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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. 


Women’s history in the flesh September 22, 2009

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At Mythogyny book launches

“So I went to jail with my friends and we came out and went to live in the black community. We spoke before black churches to raise money for our defense and had a trial in Houston. We never did get to Mississippi, obviously. We were found guilty of unlawful assembly. We appealed and we won that decision, which meant that from then on the owner of that restaurant would be arrested if he discriminated against anyone else. 

In effect, what we did in that year, over 400 of us, was to desegregate those facilities all through the south, it was quite an achievement,” thus recalls Bev Mill of the “freedom rides” in the US during the late 60s when movements for civil rights had begun to peak. She was talking about a simple act of refusing to leave a restaurant that did not want to serve a black person. Bev went to the US as an exchange student, “a resident alien”, is how she puts it.

Bev will read part of her story from Mythogyny: the lives and times of women elders in BC at its soft launch at the 411 Seniors Centre on Dunsmuir, downtown Vancouver on Tues. Sept 22 at 2 pm.

A memorable vignette from Gertrude’s excerpt on immigration will also be read. Gertrude recalls her first flight coming to Canada. “I’d never been to an airport in my life and had  never seen a plane on the ground before …Getting on a plane with seven children was quite an adventure… my youngest was only eleven months old fast asleep on my knee.” Picture how when dinner was served and put on the tray, her son woke up and sent the dinner flying in the air so, she continues, “…I had to nibble on my two youngest one’s food.”

But more misses awaited her arrival in Toronto—her son had waited at 5 am to meet them; Gertrude and the children got there at 5 pm. They waited until 9 pm, as she continues her story, “…so I plucked up the courage to call the police, “Would you please send somebody down to this address and tell them I’m here?” Gertrude leaves much to the reader how the children must have fretted through all that time.

The third reader at the 411 launch, Lia Soosar, will retell portions of how she ended up “…a displaced person.” Her story begins in Estonia when the Russians finally got there to fight the Germans. “I was going to Riga, just because I had left something there, but I never got to Riga. I never got anywhere. I ended up on a boat on the sea. That is where I became a displaced person. I wanted to escape.”

Lia ended up in Heilsheim, Germany, which was a displaced persons’ camp, with another woman she met. They were made to sleep in the attic room and this woman cried forever in bed for her lost children. Soon they were taken to England to work in a sanatorium in west Yorkshire.

“We cried for two weeks because some people there were tubercular, and we didn’t know that…England was completely different; they changed my name and they always made great fun about you when you pronounced the words bad…All I wanted was to go back to my country.” She was there for nine years. One day in 1958, a Scottish girl said, “Let’s go to Canada.”

 Alice West, Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT) chair will host and emcee the program. Oonagh Berry, WE*ACT member and 411 director, will accept the books in the symbolic turnover.