Women in Canadian Society/Les femmes et la société canadienne

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Women in Canadian Society/Les femmes et la société canadienne

Editorial Board / Comité de rédactionEditor-in-ChiefRédacteur en chefKenneth McRoberts, York University, CanadaAssociate EditorsRédacteurs adjointsLynette Hunter, University of Leeds, United KingdomDanielle Juteau, Université de Montréal, CanadaRobert S. Schwartzwald, University of Massachusetts, U.S.A.Managing EditorSecrétaire de rédactionGuy Leclair, ICCS/CIEC, Ottawa, CanadaAdvisory Board / Comité consultatifAlessandro Anastasi, Universita di Messina, ItalyMichael Burgess, University of Keele, United KingdomPaul Claval, Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), FranceDona Davis, University of South Dakota, U.S.A.Peter H. Easingwood, University of Dundee, United KingdomZiran He, Guangzhou Institute of Foreign Languages, ChinaHelena G. Komkova, Institute of the USA and Canada, USSRShirin L. Kudchedkar, SNDT Women’s University, IndiaKarl Lenz, Freie Universität Berlin, GermanyGregory Mahler, University of Mississippi, U.S.A.James P. McCormick, California State University, U.S.A.William Metcalfe, University of Vermont, U.S.A.Chandra Mohan, University of Delhi, IndiaElaine F. Nardocchio, McMaster University, CanadaSatoru Osanai, Chuo University, JapanManuel Parés I Maicas, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, EspagneRéjean Pelletier, Université Laval, CanadaGemma Persico, Universita di Catania, ItalyRichard E. Sherwin, Bar Ilan University, IsraelWilliam J. Smyth, St. Patrick’s College, IrelandSverker Sörlin, Umea University, SwedenOleg Soroko-Tsupa, Moscow State University, USSRMichèle Therrien, Institut des langues et civilisations orientales, FranceGaëtan Tremblay, Université du Québec à Montréal, CanadaHillig J.T. van’t Land, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Pays-BasMel Watkins, University of Toronto, CanadaGillian Whitlock, Griffith University, AustraliaDonez Xiques, Brooklyn College, U.S.A.ii


International Journal of Canadian StudiesRevue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995Women in Canadian SocietyLes femmes et la société canadienneTable of Contents/Table des matièresLynette HunterIntroduction/Présentation ..........................5Barbara M. FreemanFraming Feminine/Feminist: English-language Press Coverage of theHearings of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada,1968 ....................................11Jane ArscottTwenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes After the Royal Commissionon the Status of Women ..........................33Manon TremblayLes femmes, des candidates moins performantes que les hommes?Une analyse des votes obtenus par les candidates et candidats du Québec àune élection fédérale canadienne, 1945-1993 ...............59Nelda K. PearsonWomen’s Leadership Styles and Empowerment: A Case Study of aCanadian Farm Women’s Movement ...................83Mimi AjzenstadtCycles of Control: Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of GenderRole, British Columbia 1870-1925 ....................101Helen RalstonOrganizational Empowerment Among South Asian ImmigrantWomen in Canada ............................121Verónica Vázquez GarcíaGender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canada: A ComparativeStudy ...................................147Ruth Panofsky“Don’t let me do it!”: Mazo de la Roche and Her Publishers ......171Frances RooneyEdith S. Watson: Photographing Women in Rural Canada .......185


M. Jeanne Yardley and Linda J. KenyonDead and Buried: Murder and Writing Women’s Lives .........195Jenny HorsmanViolence and Illiteracy in Women’s Lives: Proposal for Researchand Practice ................................207Neil B. BishopMarginalités sexuelle, régionale et sociolinguistique dans Dis-moique je vis et Veuillez agréer... de Michèle Mailhot etThey Shouldn’t Make You Promise That de Lois Simmie ........221Shirin KudchedkarCelebrating Women’s Language and Women’s Space: YolandeVillemaire’s La Vie en prose .......................235Gillian WhitlockThe Silent Scribe: Susanna and “Black Mary” ..............249Coomi S. VevainaBlack, Woman, “Righter” and the Anguish of English. .........261Christina StrobelReconsidering Conventions: Fictions of the Lesbian. ..........277Review Essay/Essai critiqueMarie-Andrée BertrandRegards de femmes sur le Québec, son histoire, ses lettres,son théâtre et sa vie politique, et les rôles que les femmesy ont joués ................................291


IntroductionThe collection of essays in thisissue is widely interdisciplinaryand, as the Journal consistentlyattempts, drawn from manyinternational perspectives on theissues and academic approachesto them. Yet within thismultiplicity of views, whichreflect many positions forintellectual comment and theenormous differences in the livesof Canadian women, there is aconsistent preoccupation withpower and with agency. Broadlyspeaking, the papers addressthree main areas of studysurrounding the relation betweenthe individual, the state and therepresentation and legitimacy ofpolitical power: first, nation-statepolitics and its representationthrough ideology; second, moredispersed structures of power andtheir discursive representationsoften analyzed in social,economic and cultural studies;and third, the textualcommunities of story and history.The descriptions, analyses andcritiques that follow are inflectedthroughout with issues ofwomen’s history, gender andfeminism.The remit of the collection is toreflect upon, analyze and offercritical outlooks on the positionof women in Canada during thethirty years since the RoyalCommission on the Status ofWomen. Certainly, two of thearticles, “Framing Feminine/Feminist” and “Twenty-FiveYears and Sixty-Five MinutesAfter the Royal Commission onthe Status of Women,” doPrésentationComme elle s’est toujours efforcée dele faire, la Revue a rassemblé dans cenuméro des articles qui forment unetrame très multidisciplinaire et quis’inspirent de plusieurs perspectiveset approches universitaires provenantd’un peu partout à travers le monde.Pourtant, au sein même de cettemultiplicité de vues, qui se réclamentde diverses positions intellectuellestout autant qu’elles reflètent lesénormes différences existentielles quicaractérisent la condition féminine auCanada, on se retrouve constammentpréoccupé de pouvoir et dereprésentation. En gros, on dira queces articles abordent les troisprincipaux champs d’études quicernent la relation entre l’individu,I’État et la représentation, et lalégitimité du pouvoir politique. Toutd’abord, la politique de l’État-nationet l’image qu’il projette de lui-mêmedans son idéologie; deuxièmement,les structures de pouvoir plus diffuseset leurs représentations dans lediscours: ces représentationsdiscursives font souvent l’objetd’analyses dans des études sociales,économiques et culturelles;troisièmement, la communauté desens que les comptes rendusd’histoires personnelles et l’Histoiredans son ensemble peuvent entretenirsur le plan textuel. Les descriptions,analyses et critiques qui suivent sontbien sûr modulées par les questionsintéressant l’histoire des femmes, lesrelations entre les sexes et leféminisme.Ce nouveau recueil se distingue enceci qu’il apporte des réflexions, desanalyses et des perspectives critiquessur la condition féminine au Canadatelle qu’elle s’est développée au coursInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCspecifically that, bothacknowledging in their own waythe importance of the medium inwhich records for such events ofpublic history are kept. The formergoes on to examine the immediateeffects of those media upon thepublic understanding of the womenworking on the Royal Commission.Taking up this emphasis, “Lesfemmes, des candidates moinsperformantes que les hommes?”offers an analysis of the publicperception of women as comparedto men within politics today, andengages further with conventions ofgender in Quebec from 1945-1993.The effects of gender constructionare central to many of these essaysand a number look closely at theimpact of those effects on politicalissues of individual activism withincorporate power, and at strategiesfor empowerment and means oflegitimation. “Women’s LeadershipStyles and Empowerment”describes different leadership stylesand their appropriateness to therepresentation of groups alreadymarginalized by gender; and“Cycles of Control” offers anhistorical perspective on the waysin which state formation interactswith the construction of genderwithin the family and community.“Organizational EmpowermentAmong South Asian ImmigrantWomen in Canada” moves theengagement with genderconstruction and agency into thecomplex field of culture and race;and “Gender and Land Rights”carries out a comparative study ofdifferent strategies forempowerment, developed inresponse to different nationalpolicies, by First Nations’ womenin Canada and Mexico.des trente dernières années, soitdepuis la Commission royaled’enquête sur la conditionféminine. Deux de ces articles, «Framing Feminine/ Feminist » et« Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes After the RoyalCommission on the Status ofWomen », s’y attaquentspécifiquement, soulignant chacunà sa façon l’importance des moyensde communication qui permettentde conserver le souvenir de ce typed’événements à caractère public. Lepremier de ces articles étudie leseffets immédiats de ces médias surl’idée que le grand public se fait dutravail des femmes siégeant à uneCommission d’enquête. L’article« Les femmes, des candidatesmoins performantes que leshommes? » reprend ce thème enoffrant une analyse de la perceptiondes femmes qui œuvrent dans lesmilieux politiques contemporainscomparée à celle qu’on se fait de leurscollègues masculins. On s’y attacheplus particulièrement à étudier lesconventions associées au fait d’avoirété une femme ou un homme auQuébec entre 1945 et 1993.Les effets de la construction dessexes se situent au cœur d’un grandnombre de ces écrits. Plusieurstraitent plus particulièrement deleur impact sur le militantismeindividuel au sein de la structure depouvoir des entreprises, ainsi quesur les stratégies de pouvoir et delégitimation. L’article « Women’sLeadership Styles andEmpowerment » décrit divers stylesde leadership et discute de leur à-propos dans la représentation qu’onse fait de groupes de personnesmarginalisées par leur sexe.« Cycles of Control » offre uneperspective historique sur les4


Women in Canadian SocietyLes femmes et la société canadienneAs indicated in the essaysspecifically on the RoyalCommission, the construction ofgender is inextricably linked tothe representation of gender.Several contributions addressthis complexity directly. Theissues range from access bywomen to the publication anddistribution of representations,documented for example in“Mazo de la Roche and HerPublishers,” an historical studyof writer-publisher relations, tothe low aesthetic value placedupon portrayals of the lives ofwomen, implicit in the accountof “Edith S. Watson:Photographing Women” of a“lost” record of domestic life.The generic difficulty ofconstructing sensitive and caringrepresentations of experiencethat has frequently beenpresented as crudely sensationalin popular culture is outlined in“Dead and Buried” and yet“Violence and Illiteracy inWomen’s Lives” illustrates theimportance of widening accessto representative media, hereparticularly the written, as apolitical strategy ofempowerment for those whohave lived lives imbricated withsocial violence.The enfranchising movementtoward opening access torepresentation of the self to amuch wider constituency ofwomen than at present has notonly fed but also grown inrelationship with women’smovements world-wide and withthe elaboration of feminism as away of knowing. Gender studiesfrequently begin with the fact ofwomen’s marginalization notmoyens par lesquels la création del’État est en interaction avec laconstruction des sexes au sein de lafamille et de la communauté.« Organizational Empowermentamong South Asian ImmigrantWomen in Canada » fait passerl’étude de la construction et lareprésentation des sexes dans lechamp complexe des cultures et desraces, et « Gender and Land Rights »offre une étude comparative desdiverses stratégies de pouvoirélaborées en réaction à un éventail depolitiques nationales par des femmesdes Premières Nations au Canada etau Mexique.Comme l’indiquent les articles quiportent spécifiquement sur laCommission royale, la question de laconstruction des sexes estinextricablement liée à celle de leurreprésentation. Plusieurs contributionss’attaquent directement à cettecomplexité. La gamme des questionsenvisagées va de l’accès des femmesà la publication et à la diffusion de cesreprésentations, que documente parexemple « Mazo de la Roche and HerPublishers », une étude historique desrelations entre la romancière et seséditeurs, jusqu’à la faible valeuresthétique qu’on accorde aux portraitsde vies de femmes comme l’onretrouve dans « Edith S. Watson:Photographing Women ». Dans« Dead and Buried », on retrouve ladifficulté fondamentale de tâcher deconstruire des représentationssensibles et humanitaires d’uneexpérience que la culture populaireprésente souvent d’une façon crue etsensationnelle, tandis que « Violenceand Illiteracy in Women’s Lives »illustre l’importance d’élargir l’accèsaux moyens de représentation. Ils’agit dans ce cas de représentationécrite, considérée comme une5


