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The Shirley Petten Collection

The Shirley Petten Collection

In December 1991, Beverly Holmwood, Petten's partner of 20 years, died of hepatitis C. The disease had been the result of a needlestick injury from a contaminated needle while Holmwood was working as a nurse at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. In November 1992, Petten won a landmark ruling against the British Columbia Workers’ Compensation Board, who had initially refused her a survivor’s pension, and was the first in Canada to receive same-sex benefits from the board. In February 2009, Petten received a left ventricular assist device as treatment for her progressive heart failure. When she died on May 22, 2014, she was the longest surviving recipient of such a device, having had it for 5 years.

In 1999, Cynthia Petersen, a lawyer based in Ontario, wrote about Petten's case in a chapter of the book Laboring for Rights: Unions and Sexual Diversity Across Nations, edited by Gerald Hunt, entitled "Fighting it Out in Canadian Courts."


Contributed by The Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony and Special Collections and Rare Books, Simon Fraser University Library. SFU Library gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by numerous donors through the crowdfunding efforts of Cameron Duder.

Donors to the Shirley Petten Digitization Project

Barbara Minshall
Joan Kotarski
Denise Ravenhill & Sharon Harris
Claire Schneider
Lois Moon & Elaine Jett
Gwen Taylor & Robin Durkin
Lara Wilson
Cameron Duder
Bill Petten
Tom Holmwood
Sharon Bedard
Hilde Volbach
D. Lawrence
C. Anderson
Carole Parriey
Vikki Forsyth
Elizabeth Duff
BC Nurses’ Union
John Yetman
Christine Heinzle
Susan Johnston
Christie Roome
Nancy Pollak
Derek Capitaine
Joy Butler
Jan Trainor