myths and stereotypes and lobbying government to gaining equality for military women.

In her 30-year military career Robinson nursed in Canada and overseas, working her way up to become the Deputy Director of the Women Personnel at the National Defence Headquarters.

She retired in 1984 but nevertheless, she persisted. Robinson was a founding member of the Association for Women’s Equality in the Canadian Forces and a consultant to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, work that was instrumental in opening combat roles to women in 1989.

In 1992 she received the Governor General’s Award for her dedication to the cause.

Aspen Robinson feels her Great Aunt’s courage lives on in her.

“I feel like a part of her is a part of me,” she said.

“Even when I was a child, her words were always in the back of my mind. ‘Live to your full potential.’”

Lt. Colonel Robinson died in November 2020 in Ottawa.

Her remains were buried with Military Honours in the National Military Cemetery of the Armed Forces at Beechwood Cemetery.

Here’s to you, Colonel Robinson.

View Colonel Robinson’s Heroes Remember video.

Date published: 2021-01-20

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