IJCS / RIÉConly from state politics, power andthe media, but also from languageand literary tradition. Both“Marginalités sexuelle...” and“Celebrating Women’s Languageand Women’s Space” presentaccounts of writers findingalternative ways to tell their storiesof place, space, self and sexualitythat are not adequately representedwith conventional techniques anddevices. “The Silent Scribe:Susanna and `Black Mary”’ offersa study of the historical specificitythat contextualizes therepresentation of women’s bodieswithin the fields of class, race,sexuality and culture, in acomparative analysis of the workof Canadian Daphne Marlatt withAustralian Kate Grenville. “Black,Woman, `Righter’ and the Anguishof English” restates the issues ofaccess to representation in terms ofthe double marginalization of raceand gender in Black women’swriting and examines the effects ofthat social repression upon theliterary structure and poetics of thetexts. And explicitly taking onideas of political control andindividual action, “ReconsideringConventions” turns the discussionof sexuality and language inlesbian writing back toward issuesof agency within hegemonic statestructures.The essays of this collection notonly respond to the historical andgeographical contexts of women inCanadian society, but also enactthe particularities of their owncultural and academic approaches.The rare opportunity offered by aninternational and interdisciplinaryjournal such as this to bring themtogether momentarily focuses thediversity of scholarship, thestratégie politique d’habilitation(empowerment) de celles dont lesvies sociales ont été marquées par laviolence.Le mouvement d’affranchissementvisant à garantir un plus grand accèset une plus grande ouverture sur unereprésentation de soi à un auditoireféminin beaucoup plus large que cen’est le cas à l’heure actuelle a nonseulement nourri les mouvementsde femmes partout dans le mondeainsi que la montée du féminismecomme mode de connaissance, maisil a grandi en même temps que cesmouvements.Les études sur la condition desfemmes commencent souvent enénonçant le fait que les femmes ontété tenues à l’écart non seulementde la politique des États, desstructures de pouvoir et des médias,mais également de la langue et de lalittérature. Tant « Marginalitéssexuelle... ) que « CelebratingWomen’s Language and Women’sSpace » nous content l’histoired’auteures qui ont trouvé des façonsdifférentes de dire leurs histoires.Ce sont des histoires que neparvenaient pas à rendre lestechniques et moyensconventionnels et où se mêlent lalocalité, I’espace, le soi et lasexualité. « The Silent Scribe:Susanna and “Black Mary” » offreune étude de la spécificité historiquequi contextualise la représentationdu corps des femmes sur le plan desclasses sociales, des races, de lasexualité et de la culture, dans lecadre d’une analyse comparativedes travaux de la CanadienneDaphne Marlatt et de l’AustralienneKate Grenville. « Black, Woman,“Righter” and the Anguish ofEnglish » reprend à nouveau lesquestions d’accès à la représentation6


Women in Canadian SocietyLes femmes et la société canadiennediffering emphases andpractices, on a range ofinterconnected commongrounds. Far from effacingdifference, the work oncommon grounds enacted inthese writings offers furthercontexts for enabling ourunderstanding of the complexways in which we learn aboutourselves from both samenessand difference.Dr. Lynette HunterUniversity of Leedssous la forme d’une doublemarginalisation, de par la race et lesexe, dans les écrits des femmesnoires, et étudie les effets de cetterépression sociale sur la structurelittéraire et la poétique du texte. Quantà « Reconsidering Conventions », ils’agit d’un article qui abordeexplicitement les idées de contrôlepolitique et d’action individuelle et quiramène la discussion sur la sexualité etla langue dans l’écriture lesbienne auxquestions de représentation au sein destructures d’État hégémoniques.Les textes qui constituent ce recueil nefont pas que refléter les diversescontextualités historiques etgéographiques des femmes dans lasociété canadienne : ils mettentégalement en jeu les particularités deleurs propres approches culturelles etintellectuelles. L’occasion, des plusrares, que nous offre une revueinternationale et multidisciplinairecomme celle-ci de rassembler toutesces perspectives témoigne de ce que ladiversité des études et les différencesd’accents et de pratiques seconcentrent pour l’instant sur unterrain commun composé de sujetsconnexes. Bien loin d’effacer ladifférence, le travail sur les terrainscommuns qui se manifeste dans cesécrits fait surgir d’autres contextes.Ceux-ci, à leur tour, nous aideront àapprofondir notre compréhension desmoyens complexes qui nous servent ànous connaître, dans notre identitécomme dans notre différence.Lynette HunterUniversity of Leeds7


Barbara M. FreemanFraming Feminine/Feminist:English-language Press Coverage of theHearings of the Royal Commission on theStatus of Women in Canada, 1968AstractIn 1968, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women held hearings acrossCanada which, because of the media coverage, became a public forum like noother on women’s rights. To understand what has happened in the interveningtwenty-five years since the Commission tabled its report, it is important tounderstand what occured at the hearings, and how the media covered them.This paper does not attempt to present an argument positing a polaritybetween cultural understandings of feminine and feminist, but to emphasizethe complexity of those ideas, and how they created confusion amongjournalists and readers alike. They emphasized conventional “femininity”and denigrated “feminism,” even while recognizing that life for Canadianwomen was irrevocably changing.RésuméEn 1968, la Commission royale d’enquête sur le statut de la femme tenait àtravers le Canada des séances qui, à cause de leur couverture médiatique,devinrent un forum sans pareil sur la question des droits des femmes. De fait,afin de comprendre ce qui se passa durant les vingt-cinq années qui suivirentle dépôt du Rapport de la Commission, il est important de bien saisir ce qui seproduisit durant ces séances et comment les médias ont couvert celles-ci. Il nes’agit pas pour l’auteure de tenter d’avancer qu’une divergence culturelledans la compréhension des termes « féminin » et « féministe » séparait lasociété canadienne, mais plutôt de souligner la complexité de ces deux notionset la façon dont celles-ci semèrent la confusion parmi les journalistes et lelectorat qui accentuaient une « fémininité » conventionnelle et dénigraient le« féminisme », tout en reconnaissant que la vie des Canadiennes changeaitirrévocablement.Be pretty, be pleasant, use mouthwash and deodorant, neverhave an intellectual thought, and Prince Charming willsweep you off to his castle, where you will live happily everafter. Such is the carrot and behind it is the stick: “Men don’tmake passes at girls who wear glasses,” “wall flower,”“spinster,” “old maid,” “loose woman,” the list goes on, andits message is: to have caught a man is proof of a woman’sInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCdesirability as a human being; to be without a man is a socialand moral disgrace. 1On a June morning in Toronto, at twenty-eight years of age, Bonnie Kreps waspresenting a brief during a hearing of the Royal Commission on the Status ofWomen, then mid-way through its tour across Canada. She was trying toimpress upon the Commissioners and the women attending the hearing howthe traditional view of femininity limited the real abilities and ambitions ofwomen. The press described Kreps as a former university lecturer in English, awould-be broadcaster, an American immigrant, the wife of a physicist, and themother of a five-year old daughter, the order of her personal and professionalcredentials varying according to the publication. 2Bonnie Kreps was also the future leader of the New Feminists, a liberaloffshoot of the more Marxist group, the Women’s Liberation Movement inCanada. Neither group even existed, however, on the morning she presentedher brief to the Commission. 3 In essence, she was a woman in transition, likemany Canadian women at the time. Her role model, whom she quotedextensively in her brief, was Simone de Beauvoir. De Beavoir and BettyFriedan, whom Kreps also cited, were two writers whose critical examinationsof the state of white, middle-class womanhood in the western world hadalready made them icons among progressive women like herself. 4Several days after she presented her brief, Kreps admitted to a reporter whohad come to interview both her and her husband, “I toned down some of myarguments. I didn’t want to frighten them.” It is not clear from the story whoshe meant by “them.” 5 It could have been the five women and two men who saton the Commission, women attending the hearing, or the media covering theevent. Clearly, even the outspoken Kreps saw that discretion was the betterpart of valour, when, as a woman and a feminist, she presented strong ideas thatchallenged the status quo and, in particular, criticized the culturally- held idealof femininity as being limiting for women.Kreps was not alone in her concern, as this article will show. It is aninterpretive reading of how one public institution, the media, and particularlythe English-language newspapers, reflected and shaped the changing publicdiscourse on femininity and feminism as they reported on the public hearingsof the Royal Commission of the Status of Women in 1968. As historian AndréeLévesque has pointed out in her own work on women in Quebec a half-centuryearlier, public discourse maps out what is permitted and what is repressed infemale behaviour, regardless of how stringently individual women conform tothe norms; it constructs “an ideal of femininity with which every womanlaying claim to a legitimate place in the social order would have to alignherself.” 6This paper does not attempt to argue a polarity between culturalunderstandings of “feminine” and “feminist” in late 1960s Canada. The publicdiscourse, as reflected in the media, was more complex than that, and involvedoverlapping meanings which included culturally familiar but erroneousreferences to the “militant suffragettes” of an earlier period. An ongoingtension existed between what scholars from several disciplines describe as the12


