Mary McEwan Memorial Award


Named in honour of Dr. Mary McEwan, a feminist psychiatrist, this annual award of $1,000.00 is awarded to one PhD dissertation produced each academic year at York University in the area of feminist scholarship. An Awards Committee of faculty affiliated with the Centre for Feminist Research choose the winners.

2018 - 2019:

Dr. Sheila Jennings

Before undertaking her PhD at Osgoode Hall Law School, Sheila Jennings completed her MA in Critical Disability Studies also at York University after practicing family and child welfare law in downtown Toronto. Sheila has wide ranging academic interests that include: feminist legal and other critical theories; child welfare and family law; health law and policy; constitutional law; and administrative law. For the past two years Sheila has been lecturing, including at OCAD University, Ryerson University and at Ontario Tech University in the areas of law, disability and health policy. As an advocate in the leadership and on the Board of the National Network, Moms Stop The Harm, Sheila has spoken about the Opioid Crisis, including at the University of Toronto Law School, York University Graduate Faculty of Nursing and at Humber College. She currently teaches a graduate level course about the opioid crisis at OCAD University. She has importantly raised three children, now three amazing young adults. Sheila is a Francophile who enjoys French novels and films, as well as hanging out with her partner, her children and their partners, reading to her mother on Zoom and walking her South Texan rescue dog Flossie.

In her thesis, Sheila examines how severely disabled children and their mothers, who are usually their primary caregivers, are treated by Canadian law and policy. She identifies and analyzes deficiencies in care and other supports the state makes available to them, providing an analysis of the role of the state as it increasingly privatizes responsibility for supports, including unpredictable and often complex forms of care, situating them in practice, with mothers. Using conceptual frameworks from feminist standpoint theory and drawing on Paolo Freire’s theory of critical consciousness, she analyzes legal cases, legislation and policies, as being founded upon a series of myths. She assesses paradigms that underlie current legal arrangements, in particular, the roles assigned to mothers of children with severe disabilities. Her analysis engages with administrative law, tort law and constitutional law, as well as child welfare and family law. Reforms could enable severely disabled children and their mothers to achieve more just outcomes are presented.


For a list of past recipients of the award, please see the following link:

Mary McEwan Memorial Award – Past Winners