Canada Post is honoring Mona Parsons, the only non-military Canadian woman to be imprisoned by the German army during the Second World War, with its annual Remembrance Day stamp.
Parsons’ story, while little known to most Canadians, is one of “courage, determination and the ability to overcome obstacles,” according to Canada Post.
The stamp, unveiled Monday, shows a portrait of a young Parsons with, in the background, a photograph of infantry soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders advancing toward the Netherlands. It was designed by Larry Burke and Anna Stredulinsky of Halifax marketing boutique Burke & Burke.
Monday’s unveiling includes a large-format version of the stamp, measuring eight feet six inches, serving as a permanent installation outside a post office in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, the town where Parsons grew up.
Doug Ettinger, president and CEO of Canada Post, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview that this is the first time Parsons has received this level of recognition in Canada.
“I think it’s a story that will inspire Canadians,” he said.
“She is a hero who truly put everything on the line and sacrificed everything for the sake of her values, her basic dignity and democracy during (World War II).”
The Canada Post Remembrance Day stamp featuring Mona Parsons was unveiled on Monday, November 6, 2023. (Submitted)
Parsons was born in Middleton, Nova Scotia in 1901. She was the youngest of four children and grew up in generally comfortable circumstances since her father was a businessman and stock broker.
The family moved to Wolfville, where Parsons began his post-secondary education at Acadia University before moving to New York to pursue a career in theater. However, her theatrical activities did not take her far and she eventually became a nurse.
In 1937, Parsons married a Dutch businessman named Willem Leonhardt and moved to the Netherlands, where they lived a privileged life until Germany invaded the country in 1940.
The couple joined a resistance unit that rescued Allied airmen whose planes had been shot down. They provided fake IDs, ration cards, clothes, shelter and offered their house as a stopping point. In 1941, they were arrested and held in separate prisons.
Parsons was one of the first and few women to be tried by a military tribunal in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, according to Andria Hill-Lehr, author of Mona Parsons: From Privilege to Prison, from New York Scotland to Nazi Europe.
“She showed such composure, dignity and calm that the head of the court went to her afterwards and told her he would allow her to appeal,” said Hill-Lehr, who nominated Parsons for the stamp.
Instead of being sentenced to death, Parsons was transferred to a prison in Germany where she spent the next three years in “atrocious conditions,” Hill-Lehr said.
There she met Baroness Wendelien van Boetzelaer who helped her escape in 1945.
By the time Parsons reached safer ground in the Netherlands, she weighed just 87 pounds for a woman five feet eight inches tall. She asked for help and had a chance encounter with a soldier from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders unit who had advanced into the country.
Eventually, Parsons returned to Nova Scotia, where she remarried and lived until her death in 1976.
“Mona never wore a uniform, never carried a gun and she was willing to risk everything for her values, which were justice and freedom,” Hill-Lehr said.
More than highlighting a war hero, Hill-Lehr said this stamp aims to bring positive change in society, as women have often been overlooked in history.
“I hope that by highlighting the stories of these women and appreciating who they were as human beings, we can actually begin to bring about real change and move away from the status quo,” he said. -she declared.
Parsons stamps will be available for purchase across Canada starting Tuesday, November 7. Booklets of 10 permanent stamps will cost $9.20 and the pack of five stamps will cost $4.60.
Remembrance Day stamps have been issued as part of Canada Post’s annual commemorative stamp program since 2012.