Framing Feminine/Feminist“social construction of gender,” meaning the expectations placed on womenwhich stem from power relations in society, 7 and the “social construction ofnews,” meaning the ways in which the media “framed” or narrated andpresented those expectations in culturally acceptable ways to a massaudience. 8Although historians and other scholars have begun to examine the rise of theso-called second wave of the women’s movement in Canada, and havecredited the media with publicizing the Commission effectively, they have notclosely examined the actual press and broadcast coverage. 9 This is necessary ifwe are to understand the media’s role in the rise of the women’s movement inCanada in the 1960s and early 1970s.I have argued elsewhere that the media coverage of the Commission hearingsgreatly advanced the cause of liberal feminism in Canada by underscoring thevery real, difficult and unfair circumstances in which many women foundthemselves. 10 But it is also clear that most of the women concerned, includingthe reporters at the hearings, took pains to present the arguments for equalstatus within acceptable “feminine” limits, including the rhetoric ofhumanism, and were quick to disassociate from women who did not. As aresult, they were viewed as “feminists” of varying degrees of “militancy.”The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada received a greatdeal of media attention. 11 Roughly fifteen hundred newspaper clippings whichreported on the hearings, including photographs 12 and cartoons, are containedin the Commission papers. 13 Most are from the competing English-languagedailies in the major cities in which the hearings were held. 14 These wereexamined to locate sub-themes in the coverage that would shed some light onhow Canadian women viewed themselves at the time. The terms “femininity”and “feminism” are too elusive to define strictly enough to quantify; however,these and related terms appeared often enough to reasonably indicate theyprovided an underlying sub-theme of the coverage, and a concern for manywomen involved in various ways with the hearings. 15Because not all the articles carried bylines, that is, the names of the people whowrote them, it is impossible to provide a precise gender breakdown of thiscoverage. However, the existing bylines do show that female journalists, thenmainly confined to the women’s pages of the newspapers, wrote most of thearticles. The reporters, regardless of gender, followed the standard “objective”model of reporting in which the “facts” were at least superficially separatedfrom their own values, except for analytical articles in which their opinionsand judgements were expressed more openly. 16 Because few women workedin any capacity in general news, it is safe to assume that virtually all of thepeople who wrote the headlines and photo captions, took the photographs,drew the cartoons and wrote most of the other columns and editorials weremen, who rarely if ever attended the hearings. 17Regardless of gender, journalists and editors tended to respond uneasily anddefensively to any activist who strayed too far from the feminine ideal inpresenting her case for equal status. There were differences among the womenjournalists who covered the hearings, but these were a matter of degree. They13


IJCS / RIÉCall seemed to share the same general idea of what “feminine” meant andpresumed their readers did, too.In Femininity, Susan Brownmiller writes that the ways in which a womanpresents, adorns and moves her body, uses her voice, shows her feelings andexpresses her ambitions, including a desire for motherhood, are all timehonouredindicators of that elusive quality considered most attractive in her,her “femininity.” A feminine woman wears makeup, jewellery and skirts,perfumes and depilates her body, moves gracefully, smiles often, does notglare or shout, flatters men, and wants more than anything to have children,even when she also has a career. 18 But, Brownmiller argues, allegiance tofemininity restrains women in the ways they look, move and speak.“Femininity, in essence, is a romantic sentiment, a nostalgic tradition ofimposed limitations,” which really serves to underline and flatter thecontrasting “masculinity” of men. A woman who refuses to play the gametakes a substantial risk of losing masculine attention and approval, “...for awoman found wanting will be appraised (and will appraise herself) as mannishor neutered or simply unattractive, as men have defined these terms.” 19In its coverage of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, the mediadid not define “femininity” or “feminine” specifically. Nevertheless, in theirdescriptions of the female Commissioners, women’s movement leaders andwomen who presented briefs at the hearings, reporters and editors qualified orindirectly invoked those terms, both positively and negatively, with referencesto physical appearance, marital status, actual or potential motherhood, bodylanguage, tone of voice and rhetoric. Regardless of her age, journalists of bothsexes most readily denigrated or dismissed a woman as both “unfeminine” andas a “feminist” when she was not considered attractive or pretty, was dressed inan unconventional way, appeared firm in beliefs which challenged the genderstatus quo, was assertive or aggressive in her body language, was judged to beloud, bitter or angry, was unmarried, or was not a mother.According to the media accounts, Canadian women themselves were uncertainabout any new roles they might play in life. The Commission hearings wereheld during the spring and fall of 1968, a transition period in which theCanadian feminist movement started to shift from its ladylike roots in variouswomen’s clubs, volunteer groups and professional organizations to a younger,more radical constituency. 20 At the time, the struggles of various minoritygroups in the United States and Canada, including people of colour, Quebecseparatists and the Aboriginal peoples, were competing for media attentionwith New Left campus politics, the peace movement, the “hippie”counterculture and the so-called “sexual revolution.” 21 The fact that 1968 wasthe United Nations’ International Year of Human Rights gave journalists ahandy “hook” for just about any story that involved personal freedoms, andthis served the publicity needs of the Commission well. The new Liberal PrimeMinister, Pierre Trudeau, had campaigned on a promise to bring “a justsociety” to Canadians, and women’s rights leaders, who had convinced hispredecessor of the need for an inquiry into the status of women, weredetermined to hold him to it. 2214


Framing Feminine/FeministIn the preceding decade, increasing numbers of women had entered theCanadian workforce, so that by 1968, about a third of it was female. The birthcontrol pill had given these women more power over their biological destiniesthan other methods, allowing them to plan their families if they wished. 23Canadian women activists, already exposed to the writings of de Beauvoir andFriedan, aware of the mixed success of the 1963 Kennedy Commission on theStatus of Women in the United States, and tired of making annual pilgrimagesto lobby their own federal government, felt it was time for a national inquiryinto their grievances. 24The women who appeared before the Royal Commission on the Status ofWomen in Canada complained that they were not given equal opportunities inthe labour force, that their rights as equal partners in marriage were limited,that the law denied them access to adequate birth control and abortion services,that their needs for government-sponsored daycare were ignored, and thatschools and universities actively discouraged girls and women fromdeveloping their intellectual potential. 25 Although the proceedings weredominated by business, professional and volunteer women’s groups and clubs,other women presented briefs, including union leaders, factory workers, farmwomen, high school and university students, poor women, single mothers,socialist activists and Aboriginal women. Even journalists, engaged in astruggle for equality within their own profession, presented briefs or gave theiropinions from the floor. 26The biggest professional challenge to the reporters covering the hearings washow to take the masses of information and opinion, contained in the briefs andexpressed at the hearings, and relay them effectively to their audiences. To doso, they employed narrative conventions which had become standard in theprofession. Mass communication and cultural critics have long noted how thejournalist, in the process of creating a narrative, employs story-telling devicessuch as conflict with its simplistic either/or configuration, unusualness and anemphasis on personalities, especially prominent ones, rather than remoteinstitutions, dwelling on issues or events which are familiar culturally to bothreaders and editors and often based on mythological traditions. In the words oftwo of these scholars, Elizabeth Bird and Robert Dardenne, news stories, likemyths, “do not `tell it like it is’ but rather, `tell it like it means.’” Any perceiveddeviance from cultural norms is signalled by the use of words such as“militant” or “radical.” 27No doubt sensitive to these biases, the Commission tried from the beginning toestablish itself in the public mind, and in the media, as a calm, rational forumfor women who were primarily concerned with sexual equality as a naturaloffshoot of human rights. The Commission, which was made up of white,middle-class professionals over the age of forty, saw its own mandate within aliberal, human rights framework, rather than within a theoretical approachwhich would examine underlying problems in society, such as the economicimbalance of power between men and women. The Commission’s terms ofreference, set down by the government in February of 1967, allowed it toinvestigate the status of women in areas that fell under federal jurisdiction,including criminal and taxation law, labour regulations, marriage and divorce15


IJCS / RIÉCand other areas the Commission deemed “relevant.” Even so, it did notexamine related issues, such as violence against women. 28The chair of the Commission was Florence Bird, an established, well-knownjournalist and broadcaster. Bird, who had been born to an upper middle-classPhiladelphia family, declared upon her appointment that she herself had neversuffered discrimination because of her sex, but had always been interested inthe problems of working women.Bird did have the air of a woman apart. Reporters described her as “a tall,distinguished-looking woman with upswept, white hair,” 29 and “a plummyvoiced59 year-old broadcaster.” 30 Her public demeanour was consistentlyladylike, courteous, and diplomatic but firm, an attitude she encouraged in theother female Commissioners, who usually followed her lead. 31 But as they setout her femininity, class, and professional credentials, including photographswhich invariably showed her in feminine dress such as skirts and pearls, mostjournalists and editors were also careful to note that she was “Mrs. John Bird,”the wife of another prominent journalist, even when some of them persisted inreferring to her by her professional name, “Anne Francis.” 32 In fact, Birdherself insisted, as chair of the Commission, on being called by her privatename. At the time, it was still considered common courtesy to address amarried woman in this way, but some women had already begun to questionthe cultural practice of a wife taking her husband’s name, which in Canada wasnot required by law. 33As in the case with Florence Bird, the reporter’s descriptions of the four otherfemale Commissioners noted their marital status often, before theirprofessional credentials. Most women journalists wrote about them ingenerally approving ways, using all the professional tricks in the book to maketheir articles interesting for their readers, including the snappy “lead,” orintroduction. The results were sometimes flippant comments that actuallydevalued the qualifications of the woman concerned. For example, in a seriesshe wrote to introduce the Commissioners to her readers before the hearingsbegan, Alixe Carter of The Ottawa Journal began her article on the onlyunmarried member of the Commission:If you can call an intellectual academic careerist a Go Go girl, thenJeanne Lapointe is just that. She obtained her pilot’s license a yearago, which also proves she is a career girl constantly on the way up. 34It can be safely stated that Lapointe, who was a respected literary scholar in hermiddle years from Laval University in Quebec City, would hardly be foundamong the hosts of gyrating, skimpily-dressed and sometimes literally caged,young women dancing above the throngs in night clubs and dance halls duringthe 1960s. The strained parallel between her and the Go Go girl sayssomething, nevertheless, about a perceived cultural split in flatteringoccupational designations for women, regardless of reality: you were eitherrespectably married or a glamorous “career girl” on the go. It was a sharpcontrast to the way in which Carter described the male Francophone professoron the Commission in her lead to that article. Jacques Henripin, a demographerfrom the University of Montreal, was “one of the new breed of enlightenedFrench Canadian academics.” 3516


Framing Feminine/FeministTaken overall, Carter’s series on the Commissioners was supportive of theirmandate, but she tended to mix the personal and the professional attributes ofthe female Commissioners, something she shared with all the journalists whendescribing especially accomplished women. According to Carter, DorisOgilvie, a juvenile court judge from New Brunswick, had a “sense of fun” thatwas not only going to be an “asset” during long deliberations but receivedmore attention in this article than her professional credentials. 36 Elsie GregoryMacGill, an aeronautical engineer and clearly the most feminist of the group,took after her late mother, a juvenile court judge from British Columbia, in thateach was “a dogged doer of things” who rose to the top of her profession.Carter did not explain why MacGill, who had been married for many years to a“business executive,” persisted in using her maiden name. 37 Lola Lange ofAlberta was an accomplished musician, a rancher’s wife and mother of threedaughters; she had taken many courses in leadership training and continuingeducation. She was also “attractive,” a personal appellation that Carter did notuse in reference to the other female Commissioners. 38The Commission was framed in the media, and in its own perception, as acalm, rational sounding board made up of very accomplished, well-bred,understanding and generally open-minded people who would do their best tomake sure that all viewpoints were heard. They even observed all the socialniceties between the genders in public; for example, the men invariably helddoors open for the women. 39 During the news conferences that preceded andended the hearings in every city across Canada, Florence Bird and hercolleagues were careful to play down any perceived “militancy,” “man-hating”or “revolutionary” agenda, making it clear that the opinions of men were soughtas well as those of women. 40 Women who considered themselves ladylike,rational pleaders for basic human rights could present their case before theCommission, and not have to worry about being called names. Or so theythought.Many women’s rights leaders in Canada at the time either denied theirfeminism, or played it down, framing it in terms of a humanist argument forequality. In Manitoba, a prominent activist, June Menzies, equated feminismwith humanism during a panel discussion held in advance of the Commissionhearings in Winnipeg. A journalist reported that “Mrs Menzies said sheregarded herself as a feminist because she equated feminism with humanrights. `The status of women is not a women’s problem — it’s a question ofhuman rights...’” 41At the Commission hearings, several speakers carried the humanist argumentfurther, making patently inaccurate and simplistic parallels between thestruggle for women’s rights in Canada and that of the “Negro” in the UnitedStates. This theme was taken up in the media. Margaret Butters of the Welland-Port Colborne Tribune, a local weekly in Ontario, very supportively discussedthe briefs presented in Toronto, adding:Throughout all of the sittings, either spoken or inferred, is the feelingthat women in Canada are in the same situation referring to civil andlegal rights as the negro in the United States. They have been termed“second class citizens;” “cheap or slave labor.”17


