Helen Fogwill Porter

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Helen Fogwill Porter
Born (1930-05-08) May 8, 1930 (age 90)
Known forWriting, Volunteering, NDP Leader
Political partyNDP
Spouse(s)John Porter

Helen Fogwill Porter CM (born May 8, 1930) is a Canadian author and activist.

Early life[edit]

Porter was born on May 8, 1930, on the Southside of St. John's, Newfoundland. She is the eldest child of Robert (Bob) Fogwill, who worked in the Newfoundland Railway freight office, and Evelyn Horwood.[1] Porter attended the Holloway School and Prince of Wales College in St. John's. As a teenager, Porter was part of the petition drive for confederation between Newfoundland and Canada. Following her graduation, she worked as a shorthand typist with the Department of Justice.

Porter began writing in 1962, but not until 1973 did she devote her full-time to writing.[2] In 1953 she married John Porter; the couple had four children: Kathy, Ann, John, and Stephen.[3] The family lived in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Fortune, Newfoundland and Labrador before returning to St. John's. John Porter died in 1983; John Porter Jr. died in 2016.

When their youngest child entered high school Porter started work at the A. C. Hunter Library. She was introduced to the writing of Margaret Duley and met other aspiring writers.

Porter is a member of the Writers' Union of Canada (and has been given a rare lifetime membership), and served on the boards of PEN and the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL).[4] She still resides in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Writing career[edit]

One of Porter's first-published poems appeared in 1943,[5] but she became serious about writing in 1962.[6] In 1963 she began having articles, reviews, short stories and poetry published in Maclean's, Chatelaine, Star Weekly and Saturday Night. Her works were then further published in the Quill & Quire, The Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review and the Journal of Canadian Fiction.[2]

At the beginning of her writing career, Porter based most of her stories out of England, Scotland or the United States because she believed that nobody was interested in stories about Newfoundland.[7] By 1973, Porter's short stories, articles, poems, plays and reviews were published throughout Canada and abroad. In 1977 she collaborated with Bernice Morgan and Geraldine Rubia on writing From this Place, an anthology from women writers of Newfoundland and Labrador.[6] Porter's Below the Bridge was published in 1979. This was a story about her childhood in St. John's.[7]

Porter's first novel, January, February, June or July (1988), was followed by A Long and Lonely Ride (1991) and Finishing School (2007), as well as her memoir Below the Bridge (1980). Her most recent publication is the poetry collection Full Circle. Porter was also a founding member of the Newfoundland Writer's Guild.[6] As part of that group she helped bring Metroverse, a Canada Council initiative placing poetry on city buses, to St. John's.

Volunteering and employment[edit]

Porter taught creative writing with Memorial University Extension Arts from 1976-1990 and with the division of Continuing Studies from 1991.[1] She also worked with the Visiting Artists' Program of the Newfoundland Teachers' Association visiting schools in Newfoundland where she hoped to impart to school children a sense of their own literature. Porter was highly involved with the "Metro Verse" project that placed poetry on the inside of public transit buses.

This project lead her to get involved with a similar one in Alberta called "Take the Poetry Route" that put pieces of poetry inside buses in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, and Medicine Hat.[7]

Political life[edit]

Porter was heavily involved in the women's movement in the early 1970s.[2] She was also a founding member of the Newfoundland Status of Women Council. In the decade between 1975 and 1985, Porter ran for election to the Canadian Parliament as a New Democratic Party representative four times. She ran in the riding of Mount Pearl, a suburb of St. John's, Newfoundland.

Porter's political goals were to get the economy back on track and to gain equality for women.[1] Porter has been described as "an outstanding candidate with an enormous commitment to her community". Her audience also stated that: "Helen Porter will fight for real change for the benefit of all Newfoundlanders." In 2003 The Helen Porter Fund was established to help women NDP candidates. She has marched for causes and protested events from the Vietnam War to a Metrobus strike to St. John's heritage preservation.


At least fifteen of Porter's works were honoured with awards in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competitions throughout the 1960s and 1970s. This included Bus Ride, a conversation between two women coming home from bingo; this later became a radio play broadcast on CBC Radio as well as a one act play performed at a festival on the upper concourse of the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre.

Porter's novel, "January, February, June or July", won the Young Adult Canadian Book Award from the Canadian Library Association in 1989,[1] and was short-listed for Books in Canada W. H. Smith Best First Novel Award. Porter also received the year's lifetime achievement award for her length of time as a leading figure in the Guild. Memorial University of Newfoundland granted her an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 1997. Porter also received the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.[8] She was awarded the Order of Canada with the grade of member in December 2015.[9] That same year a footbridge spanning the Waterford River was dedicated to her.

The Helen Fogwill Porter Fund[edit]

In March 2003, the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party launched a fund in Porter's name. The fund aids women who are seeking to run as an NDP representative. The fund assists women at the provincial level in general and by elections. The financial assistance provides child care, campaign costs and household assistance. The Helen Fogwill Porter Fund also support conferences where female candidates can meet with each other. Nancy Riche stated, "The province needs more women in the legislature. If Helen had won in one of the elections in which she ran, she would have made more than a difference. She would have changed the political landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador." [10]



  • From this Place- with Bernice Morgan and Geraldine Rubia (1977; ISBN 0-920502-02-4)
  • Below the Bridge (1980; ISBN 0-919948-72-3)
  • January, February, June or July (1988; ISBN 0-920911-27-7)
  • A Long and Lonely Ride (1991; ISBN 1-55081-011-1)
  • Finishing School (2007; ISBN 978-1-895900-88-0)


  • They Do It Every Summer (1954)
  • The Children Are Gone (1979)
  • Moratorium (1999)
  • To My Son
  • Full Circle (2018; ISBN 978-1-550817-13-3)

Plays and short stories[edit]

  • For Every Man an Island (1982; ISBN 0-919519-09-1)
  • The Five- Dollar Bet (1969)
  • Moving Day


  1. ^ a b c d "Porter, Agnes Helen Fogwill." Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. Ed. Cyril F. Poole. 1st ed. Vol. 4. 1993. Print.
  2. ^ a b c Marian A.White. Ed. A Woman's Almanac,Voices from Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John's, NL. Breakwater Books. 1989. Print.
  3. ^ Who's Who in the Writers' Union of Canada. 3rd ed. Toronto, Ontario: Writers' Union of Canada, 1988. Print
  4. ^ Irving, Kay. "Helen Fogwill Porter, Float". TWUC (The Writers' Union of Canada). Vol24(7). Feb 1997. 15-16. Print.
  5. ^ Porter, Helen Fogwill (2020). "On Getting Started as a Writer". In Jarvis, Dale Gilbert (ed.). Mug Up Memories (PDF). St. John's, NL: Heritage NL. pp. 25–28. ISBN 978-1-988899-15-2.
  6. ^ a b c Lippa, Kathleen. "Living a St. John's Life". The Express. 12 Apr. 2000. Print.
  7. ^ a b c White, Linda. "Finding aid to Helen Porter fonds (COLL-013)." Archives and Special Collections, Memorial University of Newfoundland. 1990. Print.
  8. ^ Gard, Peter. "Political types frequent arts council award". ARTS. Print
  9. ^ "Order of Canada Appointments". The Governor General of Canada His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston. Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 31 December 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "NDP launches fund to help women run". The Telegram. 6 Mar. 2003. Print.

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