Glennys Christie: journalist, crusader for democracy and justice

By Alix Christie

 

Glennys Christie spent her life fighting injustice. She was a crusading journalist, feminist and environmentalist whose career took her from a one-room schoolhouse to covering politics at the Washington statehouse.

She was the founding editor of the All Point Bulletin, the community newspaper of Point Roberts, the APBAmerican peninsula jutting from the Canadian mainland that perfectly expressed her own dual identity. She was instrumental in the creation and served as the first editor of The Northern Light.

Glennys was born in Forestberg, Alberta in 1933 and raised in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, where her mother, Mary Hall, taught her in a one-room schoolhouse in the Joe Rich Valley near Kelowna.

Her mother also taught math and science during the wartime years at Rutland High School, which Glennys attended. But the female teaching staff was relegated to the home economics department after male teachers returned from the Second World War, an experience of discrimination that strongly influenced Glennys’ commitment to equal rights for men and women.

A brilliant student and gifted pianist, she left for Vancouver in the early 1950s to attend the University of British Columbia (UBC) at the age of 16, becoming a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and excelling in the study of English and history. She was determined and adventurous, working as a waitress in the Columbia Ice Fields, as a “printer’s devil” in a small print shop and hitchhiking across Canada with a girlfriend to see the man whom she later married.

While at UBC, Glennys became interested in journalism, a field that was to define her life. She subsequently earned a Master’s degree in journalism at Stanford University, and reported for several metropolitan newspapers. While interning at the Vancouver Sun, she refused the banishment of women to the society pages and covered hard news, including the police beat; she also reported for the San Francisco News.

She took time out to raise a family of five children, and lived for a time in Bozeman, Montana, before relocating to the San Francisco Bay area. Her creative abilities matched her intellectual skills: she was a formidable seamstress as well as a painter and decorator whose artistic endeavors extended to making a wall mosaic at her children’s school.

She was a member of the Fraser and MacDonald clans, descended from Scottish forbears who came to North America as traders for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Glennys honored her highland heritage by enrolling her sons as bagpipers in the Diablo Valley Highlanders and providing highland dancing lessons for her eldest daughter.

In the 1970s she faced discrimination once again when, as a divorced single mother, she encountered barriers to fair mortgage lending and child support. A committed feminist and lifelong Democratic activist, she re-established her career as editor of the Lafayette Squire, a suburban weekly, before founding her own public relations firm, Creative Marketing Services.

Some of her proudest moments came as a communications director: she worked on the successful effort to get the playwright Eugene O’Neill’s home, Tao House, designated as a National Historic Site, and wrote the first Environmental Impact Report under new environmental legislation in the state of California for the planned community of Orindawoods, in 1973-74. She was also the communications director for the superintendent of schools in Contra Costa County.

In the early 1980s she relocated to Point Roberts and briefly co-ran a gift shop called “The Uppity Duck” before co-founding the All Point Bulletin monthly newspaper with her then-husband Richard Lloyd. This scrappy independent newspaper became critical to the community’s understanding of itself. Glennys’ reporting on complex border issues helped Point Roberts residents to understand how its choice of public utilities like water and telephone service were fundamental to its identity and autonomy.

She was an ardent champion of open meetings and transparent democratic process, a stance that earned her the epithet FAB for “First Amendment B*tch” among some. Yet, shyly behind sunglasses, she quietly transformed that spiteful phrase into a badge of courage and pride, and at one point even considered emblazoning a T-shirt with it. She fought hard to preserve the heritage of the Lummi tribe in its ancestral grounds on Lily Point, and to protect it and Point Roberts’ heron rookery from invasive development.

In 1986, Glennys became a naturalized American citizen, reasoning that it was time to be able to vote in a country to which she had paid taxes for 30 years. She often said that America had given her – as a young and then middle-aged green-card holder through the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s – more opportunities to succeed as a woman entrepreneur than she felt Canada would or could have.

She enjoyed the respect and admiration of many strong women in Point Roberts and California, notably Ruby White, Claudette Upton and Margo Wallace. Upon announcing her intention to close the All Point Bulletin in 1991, she was met with such community opposition that the paper was revived, and a new management structure put in place under the present owners. In a note to readers under the headline, “Tell us it isn’t so!” she wrote that she had received “many calls and letters … asking if there couldn’t be something done to resume publication.”

Glennys was also instrumental in the 1995 founding of The Northern Light. Serving as the paper’s first editor, Glennys discovered that back in 1858 the first newspaper in Whatcom County had been called the “Northern Light” and suggested that the new paper should be named likewise.

In retirement in California and Florida she continued editing, teaching English as a second language, working on Democratic election campaigns and instructing and delighting her grandchildren. Her passions included rose gardening, the opera and the symphony; she supported a variety of wildlife foundations and was particularly cheered by the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park in her beloved Montana.

At home, she was a demon at backgammon, Scrabble and crosswords; she also traveled widely for the last part of her life in Europe and Asia. A lifelong love of poetry and her Commonwealth upbringing sent her on a Dylan Thomas pilgrimage to Wales while her interests in politics and history were fed by time in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Berlin and London.

Glennys lost her beloved second son, Andrew Scott Christie, to schizophrenia in 1990. She is survived by her four remaining children: Joseph William Christie III of California, Alix Elizabeth Christie of London, Ann Victoria Christie of Pennsylvania, and Stuart Colin Fraser Christie of Hong Kong; and seven grandchildren.

Memorials in Point Roberts and Kelowna, B.C., are planned. The family requests donations to the National Resources Defense Council, 40 W. 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011; or the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, 90 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY, 10016.

  1. Glennys was the real thing, and one of a handful of journalists who covered politics straight up.

    Glennys was a pal of my friend Mary Kay Becker, WA State appellate court judge, and always treated us lefties with respect.

    Last time I saw Glennys (20 years ago), we were before a corrupt superior court judge who had just finished ruling against us, and she asked me for a quote. When I told her we didn’t come there looking for love, I thought she might be held in contempt for laughing so loud in the courtroom.

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