IJCS / RIÉCAny reasonable woman would fight for her rights under those circumstances,or so Butters implied. 42 But another more conservative writer, Sheila H.Kieran, resented the comparison. In a period in which the term “nigger” wasadopted by various non-Black groups who wanted to signal that they, too, werebeing oppressed, 43 she defined it as a “bigoted, unflattering term for a secondclasscitizen...(who)...in the inverted bigotry of modern liberalism, is someoneyou have to make allowances for.” In Maclean’s, Canada’s weekly newsmagazine, she attacked the “flower-hatted ladies” presenting briefs before theRoyal Commission as shrill, unwomanly “professional Friedanites” who weredemanding “special consideration,” not equal status. 44There was already a public perception, before the hearings began, that theywould be dominated by professional and club women, whose leaders hadalready been tagged in the media as “vocal” and/or “militant feminists.” Chiefamong them was Laura Sabia, the head of the Committee for the Equality ofWomen in Canada, a federation of thirty-two Anglophone women’s groupswhich had lobbied successfully for the status of women inquiry. Sabia’sperceived militancy stemmed from her outspokenness on women’s issues and,especially, her threat to lead a protest march of two million women to Ottawa ifher request was refused. 45The labelling of Sabia was sometimes extrapolated to media descriptions ofthe hundreds of CEWC members as “militant feminists.” A male reporterviewed the CEWC’s intention to keep an eye on the Commission proceedingsas a threat from “militant watchdogs” waiting to “pounce” on theinvestigation. 46 The fact that many of the groups who later presented briefswere members of the CEWC added to the perception that “feminists” wererunning the show, regardless of whether they saw themselves as such, or whatthey actually said. Even women who showed up at the hearings just to listenwere defined by their very presence as “feminists.” A photo in the VancouverSun, showing a row of older women sitting in the audience, most of themwearing hats and one of them knitting, carried the caption, “Intent Feminists...listen to speakers at women’s status probe.” 47 As the Commission preparedto move on to Alberta, the Calgary Herald warned its readers that the warbetween the sexes was out in the open with the headline, “Men Main Target OfCommission On Women.” The story makes it clear, however, that it wasseveral women at the hearings, not the Commission itself, who criticized maleattitudes. 48Rosemary Speirs noted the understandable confusion and ambivalence thatsome women, even younger ones, felt about losing their feminine credentialsand antagonizing men when they appeared before this particularCommission. 49 This unease was underscored by women who came to thehearings to specifically “remind” other women of their proper place in life. Ata hearing in Edmonton, Alberta, a thirty year-old woman who referred toherself as Mrs. Trevor Anderson came with her husband and well-scrubbedyoung children in tow to defend traditional roles for wives and mothers. Speirsreported that she wore a bright pink dress with a pink and yellow ribbonarrangement tying back her long black curls. 50 In its own story, the EdmontonJournal introduced her, on page one, as a “Man’s Woman,” and included a18


Framing Feminine/Feministflattering picture of her with the caption, “Woman has place...behind her man,says Mrs. Anderson.” 51 Headlines in other newspapers read: “LadiesReminded They’re Women”; “Femininity plea” and “Married Women ToldTo ‘Rely on Female Instincts.’” 52Even when a woman worked outside the home and espoused more liberalbeliefs than Mrs. Anderson, the journalists frequently described her in terms ofher “feminine” qualifications, such as her degree of personal attractiveness,her marital status and even what she wore, sometimes in the same sentence asher professional or other qualifications. During the Ottawa hearings, onereporter noted in detail the particularly fashionable attire of a prominent unionleader. Huguette Plamondon, the vice-president at large of the CanadianLabour Congress, “looked like a chic fashion-plate” but “spoke with ringingconviction” at the Ottawa hearing in October. Readers were told:Miss Plamondon wore a smart, jaunty black hat, a black and whiteensemble and gold jewellery. She also answered questions from thecommission on employment, discrimination, retraining, maternityleave and day care centres.In the short, three-paragraph article, the unnamed reporter gave no details ofthe questions Plamondon was asked or her replies. But there was a head-andshouldersphoto of her at the hearing which took up twice the space of thecopy. 53Flattering descriptions of a woman’s apparel were a very common social andjournalistic convention at the time. Even self-declared feminists such asSpeirs 54 commonly used expressions such as “pert brunette universitystudent” and “pretty young mother” to describe women appearing at thehearings. 55 Speirs herself caught at least one, presumably male, magazineeditor’s eye. The caption for a Canadian Press photo of her sitting at hertypewriter, which accompanied her Toronto Life article about the hearings,described her as an “emancipated woman” and “a gorgeous redhead who is 27and single,” even while noting that she was just completing her Ph.D in labourhistory. 56 This emphasis on personal attractiveness, especially for youngwomen, was already firmly embedded in the culture. A Commission study, forexample, noted that eighty-nine percent of female images in newspapers andmagazines were of “young, elegant and beautiful” women under 35 years ofage. 57It is apparent from the media coverage that, aside from youth and beauty,another measure of “femininity” was how a woman conducted herself inpublic, with the emphasis being not just on what she said but how she said it.For many women, the very act of speaking out, especially at public meetings,was risky to one’s “feminine” sense of self. At the Commission hearing inHalifax, Nova Scotia, one woman scheduled to present a brief felt sointimidated that she refused to get up and do it. 58 As Eleanor McKim, thewomen’s editor of the Evening Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland, wroteon a similar occasion, speaking out in public was a challenge to the bravest ofwomen, especially when men were present.19


IJCS / RIÉCWe’re still immobilized by the long held tradition that it isunfemminine (sic) to be forthright.... It’s going to take a new kind ofcourage for women to overcome this sub-conscious hurdle. 59Even women who did have the courage to speak up at the Status of Womenhearings seemed concerned that they or other women might appear strident orshrill, even when their anger was justified. One reporter recorded aninteresting exchange between two women at a hearing in Calgary, Alberta.While one women complained that “women have become very shrill in sayingthey are mistreated and misunderstood,” another countered “that if femaledemands sound strident and shrill, `it may be that we have been asking forchanges so long our voices have become shrill with repetition.’” 60 RosemarySpeirs maintained that the occasional “whining” or “petty, querulous tone”that crept into the discussions resulted as much from the guilt these women feltat making demands, as from their unhappiness. 61Some journalists at the hearings seemed uncomfortable with anything but themost ladylike presentations from any woman. In Ottawa, one reporterdescribing a summary of the discrimination suffered by female professors atthirty universities, a brief opposed by their own male-dominated associations,seemed to need to reassure her readers that the presentation was “calm in toneand free from feminist lecturing.” 62 When Carrie Best, a Black activist andnewspaper columnist from Pictou, Nova Scotia, challenged theCommissioners on the lack of racial minority and Aboriginal women at thehearings, and later presented her own brief in Ottawa, her white colleagues atthe press table praised her interventions as “even-voiced” and “dignified.”Their readings of her appearance begged questions about their expectations ofa woman of colour, 63 and also amused the usually outspoken Best, who wrotein her autobiography that it “may be the last time I shall be so described.” 64Not only did a woman have to watch her tone of voice when she spoke out inpublic, she had to be very careful not to threaten men in what she said if shewanted to be taken seriously and avoid vilification in the media. In Vancouver,sociologist Norma Ellen Verwey was labelled, in her own words, as “somekind of nut” after the local media gave front-page coverage to a suggestion thatshe had apparently made in all seriousness: that all young men of sixteen andover be forced to undergo compulsory vasectomies which, she said, werereversible. It was time, she declared, that men be made to take responsibilityfor birth control. Many newspapers across the country carried the story. In theCanadian Press version, which the Globe and Mail headlined “Compulsoryvasectomies at 16 advocated by feminist sociologist,” the reporter referred toher “ardently feminist presentation” and included reaction from a malemedical specialist who said vasectomy could be reversed in fewer than half ofcases. 65 The front-page story in the Vancouver Sun included a picture of themiddle-aged Verwey, who had short hair and was not conventionally pretty,with her mouth wide open and the caption, “Norma Ellen Verwey...pleads tocommission.” The photo also showed a thin, older woman wearing a hat seatedin the background, her lips pursed in what appeared to be disapproval. Thestory noted that Verwey was married but childless. 66 In The Globe and Mail,the same picture, cropped to Verwey’s head and shoulders, was positionedfacing two larger photos of a pair of svelte, pretty young fashion models, one of20


Framing Feminine/Feministthem in a bikini, which provided a stark contrast between what was considered“feminist” and what was considered “feminine.” 67 It is not surprising thatother women appearing before the Commission, including a teaching order ofnuns from Quebec, would support only “those feminist movements” whichcould demonstrate that they were “truly feminine and not excessivelyradical.” 68But what was “excessively radical”? When the media wants its audiences tograsp an idea instantly, it sometimes uses an historical reference, a supposedlyshared memory, already embedded in the culture. In this case, the mediacompared the “feminists,” especially of the “militant” variety, to the radical“suffragette” of a half-century earlier. In fact, Canadian “suffragists,” as theywere properly known, were a much more decorous group than the realsuffragettes who belonged to the Women’s Social and Political Union inBritain, and were not given to hunger strikes, stone throwing or arson in orderto win the vote. 69 But the modern media seemed to perceive parallels betweenthe violence of the suffragettes, the determination of the assertive modern-dayclub woman, and the anger of the young, left-wing radical busily engaged indemonstrations, sit-ins and protests for her own rights, especially right nextdoor in the United States. 70The “suffragette” motif continued during and after the media coverage of theCommission, in both small and large publications. For example, an unnamedcolumnist in a small-town Alberta newspaper decided to publish a letterwritten by a farm wife about her lack of rights to marital property, butdemurred, “I am not sure whether I should be using this column for thissuffragette-type of indoctrination.” 71 After the Toronto hearings were over,Elizabeth Thompson’s advice column in the Globe and Mail featured a debateamong herself and a number of readers variously identifying themselves as“Sick of Suffragettes,” “A Suffragette,” “A Woman,” and “AnotherSuffragette,” and all espousing viewpoints which ran the gamut fromtraditionally conservative to socialist. 72Some journalists even urged Canadian women to become active in thewomen’s movement, but assured them that they did not have to become“suffragettes” to do so. Marilyn Anderson, in her column in the Niagara FallsReview, wrote “... while we don’t have to resort to the tactics of suffragettes,tying ourselves to lamp posts to get what we want, we do have to get ourselvesinvolved in fighting for our rights.” 73Given the suffragette’s public image, it is not surprising that even progressivejournalists treated the label with caution. Scholars who have examinededitorial cartoons tell us that one centuries-old tradition of western journalismis to lampoon and ridicule women who were mythologized as overbearing andthreatening, including the “suffragette.” 74 Regardless of what individualjournalists wrote on their women’s pages about the Royal Commission,cartoonists had a field day before and during the hearings. At the time, theywere all men who tended to see themselves as detached, satirical observers ofthe political and social scene. 75 True to tradition, they usually drew the modernwomen’s rights advocate as large, overbearing and sometimes violent,especially in relation to men they depicted as meek. In one cartoon, for21


