Joan Hilary Brown (nee Newitt) was born on March 21, 1909 in Helensburg, Scotland. Like many of her peers, she went by her middle name and was known as Hilary Brown. Upon completion of her school studies Brown studied French and German in Geneva and Frankfurt with the aim of becoming an interpreter. During her time at the University of Frankfurt (1929 -1932) Hilary met Harrison Brown, a journalist, who would become her lifelong partner.
Brown published Women Must Choose
, a study of women in democratic, socialist and fascist states, in 1937, and toured the US to promote the book. She received a contract for a second book, Half of Humanity, which was never published. That same year she and her husband moved permanently to Hornby Island, British Columbia. Throughout the 1950s, Brown was a regular contributor to CBC Radio, producing broadcasts on an array of subjects.
Brown became an active member of the Hornby Island community and fostered many of the Island’s landmarks, such as the Hornby Island Co-op, Hornby Island Credit Union, New Horizons, and the Heron Rocks Friendship Society.
In 1973, the governing New Democratic Party passed legislation to create an Island’s Trust to oversee islands located in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound. Brown was appointed as the inaugural Director and Chair of the Islands Trust, a post she held for two years.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, Brown embarked on a series of trips to China and produced an unpublished study entitled "Tomorrow’s Ancestors," which examined the plight of the elderly. The venture was supported by the Canada Council and the National Film Board.
In 1991, Brown co-founded the Gulf Island Guardian
and in 1992 received the Governor General’s Medal. She passed away on Hornby Island on September 28th, 2007.