Margrit Elisabeth Gertrud Eichler
September 28, 1942 – July 8, 2021
After a daring and dangerous duel with cancer (including the effects of its treatment and the complications imposed by a global pandemic), Margrit Eichler, 78, of Toronto, died peacefully in Toronto at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare.
While the final outcome of this duel was certain, the lived experience of it was up for the taking. In her last year, Margrit enjoyed every pleasure that life offered her, from tackling 600-page books for book club to smelling the flowers. As she wrote to friends and family this year: “For my entire life, spring has sprung. First it was not there, then it was. Not so this year. This year, I am living spring. I am acutely aware of what flowers are out, the different timetables with which trees put on their greenery. My neighbour’s maple has not only grown all its adult leaves, but has already lost its blossoms, while my tree puts out its first shy buds. It is lovely to experience spring in this way.”
Born in Berlin, in 1942, she made Canada her home, where she helped significantly to advance the field of women’s studies, as one of its early architects, from her academic postings at the University of Waterloo, New College at University of Toronto, and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). OISE was her academic “home” — so much so that every time one rode the Eastbound Bloor-Danforth subway, she would say “better hold me back” when the train approached St. George station. A few of her many academic milestones included membership in the Royal Society of Canada, membership in the European Academy of Sciences, a Ph.D from Duke University, an honorary doctorate from Brock University, serving as the Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto, and countless publications on myriad subjects from social stratification, to non-sexist research methods, to feminist ecosociology, and even a best-selling children’s book, Martin’s Father.
In her groundbreaking book, Families in Canada Today, Margrit wrote: “If we free ourselves from the monolithic notion that families have a particular structure and instead operate on the assumption that the structure of families is (and always has been) fluid, there is no reason to concern ourselves with the thought of ‘the death of the family.’” So the list of her survivors is long and appropriately “fluid”.
Margrit is survived by her sisters, Irene Liefländer (Manfred Liefländer [d.]) and Doris Schiuma (Michele Schiuma) with whom she maintained a lifelong connection and great mutual enjoyment.
Then there is a series of kinship Venn diagrams that look like fireworks on the page. Her two ex-husbands, Gernot Köhler (Krisztina Lantos) and Donald Payne help connect her to the next generation, including her son Jens Köhler (Tatjana M. Smith), stepdaughter Patti Payne (Rita Celotto) and step-children Allan Payne (Heather Jones), Heather Payne and James Payne (Adele Miller), and her treasured grandchildren Oscar Johnson Kohler, Simon Johnson Kohler, Duncan Payne and Nigel Payne (d.) and their mums, Emily Johnson and Allison Payne. She was aunt to Uwe (Riva), Steffen (Pia), Carlo (Katharina), Daniele (Eva), great aunt to Andrew (Zeynep), Alexander, Florentine, Julian, Valentina, and Matteo, and cousin to Christiane (Bernd) and first cousin once removed of Klara.
She will be missed by her play-reading groups, her book club, her Oasis community, her intellectual family of academics and scholars across Canada and the world, her activist networks, such as Science for Peace, and Our Right to Know, and the McGill-Granby Village neighborhood association.
She was blessed with exceptionally loving friends, who helped her through up and down. (Special thank you to Gryphon, her feline companion who provided comfort during long months of Covid lockdowns and chemotherapy.)
Her Dungeons & Dragons character, Gwendolyn (Wood Elf Druid), is survived by Bran Barleyhaven (Human Paladin), Balasar Kerrhylon (Dragonborn Fighter), and Ophelia Galanodel (Wood Elf Paladin). Her fellow adventurers thank her for her exceptionally well-timed shape-shift into a bear. They vow to discover who is stealing the precious tomes and promise to secure an acceptable price for the contents of the magic beer keg.
Indeed, Margrit had many family and kinship circles, as her passions and curiosities helped her forge deep and long lasting connections across a lifetime of study, action, travel, and play. This list is sure to have missed many important people and groups. Please do share your remembrances below this obituary by clicking on "Add a Memory".
A memorial service will be planned for a time when it is safe to gather without masks, to share stories and a lot of food.
In lieu of flowers, fight for justice, do sound science, and travel and laugh when you can.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Margrit Elisabeth Gertrud Eichler
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July 28, 2021
After taking Professor Eichler's course during the first term of my Master's program and realizing how challenging it was - we were required to submit a written reflection on every paper she assigned for weekly readings - I knew she would be the perfect thesis supervisor. Thankfully I asked, and she agreed. Twelve years later in 2019, I found myself sitting across from my former supervisor, now a mentor and friend, at brunch in a downtown eatery just steps from where she lived. Retirement only meant more learning and community work for Margrit. She then listened intently as I talked about the challenges of my first term as an MP, making me feel incredibly supported, in the same way as I was her student many years ago. "We really should do this more often," I told her, and she agreed. A couple months passed and we met again. Margrit was passionate about many issues, always fighting for positive change, particularly on the environment at this time. The best of teachers, forever trailblazer, trained sociologist, bias fighter, science seeker, champion of feminist research methods, friend of the Earth Mother - thank you, Margrit, for leaving this world better than how you found it. You are dearly missed.
July 16, 2021
Firstly, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Margrit Eichler's friends and family. Dr. Eichler was a very accomplished academic whom I admired greatly. The day she agreed to be an advisor for my doctoral thesis, I was "over the moon" and it was only because of Dr. Eichler and her steadfast support over the years that I was able to accomplish my dream. She never gave up on me. Dr. Margrit Eichler will always hold a very special place in my heart for her kindness, professionalism, and her big smile that could light up a room. Thank you, Margrit, for all you have done for so many people to make their lives better. We will miss you.
July 14, 2021
I never had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful person and my family have been members of Harcourt Park since 1984. I must try to venture the park more often and hopefully strike up conversations with fellow cottagers I may meet.
July 13, 2021
Margrit Eichler was my thesis supervisor but much more. She invited me into her home where I stayed for over a month after separating from my first husband. Her support was unwavering. She was so popular as a supervisor that in order to give us all the attention she thought we deserved, she would have us all over at her place each month where we benefited not only from her expert advice, but from other peer PhD students, essentially teaching us all about mentorship and friendship. I will always be grateful to Margrit for her generous acceptance of people. She will be missed.
July 13, 2021
I was part of a group which Margrit co-chaired and was impressed with her knowledge, warmth and the myriad ways in which she served society.
mary jane mossman
July 13, 2021
I became first an admirer of Margrit's work and later a friend. It happened that I began to teach Family Law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York U in the early 1980s. Margrit's book, Families in Canada Today was an inspiration for me and for my students -- so clearly linking legal developments to policy implications. I followed her work carefully and then met her at Bloor Street United Church. We became lunch friends at that point, and I found her enthusiasm for new projects and experiences (including stand up comedy) equally inspirational. As an academic, she was a force to be reckoned with, and as a woman, she was kind, generous and funny. I will miss her.
July 13, 2021
I met Margrit at the Academy for Lifelong Learning, and immediately I was attracted by her vitality, smarts and friendliness. Therefore I invited her over with other academicians at my condo for a meal. She was very inquisitive and you could tell how bright she was by the sparkle in her eyes and the way she listened.
i am sorry that she died, and I did not know about her illness, but I was just thinking about her this am, when I saw her obituary.
Rest in peace, dear friend and I will always cherish your friendly face and smile.