IJCS / RIÉCexample, a woman sitting in an armchair reading about the appointment of theCommission in a newspaper glowers at her spouse who has interrupted hisdishwashing to answer the phone. On the wall is a calendar depicting “Judy LaSuffragette,” a mischievous reference to Judy LaMarsh, the outspoken cabinetminister who had worked behind the scenes to get the Commissionestablished. 76In short, the term “suffragette” became part of an uneasy and conflicted publicdiscourse about modern feminism that included women of all ages across thecountry. Although some young women showed up at the Commissionhearings, many appeared reluctant to do so. The media investigated andconcluded that many of them were uncomfortable with the whole idea offeminism. The Toronto Telegram actually set up a panel discussion featuringfemale students from York University and the University of Toronto, whothought “...`feminists’ are old hat.” One student was optimistic that hergeneration could change things without an “aggressive” women’s movement.She is quoted as saying, “I react violently to this suffrage thing — I don’t thinkit will solve anything.” 77But for all the reluctance of young Canadian women to embrace feminism,there were a few who were already alarming their elders. They were theadvance guard of the young feminist constituency, represented by BonnieKreps, who would soon be forming their own women’s groups. In Toronto, theCommission heard from four Young Socialists who seemed to the uneasymedia to represent a real threat. The Toronto Telegram began its account:The seven commissioners looked apprehensive as the militantdelegation composed of three mini-skirted girls wearing huge CheGuevara buttons and one serious looking youth wound their waythrough flowered hats in St. Lawrence Hall. The Young Socialistsbegan quietly and then let loose a wild diatribe against society whichthey said suppresses and degrades young Canadian girls. 78One of them was described as “a 21 year-old blonde in a low-cut blue dress andorange sandals.” 79 Another had “hair cut so short she looked more like a boythan a 21 year-old woman.” Both descriptions assumed sexual behavioursand/or identities beyond the accepted norm, even for journalists at the time,who may have been privately more conservative than they admitted. 80 The factthat the students shouted did not help their case at all. 81 But suchdemonstrations were rare at the time.When the hearings ended in October, women in the media were able to report,with some satisfaction, that the Commission had made a real difference to theaspirations of Canadian women partly because the women presenting briefswere not, by and large, what one vituperative male columnist called “all thosefeminist harridans who projected their hatred and envy of men into a holycrusade.” 82 In her award winning, front-page analysis, Yvonne Crittenden ofthe Toronto Telegram wrote, to paraphrase the headline, that theCommission’s eventual recommendations would be “One report Ottawa can’tignore.” She noted that the issues brought before the Commission during thehearings, such as the need for daycare, equal pay and job opportunities,reproductive freedom and tax reform “have been in the news for years and are22


Framing Feminine/Feministfavorite targets of militant women’s groups.” But what had happened at thehearings themselves made a difference to how these issues are heard now.When the Commission was first announced, many people, mostlymen, announced openly that it would be an exercise in futility, thatthe feminists and “flowered hat brigade” would dominate thehearings, that all one would hear were whines and gripes.She went on to reassure her readers that most women who appeared before theCommission were not resentful or bitter, that there was no “battle of the sexes”and that the women simply talked about their day-to-day problems. There wereordinary women who were “scared stiff” about getting up and speaking inpublic, and others with “private, heartfelt briefs,” some of whom had travelledhundreds of miles to attend the hearings. Crittenden also noted that manywomen expressed a wish to remain at home which, she said, “should cause a lotof people to breathe a sigh of relief.” 83This article has focused on the various ways in which “femininity” and“feminism” were interpreted by the media covering the status of womenhearings. According to their accounts, the female Commissioners, and most ofthe women who appeared at the hearings, confined themselves to standard,“ladylike” behaviour even while presenting the toughest arguments. Theemphasis on their perceived “femininity” including descriptions of how theylooked, their marital and motherhood status, what they said and how they saidit, was derived from feminine culture, and from what Brownmiller perceives asthe strategy for survival that suffuses it. 84It was important to most of these women, and to the journalists who reportedtheir words, to believe that one could gain equality with rational, humanistarguments without sacrificing one’s “femininity,” or, at the very least,important that men be placated in the process of “revolution.” In other words,women were going to have to win their rights by looking attractive, by notraising their voices, by not challenging the status quo too abruptly, and by notovertly threatening men. That meant distancing themselves from moreimpatient women who did raise their voices, did threaten to shake up the statusquo, and did challenge men. These women became, by definition, “feminists,”usually of the “militant” or “radical” variety, a label that was difficult for manywomen to accept for themselves, at least publicly, regardless of their personalfeelings and actions. It was a reluctance that continues to this day.Notes1. National Archives of Canada, Papers of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women(hereafter NAC, RCSW), RG 33/89, Vol. 17, Toronto June 6, 1968, Bonnie Kreps, Brief#373, p. 4.2. Media coverage included a few paragraphs in a summary of the day’s proceedings byMargaret Weiers, “Urge dental care in medicare,” Toronto Star, June 7, 1968, p. 61; LeoneKirkwood, “Social disgrace to be single, commission told: Woman `expected to act likeCinderella waiting for Prince,’” The Globe and Mail, June 7, 1968, p. 13; and no byline,“Cinderella may not dig her role,” Toronto Telegram, June 7, 1968. Hereafter, where nopage is indicated, the clipping can be found in National Archives of Canada, Papers of theRoyal Commission on the Status of Women, RG 33/89, Vols. 41-45.23


IJCS / RIÉC3. Maggie Siggins, “The Feminists,” Toronto Telegram, September 5, 1969. See also MargaretPenman, “The Feminists go marching on,” Montreal Star, May 8, 1970, pp. 23-24.4. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (Paris, Galimard, 1949); Betty Friedan, The FeminineMystique (New York: W.D. Norton, 1963.)5. The reporter wanted to know what it was like to live with a woman who believed in sexualequality. The answer was in the headline. Leone Kirkwood, “Attitude changed aftermarriage: Physics professor believes in equality in the kitchen,” The Globe and Mail, June10, 1968.6. Andrée Lévesque, Making and Breaking the Rules: Women in Quebec, 1919-1939, trans. ofLa norme et les déviantes by Yvonne M.Klein (McClelland and Stewart, 1994), p. 12.7. One of the most influential historians has been Joan Wallach Scott, whose several articles onthis form of analysis have been republished in her Gender and the Politics of History (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1988).8. See especially, Gaye Tuchman, Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality (NewYork: The Free Press, 1978), p. 1. She discusses mainstream media coverage of theAmerican women’s movement of 1975 in Chapter 7. See also Michael Schudson, “TheSociology of News Production Revisited,” in James Curran and Michael Gurevitch (eds.),Mass Media and Society (London: Edward Arnold, 1991), pp. 141-159. For culturalcritiques centred on gender issues in today’s media, see Liesbet van Zoonen, “FeministPerspectives on the Media,” in the same volume, pp. 33-54.9. For example, see the various articles on Canadian feminism in Constance Backhouse andDavid H. Flaherty (eds.), Challenging Times: The Women’s Movement in Canada and theUnited States (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1992).10. See Barbara M. Freeman, “The Media and the Royal Commission on the Status of Women:Research in Progress,” forthcoming in Resources for Feminist Research, and “`CBCMatinee,’ the `Press Girls’ and the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 1968,”forthcoming in Frequence/Frequency: Journal of the Association for the Study of CanadianRadio and Television.11. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation provided regular coverage of the hearings on twoof its national network programs for women, “CBC Matinee” on radio and “Take 30” ontelevision. Freeman, “CBC Matinee;” Freeman, “`Go Girls Go’ and `Stamp Out Men’:CBC’s `Take 30’ and the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 1968, 1970,” a paperpresented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Canadian Radio andTelevision, Ottawa, Ontario, June 1993.12. Media scholar Stuart Hall writes that a news photograph is chosen for its immediate newsvalue, but also for the way in which it fits into the political-moral discourse of society and theparticular editorial biases of the newspaper concerned. Stuart Hall, “The Determination ofNews Photographs,” S. Cohen, and J. Young (eds.), The Manufacture of News: SocialProblems, Deviance and the Mass Media (London: Constable, 1981); pp. 176-189.13. NAC RCSW Vols. 41-45. Many of these publications are also available on microfilm.14. Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia; Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta; Regina andSaskatoon, Saskatchewan; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario; Montrealand Quebec City; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Fredericton, New Brunswick;Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John’s, Newfoundland. Two of the Commissioners also visitedWhitehorse in the Yukon, Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, and several tiny nativecommunities in the North. White women and Aboriginal women living there had differentconcepts of women’s roles, which in turn differed from women living in southern Canada,cultural differentiations that will be addressed in future research. It is also beyond the scopeof this research to analyze Francophone media coverage, particularly in Quebec, wherewomen have their own multi-layered and complex history, and a different journalistictradition. See Michèle Martin, “Changing the Picture: Women and the Media in Quebec,” inSandra Burt, Lorraine Code and Lindsay Dorney, Changing Patterns: Women in Canada,Second Edition, Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1993, pp. 177-211.15. To discern how common the shared cultural assumptions about femininity and feminismwere, I have also included examples from magazines and from small to mid-size circulationdailies and rural weeklies which either sent their own reporters to the bigger cities for thehearings or carried Canadian Press wire service stories about the Commission. In my further24


