Healy and Juravich: Tangled in our dreams

About Teresa Healy


Born in London into an Irish family, Teresa immigrated to Canada as a young girl. Her family settled in a small town in rural Ontario and she went about the business of growing up as a newcomer in a community where other Irish families had set their roots down deeply, long before.

Her own love of Ireland and the influence of a musical family are evident in Teresa’s music. Her early years were filled with the music that two sisters’ voices create. Anne taught her to play the guitar and as girls, the Healy Sisters sang at community picnics, folk masses, euchres and weddings. Later, they brought their songs to rallies and demonstrations, workshops and picket lines.

Teresa’s first full-time job as a popular educator allowed her to bring her guitar to work. Over the years, Teresa continued to sing while studying liberation theology, political economy and social movements in North America. For her Ph.D dissertation, she spent time in Mexico and studied movements for democracy in unions. Healy taught political science at a number of Ontario universities before taking a position at the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Currently, Healy is senior researcher at the Canadian Labour Congress working on issues of social and economic policy.

In 2001, Teresa was diagnosed with cancer and during treatment, she returned to her writing with a new intensity. Teresa produced a chapbook of poetry, studied music theory and composition, joined Writers’ Bloc, an Ottawa collective of singer-songwriters, and started to sing at the Open Stage at Rasputin’s Folk Café.

Together with story-teller Ruth Stewart-Verger, she produced a CD about the life of Emily Murphy, one of the Famous Five who worked to ensure women would be seen as “persons” under Canadian law. Using historical documents, as well as quotes from labour women, the songs she wrote for She Pushed from Behind, tell the complicated story of class divisions, conservative activism and imperialism in the women’s movement in the early 20th century.

Teresa collaborated with musicians and labour activists in Ottawa’s Irish community to raise a memorial to the workers who died digging the Rideau Canal. After pouring through old books and recordings in the Traditional Music Archives in Dublin, Teresa composed a song in the ancient tradition of women’s keening. Caoineadh ar Comhla Chaffey (Lament for Chaffey’s Locks) was featured on CBC’s Global Village. She worked with Richard Wegner to produce the flash video Fallujah 2004 which, along with Healy’s Song for Peace has been welcomed by activist networks across the world. Her anti-war songs may be found on Neil Young’s website, and on internet collections of labour songs in Australia, political songs in Scotland, and peace songs in Japan, Korea, Italy and Germany.

As David Francey says of her song writing, Teresa shows “a keen eye for the everyday.” This attention to the details of family life is at the heart of Boot Against Nettle; a collection of original songs ready to be turned into Healy’s next recording.