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Manitoba History No. 89

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Memorable Manitobans: Mary Johnson (1922-1990)


Born at Southampton, England, where she attended elementary and commercial schools, she served as a teleprinter operator in the WAAF during World War Two. She met and married Ernest Johnson, a Canadian flying officer, in 1943 and emigrated with him to Canada in 1946.

In the 1960s she advocated the phonetic method to teach reading in Manitoba schools. When her methods ran into opposition, she wrote the book Foundations of Literacy on the subject and helped to found the Reading Reform Foundation in the USA. She was subsequently given the Watson Washburn Memorial Award by that organization. In the 1970s she was one of the first volunteers to teach English as a second language to new immigrants. She later served as coordinator of a literacy program sponsored by the Citizenship Council of Manitoba through the International Centre of Winnipeg. In 1978, she became the founding president of the Winnipeg Volunteer Reading Aides (Laubach). In 1989, donated her copyright and inventory of literacy workbooks to the Citizenship Council of Manitoba. Her work was recognized by a Good Servant Award from the Canadian Conference of Christians and Jews.

She died at Winnipeg on 15 June 1990. She was inducted posthumously into the Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame, in 1991.


“A tribute” by Ruth Bellan, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 May 1990.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 18 June 1990.

Page revised: 7 July 2009

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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