Framing Feminine/Feministresearch, I will examine the public discourse about “equal status,” and “working mothers,”for example.16. On the tradition of journalistic objectivity, see Daniel Schiller, Objectivity and the News(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), pp. 1-6, 194-195. For a slightlydifferent historical analysis, see Michael Schudson, Discovering the News (New York:Basic Books 1978), and Schudson, “The Sociology of News Production Revisited.”17. See Freeman, “The Media and the Royal Commission,” and “CBC Matinee.”18. Brownmiller combines an historical overview of the cultural meanings of femininity fromancient times to the 1980s, but also muses on her own personal experiences and struggles as ayoung woman growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Susan Brownmiller, Femininity (NewYork: Fawcett Columbine, 1984).19. Brownmiller, pp. 14-16.20. See, for example, Amy Von Heyking, “Red Deer Women and the Roots of Feminism,”Alberta History, Winter 1994, pp. 14-27. For an overview of the battles for equality inCanada since that time, see the articles in Ruth Roach Pierson, Marjorie Griffin Cohen, PaulaBourne and Philinda Masters, Canadian Women’s Issues, Vol. 1 (Toronto: James Lorimer,1993).21. See, for example, Elizabeth Dingman, “The Sixties: A decade of protest,” TorontoTelegram, December 30, 1969.22. They included Doris Anderson, the editor of Chatelaine magazine. She was sceptical, sinceonly one woman, Grace MacInnis of the New Democratic Party, was elected to the House ofCommons that year as opposed to four the previous term. Doris Anderson, “Justice: 1 womanto 263 men?” Chatelaine, Sept. 1968, p. 1.23. There are several sources on the legal and economic position of women in Canadian societyat the time. See, for example, S. J. Wilson, Women, Families and Work, 3rd Edition(Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1991), Chapters 5 and 6.24. While Canadian feminist leaders were influenced by the U.S. movement to some degree, andwere exposed to it through the media, there were many differences between the twocountries. A Canadian political scientist, Jill Vickers, writes that English-Canadianfeminists of all stripes saw reform being carried out within the established political system.This “radical liberalism,” as she calls it, was more tolerant of diversity within the movementthan American feminists were at the same stage, encouraged dialogue among them and,unlike Americans, Canadian feminists were firm believers in the advantages the welfarestate held for women. Jill Vickers, “The Intellectual Origins of the Women’s Movement inCanada,” in Backhouse and Flaherty, Challenging Times. See also Naomi Black, “TheCanadian Women’s Movement The Second Wave,” in Burt, Code and Dorney (eds.),Changing Patterns, pp. 151-175. On the Kennedy Commission, see Ginette Castro,American Feminism: A Contemporary History, trans. by Elizabeth Loverde-Bagwell (NewYork and London: New York University Press, 1990), Chapter 1.25. Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada (Ottawa: Minister ofSupply and Services, 1977), Chapter 1.26. The briefs are in NAC RCSW on microfilms C-4878 to C-4883 and C-6798 to C-6803. Onmedia women, see Freeman, “CBC Matinee.”27. Richard Ericson, Patrician Baranek, and Janet Chan, “Representing Order,” in HelenHolmes and David Taras (eds.), Seeing Ourselves: Media Power and Policy in Canada,(Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Canada 1992); S. Elizabeth Bird and Robert W.Dardenne, “Myth, Chronicle and Story. Exploring the Narrative Qualities of News,” inJames W. Carey (ed.), Media, Myths and Narratives. Television and the Press, Sage AnnualReviews of Communication Research, Vol. 15. (Newbury Park: Sage, 1988), pp. 69, 71-72;Johan Galtung and Mari Ruge, “Structuring and Selecting News,” in Cohen and Young;Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of theNew Left (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980).28. “Terms of Reference,” Report of the Royal Commission, pp. vii-viii. Monique Bégin, whowas executive secretary of the Commission, writes that it was regarded as a “social issue,”not as a specifically feminist one. Monique Bégin, “The Royal Commission on the Status ofWomen — Twenty Years Later,” in Backhouse and Flaherty, p. 31.29. Marilyn Argue (Canadian Press, hereafter referred to as CP), “Inquiry Head Anne FrancisNever Met Discrimination,” Winnipeg Free Press, February 3, 1967, p. 22.25


IJCS / RIÉC30. Rosemary Speirs, “Girl Power: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Would Prefer to Rule theWorld,” Toronto Life, August 1968, 42. Although Bird did not have children of her own, shewas able to tell the media that she kept house and took care of a British friend’s two little boysin Winnipeg during World War II, and their questions about the world conflict led to hercareer as a broadcaster on international affairs, a rare accomplishment for a woman at thetime. Argue, (CP) “Inquiry Head Anne Francis.”31. No byline, “Royal Commission on Status of Women gets a day of brickbats and bouquets,”The Globe and Mail, June 6, 1968, p. W2.32. The examples are legion, but to take just one from the same newspaper: a Canadian Pressstory from Ottawa about her appointment, which appeared on the front page of the WinnipegFree Press, described her as “Mrs. John Bird of Ottawa, wife of the parliamentarycorrespondent of the Financial Post.” In a follow-up CP story in the same newspaper, but onthe women’s page the following day, both the copy and photo caption under her picture referto her as “Anne Francis,” although the story also notes that she is Mrs. John Bird “in privatelife,” CP (no byline), “Status Probe Set,” Winnipeg Free Press, February 3, 1967, p. 1; andMarilyn Argue (CP), “Inquiry Head Anne Francis Never Met Discrimination,” WinnipegFree Press, February 4, 1967, p. 22.33. No byline, “Royal Commission on Status of Women gets a day of brickbats and bouquets,”The Globe and Mail, June 6, 1968, p. W2.34. In the absence of a husband, it was duly noted that Lapointe’s father was a prominent lawyer.Alixe Carter, “Meet the Status of Women Commissioners,” The Ottawa Journal, February28, 1968, p. 48. It is interesting to note that Lapointe was not framed as a “blue-stocking,” aterm which has a history in relation to academic women in Canada. See Alison Prentice,“Bluestockings, Feminists, or Women Workers? A Preliminary Look at Women’s EarlyEmployment at the University of Toronto,” in Journal of the Canadian HistoricalAssociation, New Series, Vol. 2, 1991, pp. 231-261.35. Alixe Carter, “Meet the Status of Women Commissioners: Jacques Henripin,” The OttawaJournal, March 6, 1968, p. 34. The other male Commissioner, John Humphrey, was theDean of Law at McGill University in Montreal and well-known in the international humanrights field. Carter’s lead stressed that he was not “phased” at having to work with apredominantly-female Commission. Alixe Carter, “Meet the Status of WomenCommissioners: John P. Humphrey,” The Ottawa Journal, March 11, 1968, p. 18.36. Alixe Carter, “Meet the Status of Women Commissioners: Doris Ogilvie,” The OttawaJournal, March 1, 1968, p. 26.37. Alixe Carter, “Meet the Status of Women Commissioners: Elsie Gregory MacGill,” TheOttawa Journal, March 8, 1968, p. 23.38. Alixe Carter, “Meet the Status of Women Commissioners: Lola Mary Smith Lange,” TheOttawa Journal, February 26, 1968, p. 18.39. Speirs, “Girl Power,” p. 43.40. Margaret Weiers, “Status of Women hearings open here today,” Toronto Star, June 3, 1968.41. Mary Bletcher, “Call for women in politics made by status researcher,” Winnipeg Tribune,March 18, 1968.42. Margaret Butters, “Weekend Digest,” Welland-Port Colborne Tribune, June 8, 1968. Shemay have been referring to a specific brief, in this case, from a white male, 47-year old BruceMickleburgh. See Speirs, “Girl Power,” p. 44; Canadian Press (no byline), “Women stillslaves,” Ottawa Citizen, June 5, 1968, p. 43. Later, Bonnie Kreps, as leader of the NewFeminists, used the same analogy but in a different way. See the full-page feature under thebanner headline, “Freedom-seeking women study Black Power strategy,” Toronto Star, Jan.31, 1970, p. 11. Marjorie Griffin Cohen has argued that recent scholarship on the “secondwave” of the feminist movement in Canada has overstated the influence of the Americancivil rights movement. Even so, I found quite a number of references linking the two in themainstream media of the time. See Margaret Griffin Cohen, “The Canadian Women’sMovement,” in Pierson et al, Canadian Women’s Issues, p. 4.43. Even in Quebec. See Pierre Vallières, White Niggers of America (Toronto: McClelland andStewart, 1971).44. Sheila H. Kieran, “Who’s Downgrading Women? Women.” Maclean’s magazine, August1968, pp. 18-19, 40-42.26


Framing Feminine/Feminist45. “Women’s March May Back Call For Rights Probe,” Globe and Mail, Jan. 5, 1967;Canadian Press (Windsor, Ont.), “Biological Beat of Bed, Board, Babies Attacked by VocalCanadian Feminist,” Montreal Star, March 14, 1967. Sabia twice ran for public office in1968. See “Sabia blames religion for `passive women,’” Toronto Telegram, June 11, 1968;Margaret Weiers, “Next House could boast even fewer women than last,” Toronto Star, Feb.21, 1968; John Sharp, “Feminist will need male help to win mayoralty,” The TorontoTelegram, Nov. 7, 1968, p. 58; Mary Jane Charters, “Laura Sabia wants `a mass injection’ ofwomen into public life, social structure of Canada,” London Free Press, Ontario, Nov. 6,1968, p. 38. Recent scholarship suggests that women politicians of that era were framed inthe Canadian media in predominantly “biological” terms, but I believe a more complexinterpretation is needed. Gertrude J. Robinson and Armande St. Jean, “Women Politiciansand Their Media Coverage,” in Kathy Megyery, ed., Women in Canadian Politics: TowardEquity in Representation, Vol. 6, Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and PartyFinancing in Canada (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991), pp. 127-169.46. Ken Clark (CP), “Watchdogs Ready to Pounce on Investigation Commission,” The OttawaJournal, Feb. 17, 1967, p. 24. Published as “Watchdogs all over the place: Militant group tokeep track of status of women study,” Globe and Mail, Feb. 17, 1967, p. 11.47. Lorraine Shore, “Probe Into Status of Women hears UBC Co-ed Complain of Sex Barrier,”Vancouver Sun, April 19, 1968.48. CP (no byline), “War Between Sexes Goes Public: Men Main Target Of Commission OnWomen,” Calgary Herald, April 22, 1968, p. 11.49. Speirs, “Girl Power,” pp. 42-44.50. Rosemary Speirs (CP), “Ladies Reminded They’re Women,” Vancouver Sun, April 25,p. 47.51. Lorna Wright, “She’s A `Man’s Woman,’” Edmonton Journal, April 25, 1968, p. 1.52. Speirs, “Ladies Reminded They’re Women,” appeared as “Femininity plea,” ReginaLeader-Post, April 25, 1968; and as “Married Women Told To `Rely on Female Instincts,’”Ottawa Journal, April 25, 1968, among others.53. The item and photo were on the same page as several more detailed articles about other briefspresented at the hearings. (No byline), “Officer Looked Chic,” The Ottawa Journal, October2, 1968, p. 41. The Globe and Mail version of the story, which focused on the comments ofher co-presenter, the CLC’s male president, described Plamondon as “fiery” when shepublicly disagreed with him on whether the union treated its female members equitably. CP(no byline), “Forceful law to end sex bias in employment urged by CLC,” The Globe andMail, October 2, 1968.54. Speirs says she was a feminist even then. Barbara M. Freeman interview with RosemarySpeirs conducted in Ottawa, December 15, 1992.55. Rosemary Speirs (CP) “`Phony womanhood forced by media,’” The Winnipeg Tribune,April 19, 1968, p. 14; “`Stop hiding behind skirts’: Women must adjust status views,commission is told,” Globe and Mail, April 23, 1968, p. 11.56. The photo accompanied Speirs, “Girl Power,” p. 44. The same photo, but with captions thatdid not refer to her physical appearance, was published in some newspapers when thehearings began in April. See, for example, the Charlottetown Guardian, Prince EdwardIsland, April 15, 1968, n.p. and The Fredericton Gleaner, New Brunswick, April 18, 1968.Speirs is one of the few journalists in Canada today who holds a Ph.D. Today, she isParliamentary Bureau Chief of The Toronto Star in Ottawa.57. Collette Charisse, “Portrayal of Women by the Mass Media” as cited in Report of the RoyalCommission on the Status of Women, Chapter 1, “Women in Canadian Society,” p. 15.Examples abound even in the newspapers used for this essay: Zena Cherry, “Masseygranddaughter to be wed,” The Globe and Mail, June 6, 1968, p. W2 took precedence inplacement and size that day over articles about the Commission hearings; there are fashionphotos in the Globe and Mail, April 19, 1968, p. 9 and June 7, 1968, p. 13, and in The OttawaJournal, March 11, 1968, p. 18; beauty queens are featured in a photo in The Globe and Mail,April 17, 1968, p. 10; and there is a photo of “girl students,” wearing mini-skirts and shorts,cleaning a local street in The Montreal Star, June 11, 1968, 52.58. Carrie M. Best, “Human Rights: Status of Women,” Pictou Advocate, Sept. 19, 1968.59. In this instance, McKim was castigating herself for not speaking out at a similar forum, theHellyer inquiry on housing. Eleanor McKim, “Frankly Speaking” column, Evening27


