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Recognizing unpaid work - heroic work!

February 5, 2013
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In early January 2013 I noticed an obituary of John Sheardown, who was a Canadian diplomat in Iran in 1979 during the U.S. hostage crisis. The crisis and eventual rescue of the hostages is the subject of the movie Argo. (If you haven’t heard, Argo won the Oscar for “best picture.”)

The Washington Post explains that for two months, Mr. and Mrs. Sheardown hid Americans at their residence in Tehran—six at first and then four (the others went to the home of the Canadian ambassador, Ken Taylor). It was a very risky thing to do—their home was closely watched; Iranian guards and tanks patrolled the streets. The Post reports “To feed the extra mouths…they bought groceries at different stores to disguise the amount of food consumed in the home.” (The movie tells a version of the story of the Iran hostage crisis and rescue but has been criticized for inaccuracy by minimizing the role of the Canadians.)

Once the crisis was over Mr. Sheardown and Ambassador Taylor were awarded one of the country’s highest civilian honors—the Order of Canada. Mr. Sheardown then “waged a public and ultimately successful campaign to recognize his wife with the same award.” Mr. Sheardown said in 1981: “The wives had a 24-hour responsibility. What we did was a normal extension of our functions. What they did was extraordinary.”

It was great to read this, to learn that Mr. Sheardown worked so hard to get recognition for his wife (and for the Ambassador's wife) for their unpaid work and heroism!