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Recognition and Respect

by Veronica Strong-Boag

Canada, like most of the world, has a generally dismal record in public commemoration.  Whatever the makeup of the individual country, women and indeed human diversity largely disappear.  Just check out the public spaces and buildings, the designated historic sites and monuments, the stamps, the entries in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionnaire biographique du Canada, and, of course, national currencies everywhere. Absence is far from unimportant.  As McGill philosopher Charles Taylor has reminded us, recognition reflects respect and inclusion in the national imaginary.

In channeling the spirit of contemporary scholarship and popular interest, the website, womensuffrage.org, reminds us we can do much better.

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Improving Cities: Annie Gale and Calgary, Canada

by Veronica Strong-Boag

In 2012, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities embraced the goal of increasing women on municipal councils from 21.4% to 30% by 2026. The United Nations had defined the latter figure “as the minimal percentage of women required for government to reflect women’s Concerns”(1). With only 12.9% of mayors and 22.9% of councilors, Canadian women had far to go.

Such shortfall might suggest that municipal government has had little interest for women.  Not so.  Around the world, 19thcentury feminists inaugurated continuing concern with the way that cities work, or often did not, for women and children and residents in general.  Disasters and shortfalls in health, education, and general well-being were carefully documented and reforms proposed.

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Virginia Woolf, Women and Work

by Kathy Mezei

Born in 1882 into Victorian England, into the large upper middle-class and blended  family of Julia Duckworth and Leslie Stephen, and raised in a dark claustrophobic house in London’s Hyde Park, Virginia Woolf has become a symbol of feminism, high modernism, and experimental fiction.  But she was also a prolific essayist, writing for the “common reader”; a biographer (Flush, the biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog; Roger Fry, the biography of an influential Bloomsbury painter and art historian); a reviewer and journalist (Times Literary Supplement and Good Housekeeping); a polemicist (A Room of One’s Own, 1928;Three Guineas, 1938); an autobiographer (Moments of Being, 1976), and a committed diarist.

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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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Sister Suffragists: Lillian Beynon Thomas (1874-1961) and Francis Marion Beynon (1884-1951)

by Tiffany Johnstone

“[T]he women of Manitoba are now citizens, persons, human beings, who have stepped politically out of the class of criminals, children, idiots and lunatics.”

-Lillian Beynon Thomas Qtd. in Gutkin and Gutkin.

Sisters Lillian Beynon Thomas and Francis Marion Beynon were teachers, writers, and outspoken activists involved in the historic women’s movement in Manitoba. They were raised along with one other sister and four brothers, by James Barnes Beynon and Rebecca Manning Beynon, devout Ontario Methodists. In 1889, the farm family joined the Ontario land rush to Manitoba and settled in Hartney. Both parents were active in Methodist organizations and Rebecca was particularly involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (http://womensuffrage.org /?p=21211).

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New Women and Working Girls: The Fiction of Jessie Georgina (J.G.) Sime (1868-1958)

by Tiffany Johnstone

“Hard work. Long hours. Discomfort. Strain. That was about the sum of it, of all that she had gained . . . but then, the sense of freedom! The joy of being done with cap and apron. The feeling that you could draw your breath—speak as you liked—wear overalls like men—curse if you wanted to.”

-J.G. Sime, “Munitions,” 332.

In 1919, one year after most Canadian women were federally enfranchised, feminist writer Jessie Georgina Sime (1868-1958) published a collection of 28 short stories entitled Sister Woman that captured the paradoxical challenges and sometimes bleak realities underlying female emancipation.

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A New Woman of the Canadian West: E. Cora Hind (1861-1942)

by Tiffany Johnstone

“Those of us of the old new West [. . .] when we set out alone on ‘the longest trail of all’ will ‘go west’ with great content if the soft southwest wind brings to us the tang of wild sage and the prairie roses, of the beat of a thousand hooves as the herds go down to water, or the sibilant sigh of the wind through miles of ripening wheat.”

-E. Cora Hind’s self-written epitaph, qtd. in Dafoe.

When Winnipeg grain journalist E. Cora Hind died in 1942 at the age of 81, she was heralded internationally for her long career in journalism and her extensive knowledge of Western Canadian agriculture.

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Imagine That: Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

by Tiffany Johnstone

In 2011 Kathleen (“Kathy”) Dunderdale (née Warren 1952-) became the 10th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and the first woman to hold this position in the province. She was the sixth woman to serve as a provincial premier in Canada. Dunderdale replaced premier Danny Williams when he retired in December 2010. In April 2011, she became the leader of the Newfoundland Progressive Conservative Party, and in the provincial elections in October she won a majority government.

When Kathy Dunderdale first took office in December, 2010, all three major political parties in Newfoundland were led by women (including Liberal Yvonne Jones and NDP Lorraine Michael).

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