The Joseph E. Atkinson Legacy

Joseph E. Atkinson (1865 – 1948) helped make Ontario a more equitable place to live and work.

As an advocate, Atkinson was a powerful and persuasive voice for social reform. He used the Toronto Star as a podium, calling for public policies and programs to end inequality. Our “social safety net” – a system of supports such as minimum wage, old age and disability pensions, and employment insurance – is partly an outcome of Atkinson’s relentless advocacy.

As a collaborator, Atkinson worked with politicians, trade unionists, business owners, philanthropists, and other community leaders to challenge Ontarians to envision and build an equitable society.

As a grantmaker, Atkinson and his spouse Elmina Elliott established two charitable programs for children – the Fresh Air Fund and the Santa Claus Fund – both of which continue to this day at the Toronto Star. They were motivated by progressive religious beliefs and first-hand experience of poverty. At his death, Atkinson turned over the ownership of the newspaper and the bulk of his wealth to a charitable trust to continue serving the common good.