Community Worker, Political Organizer
Born in Santa Maria, Azores.
Lived in Vancouver and Kingston.
Based in Toronto.
It was women in those days who were really inspiring, who were very active. And these women were vocal, they weren’t afraid to speak up… There was a real sense that, if women are going to do well, they are going to have to fight for themselves – Marcie Ponte.
Marcie Ponte is a dynamic and well-respected community organizer in Toronto, in and outside the Portuguese community. Her lengthy career as a community and immigrant settlement worker and political organizer includes leading the Working Women Community Centre, and multiple other progressive and feminist initiatives, like the Cleaners’ Action, On Your Mark, and the International Women’s Day March.
Marcie (Marcelina) Ponte was born in Vila de Porto, Santa Maria island, Azores. In 1963, when she was seven years old, she immigrated to Canada with her mother and siblings, where they joined her father, who had been working on railway building in British Columbia since the early 1950s. The reunited family spent their first year and a half in Vancouver , after which they moved to Kingston, Ontario. Her father opened a business cleaning bakeries overnight; on the weekends, Marcie and the rest of the family would help him.
Marcie’s father died at age 45 when she was 14. The remaining Pontes then moved in with Marcie’s brother, who was living with his wife on Leaside, a suburb of Toronto. She attended elementary school, where a teacher suggested that she change her name to Marcie, since Marcelina was “too long.” She attended post-secondary school at Centennial College, where she studied community development. Marcie did her work placement at St. Stephen’s Community House, in Kensington Market, where she was first exposed to the city’s Portuguese community, with whom she worked closely. During this placement, Marcie connected with three other community developers from St. Christopher House, where she became involved in the creation of the Cleaners’ Action Project. These women became her mentors and convinced Marcie’s mother to allow her to move into their house in Kensington Market when she was nineteen. Her work with the St. Christopher House involved attending union meetings incognito at McGregor Socks and the Commerce Court. For five years, she also worked as an organizer with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which led her to become involved with the New Democratic Party. In the mid-1970s, Marcie became involved with the Movimento Comunitário Português (Portuguese Communitarian Movement) led by John Medeiros and Domingos Marques at the West End YMCA. In the 1990s-2000s, she was also involved with the Portuguese Canadian National Congress as one of its executive officers.
When the Working Women Community Centre (WWCC) – an immigration settlement services agency originally dedicated to working class women from Portugal, the Caribbean, and Latin America – was incorporated in 1976, Marcie became one of its first board members, when she was 18 years old. In 1999, she became the WWCC’s executive director. Among the actions that Marcie was involved in during her years at the WWCC were supporting the Morgentaler Clinic and his pro-choice activism and leading the third International Women’s Day parade in Toronto – the first organized and led by immigrant women. Another successful project run by the WWCC is the On Your Mark mentoring and tutoring program. Under Marcie’s direction, the WWCC grew to four locations across Toronto, providing services in over twenty-five languages. to approximately 10,000-15,000 clients a year.
Marcie has received multiple awards for her work, including the City of Toronto Access, Equity & Human Rights Award and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013. In 2018, she was awarded the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in recognition of her outstanding achievements to the advancement of women and girls in Toronto. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law from York University the following year.
Hora dos Portugueses
Photos & Video
Short description: Kitchenware
Description: An iron frying pan, wooden spatula, and bread knife given to Marcie Ponte by her mother when she left home at age 19 to work as a community development worker in Kensington Market.