Varpu Lindström died peacefully at home on June 21, 2012 surrounded by her family, having lived a life of undiminished love, even with terminal brain cancer for the last three years. Varpu is survived by Borje; Allan and Hanna; Martin, Heidi and Aurora; Sofia and Jason; Mark and family; as well as countless friends and relatives in Canada and Finland.
Born in Helsinki, Finland, Varpu came to Canada as a teenager, received a Canadian education, yet always retained her love of Finland. She founded the Canadian Friends of Finland friendship society in 1982 and fostered cultural relations between Canada and Finland in a variety of ways.
She enjoyed a stellar career as professor of History and Women’s Studies at York University, as administrator, as teacher and as scholar. She held administrative positions in Atkinson College – Director of Canadian Studies, Master of Atkinson College, and Chair of History – serving the larger University as the founding Chair of the School of Women’s Studies, for two decades as senator, one term as faculty representative on the Board of Governors, and successfully as chair of York’s School of Social Work at a difficult time in the school’s history. Varpu received the first-ever Atkinson Teaching Award.
Her scholarship will remain her greatest academic legacy. Her book Defiant Sisters, A Social History of Finnish Immigrant Women, 1890-1930 was a doubly pioneering study: it helped establish oral interview-based social history as legitimate history, and was the first dissertation devoted to the history of women. Her subsequent books cemented her reputation as the world’s leading expert on the social history of Finnish women in Canada. Her career as scholar, teacher, and administrator earned her the highest honour York University bestows upon a faculty member: the title of University Professor.
Varpu Lindström conducted the research for the award-winning and Gemini-nominated historical documentary Letters from Karelia about the tragic fate of Canadian Finns lured back by Stalin’s promises of prosperity only to be killed in his purges in the 1930s. In 1991 Varpu was awarded the Knight First Class of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, and in 2012 the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Varpu Lindström will be remembered for her boundless capacity for love, kindness, wisdom, mentoring, and encouragement.
A private funeral has been held, and a memorial service was held on Friday, July 6, at 2 p.m. at R.S.Kane Funeral Home, 6150 Yonge Street.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the charity of Varpu’s choice, The Canadian Friends of Finland Education Foundation (CFFEF), P.O. Box 278, 27 St Clair Ave. E. Toronto, ON M4T 1L0, or via the “Donate” link on this web site .