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Canadian Women Marching in Washington: Feminist Solidarity in Historical Perspective

by Joan Sangster

A friend’s daughter set out yesterday from Montreal for Washington to join American protests timed to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump. She may not know that she is marching in a long Canadian tradition of cross-border feminist solidarity going back to a 1913 suffrage demonstration, also timed to coincide with a presidential inauguration.

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Transgender Citizenship in Canada, and Beyond

by A.J. Lowik

A transgender is like a refugee without citizenship. S/he is without rights until a court grants them by categorizing him/her as either male or female. While outside of these categories, the transgender is most vulnerable and most likely to find him/herself without basic human rights (Bird 2002, quoted in Couch et al. 2008: 281).

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International Women’s Day (IWD) and Human Rights 2014

by Veronica Strong-Boag

International Women’s Day on 8th March should be a key date in the human rights calendar. Its place is hard-won. When Charlotte Bunch, a leading figure in the creation of UN Women (2010), insisted in 1990 that women’s rights are human rights in the Human Rights Quarterly and Edward Broadbent, from the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, served in 1993 as a judge in the Vienna Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights, one half of humanity’s entitlement to fair dealing remained globally contested. That struggle continues.

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Armine Nutting Gosling (1861-1942) and “The Counsel of Responsible Women”: The Suffragists of Newfoundland and Labrador

by Tiffany Johnstone

While most women in Canada won the right to vote at the federal level in 1918 and to run as candidates in federal elections in 1920, the struggle for suffrage was more complicated in the province of Quebec and in what was then the dominion of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).  Quebec women had to wait 15 years before winning the right to vote provincially in 1940.  Newfoundland and Labrador, which did not join Canada until 1949, granted women the right to vote and run for office in 1925.  Religious conservatism, entrenched class-based social inequalities, and a strong cultural emphasis on traditional gender roles seem to have posed particular obstacles to suffrage in Quebec and NL.  The story in NL is remarkable considering the number of challenges and the public opposition suffragists faced at the time.

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New Women Writer-Protagonists: Comparing Louisa May Alcott’s Jo and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne

by Tiffany Johnstone

It is no coincidence that Canadian Lucy Maud Montgomery’s (1874–1942) Anne of Green Gables (1908) resembles American Louisa May Alcott’s (1832-1888) earlier two-part text Little Women (1868-1869), published as one book in 1880.  Both coming-of-age narratives engage in debates about gender prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Both feature independent female protagonists who must negotiate traditional gender roles and increased opportunities for their sex.  While Little Women and its two sequels (published in 1871 and 1886) follow all of the female members of the March family, they focus on Josephine (“Jo”) March who struggles the most to free herself from gender expectations.

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Rights of Woman: Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

by Tiffany Johnstone

“[Wollstonecraft] is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living.”

-Virginia Woolf, Qtd. in Ryall and Sandbach-Dahlstöm, 1.

Mary Wollstonecraft was a groundbreaking social critic, philosopher, novelist, travel writer, and advocate of women’s rights in Britain at the end of the 18th century. As an highly influential social thinker and figure in the literary movement of romanticism, she was a vocal participant in Enlightenment debates relating to women’s rights, education reform, and the French Revolution. Her insistence on the equality of women and men was perhaps the most controversial and persistent topic of her writing. While her work met with acclaim during her day, Wollstonecraft’s often unconventional lifestyle overshadowed her intellectual legacy until the 19th century when she became an important icon for suffragists.

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The Canadian Citizenship Debates: the Franchise Act of 1885

by Veronica Strong-Boag

In the years after Confederation in 1867 the character of the Canadian state was far from settled. The franchise increasingly became the key marker of power and belonging. From March to June of 1885 the House of Commons debated the specifics of a federal franchise law to replace the provincial regulations that determined voting eligibility.

Bill 103 originally offered to enlarge the electorate with two new groups of voters: spinsters and widows meeting male property qualifications and Indians who occupied land in fee simple with improvements of $150 or more on their reserves anywhere in the Dominion.

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Liberalism’s Blindspots = Exclusionary Canadian Democracy

by David Moscrop

In a recent op-ed about the Idle No More campaign I argued that liberalism, as a political philosophy, has blindspots. As a foundational philosophy in Canada and as the centre of our politics, liberalism, I suggested, has left many of us unable to understand where marginalized groups, such as Indigenous Canadians, are coming from when they try to advance so-called “special” claims that run counter to the liberal belief in pure equality and freedom. There are many such blindspots, and their history is complicated, but it’s worth identifying some of them and tracing their provenance.

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Transsexual Women and Political Presence

by Raewyn Connell

Transsexual women are a small group with a very complex political history, who – without wishing to – have been the focus of troubling problems in projects of political and social change.  An inclusive democracy needs to include transsexual women’s voices; but how is their accent to be defined.

Transsexual women are women who have been through a process of transition from another position in the gender order: usually born with male (sometimes intersex) bodies, and usually brought up as boys.  They have had to negotiate a strongly contradictory process of gender embodiment, often involving wrenching personal conflict and social stigma.  Transition, usually undertaken in adulthood (though sometimes in adolescence) is an attempt to resolve this situation, gain recognition as women rather than men, and construct a path forward in life on this basis.

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