Rosemary MacAdam

by Lindy from Peterborough

“When it comes to getting things done, we need fewer architects and more bricklayers.” - Colleen Barrett
Rosie (right) and her friend Sylvia (left)
Rosie (right) and her friend Sylvia (left)

“There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”

My hero definitely falls under the first group; she is someone who has dedicated her life to making the world a better place one step at a time. Rosemary MacAdam was born in Toronto, Ontario. She was born into a family who had a passion for making the world a better place. Her mom was a feminist who started a film festival for feminist activists. Her dad was the outreach coordinator for the Anglican social justice group in Toronto.

Rosie first became interested in sweatshops when she did a grade 8 eco project about them. While working on the project she became aware of all the wrong in this world and remembers it clearly as a real eye opening experience for her. Since then, her passion to make a difference has grown and, recently, in the summer of 2007, she made her first trek to El Salvador to experience working in the sweatshops for herself. During her time there she worked for a local labor rights association. Her first month was very difficult for her because of language complications. But she soon adjusted to the ways of the locals and began to help out all she could around the organization. One of her favorite moments was when she was sent to a garment factory (sweatshop) undercover to gain information. Pretending to be a representative from an organization interested in buying their clothes, she demanded a tour of the factories and other information.

Working with the women in El Salvador who were being oppressed by sweatshops was a great experience. Rosie started to understand just how many people's lives are affected by sweatshops. It is different seeing pictures on the news than it is to see the people who are actually affected by them. The influence those ladies had on her life made her determined to do something when she got back home. That is when I first met Rosie and heard about her fight against the oppression of the sweatshops. She came to Peterborough to start at Trent University and then started a knitting group for youth in the community, so she could tell them about her fight and about her goal.

Where your money goes when you buy a shoe
Where your money goes when you buy a shoe

The group was started and we called it Extreme Knitting so people would know that we were not only a bunch of knitters, but also a group of young activists with an amazing leader spurring us on. As we sat there every Thursday, Rosie would tell us bit by bit how horrendous and degrading the sweatshops were for the millions of people forced to work in them. Forced to work for pennies just so they could provide a meal for their families that night. As she told us these stories her face would light up with a passion, a passion to make a difference and to stop all the wrong in the world.

It wasn’t just our small group that got to hear Rosie’s passionate speech. All over Peterborough and Toronto, schools, churches and organizations ask her to come and tell them about the horrors she witnessed. She now is talking to groups all over, including many young people, about her experience in El Salvador and what they can do to make a difference.

But her work in promoting an alternative to sweatshops is not the thing that I admire most about Rosie. It is the fact that she would never think herself higher than anyone, even though she has every right to. Her heart is always set on her goal, and she never lets her heart sway in the direction of fame and fortune. Rosie has made such an impact on my life and I am happy to say that I know her.

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” This quote from Edward Everett Hale really inspires Rosie! Alone she cannot change the world. But just because she can't change the whole world doesn’t mean that she can’t make a difference in her own way, no matter how small! She has become my role model! I am ever grateful to her for the difference she has made in my life and the way she has inspired me and continues to inspire me every day. She has inspired me to make a difference in whatever way I can. To be the change I want, to be kind to everyone, and to always be ready with a hug, but most of all she has taught me to light up every day with a smile! I asked Rosie if she could say one thing to the whole world what would it be and she responded with these two quotes:

The first one is from Audrey Lorde, a black politician activist, who died of cancer in 1992 --

"Your silence can not protect you, my silence did not protect me."

This quote comes from Pastor Martin Niemöller, a survivor of the Holocaust --

"When the Nazi's came for the Jews I did nothing because I was not a Jew. When the Nazis came for the Homosexual I did nothing, because I was not Homosexual. When the Nazis came for the Gypsies I did nothing because I was not a Gypsie. But when the Nazis came for me, there was no one left to speak for me."

Page created on 1/28/2010 4:14:17 PM

Last edited 1/9/2017 6:10:17 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Me to We - Good website for buying non-sweatshop clothes
No Sweat - 100% Union-made apparel
Global Exchange - Fair Trade Online store

Extra Info


Hey Everyone,

One issue I deal with personally, and in my work as the Fair Trade Coordinator for Trent University, is the way clothes are made and how products are produced. The fair trade movement has grown quite a lot in the past few years with many fair trade food options like coffee, tea and chocolate. For clothes, there have been a number of ethical initiatives like union-made, sewing co-operatives and no–sweat apparel.

I’ve created a list of different ethical companies that have some really interesting stories and products, including a really cool co-op of women in Nicaragua where I was this summer. I wanted to share with you what I work on every week: to make sure the clothes people buy are made under humane conditions.

And I wanted to spread the word to everyone I know. We do have choices about the things we buy and there are some alternatives out there. I hope everyone has a lovely winter, with time to relax and enjoy the season.