Martha Friendly is the founder and executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU), Canada’s primary policy research institute on early childhood and child care (ECEC). She has published extensively on ECEC in academic, technical and popular venues, including two books on ECEC policy, and is a frequent commentator in the media. She has also been an active participant in child care advocacy groups nationally, provincially and locally as well as in ECEC policy research internationally.
Before immigrating to Canada from New York in 1971, Martha was a researcher on one of the first assessments of the American Head Start program. Once settled in her new hometown of Toronto, she became involved in child care research. A combination of the research skills developed as a PhD student in social psychology at the University of Connecticut, commitment to the centrality of child care among feminist issues and awareness as a parent of the value of good child care for families and children contributed to her focus on child care research, policy and advocacy.
In 1975, she became a research coordinator at the Child in The City Programme, an interdisciplinary research group at the University of Toronto. As an outcome of this work, Martha founded CRRU, securing funds for it, first from the Ontario government and then from the federal government. Under her leadership, the CRRU has grown into a nationally and internationally recognized knowledge producer and mobilizer on ECEC. When it—with other child care researchers and groups—lost federal funding in 2007, CRRU became an independent non-profit organization and continued the work.
Martha lives in Toronto with her husband, Michael Friendly. They have two grown children, both of whom went to community-based child care and twin five year-old grandsons, who attended a Toronto municipal child care centre but now live and bike in The Netherlands. She has received a number of awards recognizing her work on early childhood education and child care including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and an honourary doctorate (Juris Doctor) from Trent University in 2015.