IJCS / RIÉCTelegram, Nov. 29, 1968. It was her daughter, Mary McKim, also a journalist, who coveredthe Status of Women hearings in St. John’s for the Telegram in September 1968. It wasMary’s first news assignment, which she says she was told to do because, in the words of hermale editor, “you’re a woman.” Conversation between Barbara M. Freeman and MaryMcKim at the Women in the Media conference, Canadian Association of Journalists,Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 12, 1994.60. Canadian Press (no byline), “Women must adjust views, hearing told,” The Globe and Mail,April 23, 1968, p. 11.61. Speirs, “Girl Power,” p. 44.62. (No byline), “Women charge college discrimination,” Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 4, 1968.63. CP (no byline) “Negro Journalist Lectures Women’s Commission In N.S.,” Telegraph-Journal, Sept. 13, 1968; “Carrie Best’s Moving Tribute,” The Ottawa Journal, October 4,1968.64. See Carrie M. Best, That Lonesome Road (Halifax: Clarion, 1977) pp. 71-72, and hercolumns in the Pictou Advocate, Sept. 19, 1968, section 1, p. 8, and Dec. 12, 1968, p. 5. Shewrote that she sometimes used the soft-spoken, philosophical approach strategically againstintolerance, however. See her column of December 28, 1967, p. 7. She stated her case on racerelations strongly in one interview I have heard. Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Ar. 2265-2268, 2279, interview with Carrie M. Best recorded c.1970.65. CP (no byline), “Compulsory vasectomies at 16 advocated by feminist sociologist,” Globeand Mail, April 19, 1968, p. 9.66. (No byline), “Woman’s Plea To Women’s Probe: Sterilize All Young Men,” VancouverSun, April 18, 1968, p. 1.67. The Globe and Mail, April 19, 1968, p. 9.68. No byline, “Teaching Nuns Seek Govt Aid For Feminist Groups,” Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, June 11, 1968.69. Deborah Gorham, “English Militancy and the Canadian Suffrage Movement,” in Atlantis,Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 1975, pp. 83-112. This did not stop Canadian journalists even back thenfrom writing as if violence from women demanding their rights was as an immediate threat inCanada as it was in Britain. Barbara M. Freeman, Kit’s Kingdom: The Journalism ofKathleen Blake Coleman, Ottawa: Carleton University Press, Women’s Experience SeriesNo. 1, 1989, especially Chapter 5. For a recent overview of earlier feminism in Canada, seeJane Errington, “Pioneers and Suffragists,” in Sandra Burt, Lorraine Code and LindsayDorney (eds.), Changing Patterns: Women in Canada, Second Edition (Toronto:McClelland and Stewart, 1993, pp. 59-91).70. English Canada, which shares a common border and language with the United States, hasbeen less than successful in resisting the cultural influences and concerns of the morepowerful American mass media, as embodied in the magazines, radio, television and filmeagerly snapped up by Canadian audiences. There are several articles on this theme inHolmes and Taras, Seeing Ourselves.71. The letter, from “Farmer’s Wife,” had originally appeared in the Melrose Review inSaskatchewan, and was republished in the Brooks Bulletin, Alberta, Sept. 19, 1968.72. Elizabeth Thompson’s column, “Ashamed of briefs to commission,” Globe and Mail, June12, 1968, p. 10; “Ignore smokescreen and fight for rights, woman says,” Globe and Mail,June 24, p. 13; and “Women unequal as long as they are pampered household pets, readersays,” Globe and Mail, July 2, 1968, p. 11.73. Marilyn Anderson, “The fight for women’s rights,” Niagara Falls Review, Oct. 19, 1968.74. Alice Sheppard, Cartooning for Suffrage, introduced by Elizabeth Israels Perry.(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994), pp. 58-64.75. The Canadian cartoonist as satirist is discussed in Peter Desbarats and Terry Mosher(Aislin), The Hecklers, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979), and in the more analyticaland critical Raymond N. Morris, The Jester’s Mask: Canadian Editorial Cartoons aboutDominant and Minority Groups (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989.) Neither bookexplores the ways in which cartoonists represented women. I have interviewed two retiredcartoonists: Sid Barron of the Toronto Star in Coombs, B.C., Feb. 20, 1995 and Len Norris ofthe Vancouver Sun in Langley, B.C., Feb. 25, 1995. They both say their cartoons reflectedpublic attitudes about the women’s movement at the time.28


Framing Feminine/Feminist76. Yardley Jones, Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, Quebec City, Feb. 21, 1967, editorial page. Acropped version without Lamarsh appeared in the Chatham News, Ontario, March 22, 1967.Other cartoons included women brandishing rolling pins or otherwise threatening orinflicting actual damage on men. Al Beaton, Telegraph-Journal of St. John, NewBrunswick, February 23, 1967; Duncan MacPherson, Toronto Star, June 7, 1968, “Sock it tothem baby” and Kuch, Winnipeg Tribune, Friday, May 31, 1968.77. Yvonne Crittenden, “Students think `feminists’ are old hat,” Toronto Telegram, March 19,1968. See also (no byline), “Youth suspicious of probe,” Winnipeg Tribune, Feb. 24, 1968;Bletcher, “Call for women in politics,” Winnipeg Tribune; Canadian Press (no byline),“Feminine Image Not Too Bright,” Vancouver Sun, March 23, 1968, p. 32; Joyce Douglas,“Attitudes are most to blame, says McGill undergraduate,” Montreal Star, June 12, 1968, pp.59, 63.78. (No byline), “Girls protest that sex is used to sell everything,” Toronto Telegram, June 7,1968.79. Margaret Weiers, “Urge dental care in medicare, ”Toronto Star, June 7, 1968, p. 61.80. In fact, a study done for the Vanier Institute of the Family found that journalists, especiallythose who worked for newspapers, tended to disapprove of young mothers working outsidethe home and of sex outside of marriage. See Hilda Kearns, “Media survey takesconservative stand on family life,” The Montreal Star, February 19, 1971, p. 19.81. (No byline), “Girls protest that sex is used to sell everything,” Toronto Telegram, June 7,1968, and (no byline), “Young socialists use royal commission to promote ideology ofsocialist state,” London Free Press, June 5, 1968, p. 32.82. Dennis Braithwaite, “Subsidy to women who stay at home,” Toronto Telegram, Sept. 6,1968.83. Yvonne Crittenden, “One report Ottawa can’t ignore,” Toronto Telegram, October 1, 1968,pp. 1, 3, 9, and via the newspaper’s own news service, as “Status of Women — one reportOttawa cannot ignore,” Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, October 7, 1968, p. 7. This article wonCrittenden the annual award for the best news story from the national Canadian Women’sPress Club. CP (no byline), “Telegram’s Yvonne Crittenden wins news award,” unmarkedclipping in NAC RCSW Vol. 43, Binder 8.84. Brownmiller, pp. 235-237.29


Jane ArscottTwenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterthe Royal Commission on the Status of Women *AbstractIn the twenty-five years since the Royal Commission on the Status of Women(RCSW) reported to Parliament, very little has been told about how theCommission did its work. The RCSW marks a watershed in the development ofpublic policy on women. For better and for worse, this blueprint continues tobe influential. The personal papers of one of the Commissioners, ElsieGregory MacGill, contain most of the minutes and supporting documents usedin the creation of the report. These sources indicate how the Commissionersunderstood their roles, sexual equality, rights and important aspects of theresearch conducted by the RCSW. How its Report came to take the form that itdid, especially the way in which the Commission came to see its tasks, offersimportant insight into the relation of feminism to public policy in Canada.RésuméIl y a près de vingt-cinq ans, la Commission royale d’enquête sur le statut de lafemme (CRESF) présentait son rapport. À ce jour, il existe peu d’informationsur le fonctionnement de cette commission, qui s’est avérée pourtant un grandtournant dans le domaine du développement de la politique gouvernementalesur la question des femmes. Cette esquisse continue, pour le meilleur et pour lepire, à avoir une grande influence. Les chroniques personnelles d’une descommissionnaires, Elsie Gregory MacGill, mettent en lumière les procèsverbauxet autres documents pertinents qui ont servi à l’élaboration durapport. Ces sources indiquent la façon dont les commissionnaires voyaientleurs rôles, l’égalité sexuelle, les droits et les aspects importants de larecherche effectuée par la CRESF. La forme qu’a prise le rapport et plusprécisément la façon dont la Commission percevait sa tâche nous offrent unaperçu important de la relation entre le féminisme et la politiquegouvernementale au Canada.A commission is chiefly remembered for its final report.The untold story, normally, is how the commissionproduced the thing for which it is remembered. (Cameron1993, 333)Twenty-five years after the creation of the Royal Commission on the Status ofWomen (RCSW) it is now possible to show how particular decisions andrecommendations were made, and what range of options were considered 1This fuller account is possible due to the “turning up” of an almost complete setof minutes of its sixty-five meetings. Although, the Commissioners hadInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCdecided to have all copies of the minutes destroyed, one copy of them, alongwith many supporting documents, survives at the National Archives in thepersonal papers of Elsie Gregory MacGill. This article is only the first stage ina larger project to provide a comprehensive, analytical and contextual accountof the RCSW, drawing on an analysis of the minutes and of some 500submissions and 1,000 letters of opinion received by the secretariat, and atextual analysis of the Report. For a growing number of the Report’s potentialreaders who, like me, had no knowledge of the event at the time, importantchoices relating to family, career and personal autonomy have beensignificantly shaped by this major development in the federal government’spolitical agenda for public policy. Revisiting the RCSW with a view toexplaining its significance to the generation born after its completion providesvaluable new information along with a different perspective on its activitiesand its meaning for feminism — past, present and future — in Canada.The RCSW’s “Culture” in the Absence of Written RecordsBefore becoming Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Status of Womenin 1967, Florence Bird worked as a freelance journalist and broadcaster whotravelled internationally making documentaries. In her biography submitted tothe Commission at the time of her appointment, she describes herself as having“always been interested in welfare and the problems of women. 2 Within a yearof taking up the appointment, she suggested to her fellow Commissioners thatthey entitle the first chapter of their report, “Canadian Society on Trial.”Everyone involved had already learned a great deal about the subject beingstudied, the Commission’s mandate in studying it, and the members’ functionas Commissioners. But to judge the RCSW only by its final product, theReport, is to miss much of what the social production of knowledge actuallyinvolved.The minutes reveal the Commissioners’ initial uncertainty about what theyconsidered to be the strong language of international rights. Such languagemight be perceived by the government, the public or both to “antagonize manyof the men responsible for implementing the report.” 3 In a discussion on theprospective content of the first chapter of the report, Chairman Bird urged thatit first focus public attention on society and the changes that had occurred sinceWorld War II. (14th meeting, Oct. 30-31, 1968) She proposed to call thischapter, “Society on Trial” because the briefs had already convinced her thatthere was “something wrong” with Canadian society. “We need only read thenewspapers to realize that people are questioning the values of our society.”She wished to send a clear signal to the Canadian public that Commissionmembers were concerned about the problem of poverty and “discriminationagainst minority groups, such as Indians, etc.” She maintained that anhistorical approach would capture the public’s attention and, therefore, wingovernment acceptance more readily.The importance of the document’s acceptance by men, specifically a majorityof the 263 MPs and 1 woman MP who sat in the House of Commons, weighedheavily on the Commissioners. Rosemary Speirs, the journalist most familiarwith the RCSW after travelling extensively with the Commission during most34


