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St. John's author Helen Fogwill Porter remembered as groundbreaking writer and caring friend

St. John's author and activist Helen Fogwill Porter died on Thursday at 92. She is being remembered as a writer who broke barriers in Newfoundland’s literary scene and a friend whose caring nature touched the hearts of many. (CBC - image credit)
St. John's author and activist Helen Fogwill Porter died on Thursday at 92. She is being remembered as a writer who broke barriers in Newfoundland’s literary scene and a friend whose caring nature touched the hearts of many. (CBC - image credit)
CBC
CBC

St. John's author and activist Helen Fogwill Porter is being remembered as a writer who broke barriers in Newfoundland's literary scene and a friend whose caring nature touched the hearts of many.

Porter, who died Thursday at 92, was named to the Order of Canada in 2015 for her writing and political activism. She regularly wrote about difficult subjects, such as abortion, poverty and child abuse — topics that were often considered taboo at the time she wrote about them, said Porter's longtime friend, Bernice Morgan.

"Helen was a real humanitarian," Morgan, a Newfoundland author who was friends with Porter for over 50 years, said Monday.

"She was a really, really remarkable person. She's enriched my life so much."

Porter was well known for her 1980 memoir, Below the Bridge, which explored what it was like growing up on Southside Road in St. John's. Morgan said the memoir painted a portrait of working-class life in Newfoundland.

CBC
CBC

In her honour, the City of St. John's named a footbridge across the Waterford River after her in 2015.

"I think it's one of the most interesting and significant autobiographies I've ever read," said Morgan, who says Porter's writing was always filled with impeccable nuance and detail.

Porter's first novel, January, February, June or July, tackled the subject of abortion, and won the Young Adult Canadian Book Award from the Canadian Library Association.

"I think she will be remembered as a person who broke barriers on subjects to write about," said Morgan.

CBC
CBC

Porter was also a founding member of the province's Writers' Guild and one of the founders of the Status of Women Council. She also ran for the New Democratic Party in four elections.

Morgan, who also received the Order of Canada, says she and Porter have been friends ever since they met 50 years ago at a creative writing class. The two both wrote into their 80s, and Morgan says they always shared ideas and books with one another.

Aside from her writing, Morgan says she'll always remember Porter as someone who was interested in learning about the lives of others and who cared deeply about people.

"She was so kind and so giving to anyone," said Morgan. "I loved her dearly."

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