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One Hundred Years later: International Women’s Day February 24, 2011

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On Tuesday, March 8th, women all over the world commemorate 100 years of struggle to gain equality, dignity and the God-given rights denied before then. Some of it like the right to vote, (first), better labor conditions (recall the fire in New York at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on Green St and Washington Place), becoming a “Person” (yes, it needed a legislation for women to be regarded as “persons”), and with voting rights, gradually, the right to run for office and recently to be appointed in offices and positions that used to be solely for men with higher but still slightly equal pay.

Funeral of 8 out of the 146 who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York (image coourtesy of Wikipedia)


Tombstone of a victim of the fire (image courtesy of wikipedia commons)

Yet, one hundred years later, the persistent ghosts of the past continue to lurk in most societies, or such conditions have transmogrified–sex trafficking for example, domestic workers and caregivers. As the world has modernized and technology has brought mankind past the moon, one would suppose the horrific inequalities of a century now just a memory would have been gained. But perhaps, as forces in nature always have two opposite sides, women after a hundred years have cause both to celebrate and shout out their voices for the next one hundred years.

Here in Vancouver, International Women’s Day will be celebrated with a ‘Parade of the Century’ on March 6 as follows:

It’s a Wonderful Date to celebrate International Women’s Day!

 The 2011 IWD Organizing Committee extends an invitation to All on Saturday, March 5, 2011 to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day in Vancouver. Come and join us from 12:30pm to 4:30pm, for an Imaginative Widely Diverse Parade along Commercial Drive, followed by an indoor Festival at the WISE Hall, where entertainment, a marketplace, refreshments and a Kid Zone await.

The Parade is designed to feature women representing different times from the past 100 years. Cheer along, or march in the parade. Choose a theme or a time period that reflects some important achievement for women, and dress up and join the fun! Everyone is welcome!

The Parade will take place on Commercial Drive. Gathering starts at 12:30pm at the McSpadden Park (Victoria Drive & E. 4th Avenue). Parade begins at 1:00pm arriving at the WISE Hall at 2:00pm (1882 Adanac Street). There will be musicians and performers both in the Parade and at the Festival.  

The 2011 IWD Organizing Committee is a broad-based committee comprised of unions, community-based organisations and community women. 


Myths women grow up with August 31, 2009

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As young women, the 77 storytellers or the women elders in BC who agreed to be interviewed for “Mythogyny”, the book that Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT) is due to launch, they stepped into womanhood in a mist of myths.

What is a myth? According to the Random House Encyclopedic Dictionary, it is “an unproved collective belief that is accepted uncritically and is used to justify a social institution. “One of these would be “marriage as the only end for women, or wife and mother as her only role in life.”

In the book under the chapter on marrriage, the women unravel the myth further as  “the illusion that Prince Charming would inevitably appear to rescue women from uncertain futures and the need to provide for themselves; that marriage and motherhood were the only valid choices.”

On closer view, other facets of the myth reveal quite sinister sides that solidify as barriers such as, ” education was wasted on females who would never have to work outside the home because their biology was destiny; that the work of homemaking was so intrinsic to women that it could never be considered honest labour with any real value; and, most harmful of all to our storytellers who are struggling with limited incomes today, that following the prescribed path would  ensure that they were taken care of for the rest of their lives.”

In surviving shattered illusions, the women emerged almost with superhuman abilities as they grappled with the unexpected. Yet having moved on, their voices carry no hint of bitterness or regret. Having debunked the myths, their stories in effect turned out as “mythogenesis” not so much as “to create” but to unearth and lay bare “lives more mythical in more ways than ever imagined.”

Consider these:

                *I watched my mother be abused, psychologically, and saw her lack of choices in life and how everything was based on my father’s life. I was conscious of that but I didn’t really see it in my life – I lived it – and while I was living it, feminism arose. And so the words started being there…—Marjorie Drayton

               * I’ve had everything done to me imaginable and I’m not an abuser and I’m not an alcoholic and I’m not a drug addict. You don’t have to be what social workers tell you you’re going to be.—Sheila Baxter 

                *I walked out of the marriage with nothing, he owned everything. But I didn’t have to write him out a cheque at the end of every month.—Colleen Carroll

                *We imported some stuff from Germany. I was going across the country to stores to sell these. He stayed home while I went around the Lower Mainland. When I came home in the evening, he was sitting in the chair and asking me what I sold that day. I hated that chair. I did that for about twelve years…Leticia

               More than the relevance of their voices in women’s lives today, their stories also prove how much or how little Canadian women have gained in terms of rights and equality.