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterof its public hearings, reminded readers of Chatelaine in advance of theReport’s tabling how easily the government could cast aside theCommission’s work in favour of the portion of women who were content tosettle for unequal status. The Commission’s Report would have to be “anexceptionally persuasive and impressive document” if it was to overcome“prejudice and apathy.” (Speirs 1969, 52)In the ensuing discussion of the suggested title, several unnamedCommissioners opined that “Society on Trial” placed excessive stress oncomplaints by women. Briefs and submissions were welcome; letters ofopinion and complaints were perceived as special pleading. Rather than makewomen appear unhappy with their lot by casting their condition in terms ofrights, their situation could be presented in an “interesting and lively” way.John Humphrey’s acknowledged expertise in the area of international humanrights gave added weight to his opinion that “human rights were uppermost” inthe mind’s of people “the world over,” which made it essential to clearlypresent this position at the outset. At this point, Bird restated her position butacknowledged that other Commissioners clearly wanted the criteria (thatultimately put rights in the foreground of the Report) to take priority.Bird’s argument for the “On Trial” chapter title expressed her sense thatCanadian womanhood had been mistreated, and that the Commission’s taskwas to assess the damage. Accounts of the Commission’s activities exist inFlorence Bird’s autobiography and can be gleaned from Judy LaMarsh’smemoirs, and from press coverage. 4 The several specialized studies on theCommission tend to focus on its creation, immediate responses to itsrecommendations or its merits as a document that reflects the ideology ofliberal feminism. (Morris 1982; 1980, Cumming 1991) Unlike theBilingualism & Bicultural Commission (B & B), the Macdonald Commissionand the Pépin-Robarts Task Force, next to nothing has been published aboutthe RCSW’s program of research or it group dynamics. It is precisely the selfdefinitionof their subject and the research program that Frank Milligan, whohad worked for the Glassco Commission, emphasized to the Commissionerswhen he spoke to them about the newly created Commission on 10 April1967. 5 He strongly recommended a team approach whereby Commissionerswould never be deployed as individuals but always as members of the group.This collective identity provided their self-definition. “Insider’s” accountsabout the RCSW by Monique Bégin, the executive secretary who has sincebecome a Member of Parliament, a Cabinet Minister and a respectedacademic, and by Florence Bird, are more guarded and less analytical thanthose provided by Richard Simeon and David R. Cameron about theMacdonald Commission and the Pépin-Robarts Task Force on CanadianUnity, respectively.Amid the substantial literature on Royal Commissions and the public utility,the RCSW has yet to receive the scholarly attention that it deserves as perhapsthe most efficient and inexpensive inquiry on a vast subject. Cognizance of theRCSW in the literature on royal commissions amounts to little more than theinference that can be drawn from the affirmation that “temporary, projectdrivenorganizations” are well-suited to non-recurring issues. (Cameron 1993,35


IJCS / RIÉC336, Cairns 1990, 91-93) The RCSW inquired on an ad hoc basis into a general“socio-cultural” issue. (Doern 1967, 431) Inquiries of this sort can assist thegovernment, not the least of all by sounding out public opinion before thelaunch of a new initiative. (Hodgetts 1964, 488) The Commission had copiesof the articles by Doern and Hodgetts. 6 Hodgetts’ personal account of theadvantages and disadvantages of royal commissions was recommended to theCommissioners by the Privy Council Office (PCO) as an appropriate mannerof expressing their individual beliefs after the report had been presented to thePrime Minister. The PCO advised the RCSW to excise John Humphrey’s finalcomment in his minority report in which he addresses readers as a “citizen andtaxpayer” rather than as a Commissioner concerning the need for a permanentstaff within the public service to be responsible for all Royal Commissions.Milligan’s advice was clearly not followed here. In the exchange that followedbetween Humphrey and the Commission, he raised the question of possiblecensorship of his views. In the end, the passage appeared in the report. (Canada1970: 450-1)For interested observers to trace what Jane Jenson has described as a publicinquiry’s “learning curve” some written records in addition to thereminiscences of the main participants would be helpful in understanding theproduct of the RCSW’s labours. (Jenson 1994, 54) But establishing the“culture” at work in a particular Commission can be next to impossible for anoutsider who was not there to see how things were done. In recent times,Commissions have not left a paper trail of their decision-making processes. Inthe case of the RCSW, the documents deposited by the Commission in theNational Archives are of very limited use. No record documented theCommission’s day-to-day decision-making processes, that is, until thepersonal papers of Elsie Gregory MacGill were donated to the NationalArchives by her estate in 1983. The “find” is remarkable, especially onlearning that the Commissioners were initially uncertain about whatinformation they would be obliged by law and by past practice to make public,and what they might destroy in all good conscience as a public body providinga well-defined service to Parliament.An initial discussion of the Commission’s obligations to retain some of itswork for the public record occurred early in May 1968. Bégin provided awritten report stating that the Privy Council Office had informed her that theCommission was entitled to select whichever documents it saw fit to bedeposited in the National Archives upon completion of its work. Depositingthe Minutes of the Commission’s meetings was not regarded as “compulsory,”but the tapes of the public hearings were to be included in lieu of transcripts. 7Bégin told RCSW members that other Royal Commissions did not generallydeposit their Minutes. The secretariat usually destroyed its copies andCommissioners kept their personal copies confidential. Commissions usuallyretained some but not all of the information generated by the Commissionersand their staff. Moreover, access could be restricted to some material for alimited period of time. She recommended that the minutes be destroyed.At the last minute, on December 1, 1970, at the sixty-fifth meeting of theCommission, Elsie Gregory MacGill submitted a motion to have all of the36


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterofficial minutes of the commissioners’ meetings, their inter-office memorandaand all drafts of the chapters destroyed. 8 (65th meeting Dec 1, 1970) Themotion passed unanimously. Why MacGill did not surrender her papersfollowing that decision no one knows. Whatever her reasons — administrativeoversight, rush, or perhaps unwillingness to part with the fruits of her labour soquickly — MacGill kept her copy of the minutes.This material reappeared on the desk of Judith Cumming at the NationalLibrary in 1989. 9 She happened to notice the instruction to have the minutesdestroyed. (Cumming 1991, 15 and n.) Cumming’s training as a librarianmotivated her to inquire of Bégin (with whom she was studying at the time)why she had agreed to their destruction when their preservation might assistfuture generations to comprehend the Commission’s acitivities. Theprofessor’s response? “You can’t possibly know that.” 10 But know it, she did,as will any other member of the public who wishes to consult them. On thatoccasion, Bégin recalled that later in the life of the RCSW Florence Bird hadstrongly suggested that the Commission not give any hostages to fortune thatmight possibly damage the Report’s success in relation to the Canadianestablishment over the long term. (Cumming 1991, 15) The report was to bethe official, definitive word on the subject. This message had been stressed tothe members of the Commission from their first meeting. All of theCommissioners had taken an oath of office in which they promised “not todisclose or make known, without due authority...any matter that comes to myknowledge, by reason of my holding that office.” (Guidebook) Self-censorshipwas practised by the RCSW to avoid breaching the government’s trust.Commissioners were careful not to give anything away, especially to themedia, that might prejudice the reception of its report.The papers sometimes paraphrase what individual Commissioners said, whichmakes it possible to see the influence that each of them and members of thestaff had. (Cumming 1991, 16) MacGill’s own series of memoranda on allmanner of subjects — Indian women, unjust laws and possible personal biasesthat might affect the content of the report — provides strong evidence of hercommitment toward women’s advancement and to the Commission’s functionin devising a blueprint for social change.The significance of the Minutes — their existence and content — exceeds theirpotential for challenging the oral history about the Commission on the basis ofdocumentary evidence. For the first time, they allow authors who arepersonally unacquainted with the politics and personalities of the day to write amore comprehensive account of how, why and in what manner theCommission set about its task. Interest in the women’s movement in recentyears has shifted away from a univocal approach to social change towardidentity politics and the politics of representation. Such concerns are foreign tomuch of the work of the RCSW. The Commission’s collectiveconceptualization of the subject to be studied, and the principles to be used instudying it, can all be discerned from the Minutes. Its interpretation of itsmandate, its choice of language for expressing its views, its style of argumentand the tone of its recommendations can now be understood more fully. No oneperson’s individual memory can possibly recall in full detail the reasons for37


IJCS / RIÉCparticular decisions. The brief overview that follows summarizes the way inwhich the RCSW came to understand its task.Representational Politics in the RCSWJudy LaMarsh’s continuing efforts to have such a commission created datefrom at least 1964. She repeatedly endeavoured to influence the PrimeMinister on the subject of women and their place in Canada. Her efforts equalthe groundswell of support from the established women’s movement,nominally headed by Laura Sabia. (Cumming 1991, 4-5) Without the crosspressurefrom inside Cabinet and from a vocal segment of the public, theRCSW would not have been appointed when it was. 11 (Findlay forthcoming,13n) Of the seven members appointed to the Commission, only DonaldGordon, Junior, and Jeanne Lapointe had any previous experience working forgovernment. All of the married women were appointed under their husband’snames. Despite this initially mixed message about the primacy of thesewomen’s marital status as opposed to their professional identities, the womenCommissioners were highly self-conscious of their symbolic public functionas examples of the competence of Canada’s women. 12 The Commissionerswere Mrs. John Bird of Ottawa, Miss Elsie Gregory MacGill of Toronto, Mr.Jacques Henripin of Montreal, Mrs. Ottomar Lange of Claresholm, Alberta,Mrs. Robert Ogilvie of Frederiction, and Mr. Donald Gordon, Junior, ofWaterloo. Gordon was later replaced by Mr. John Humphrey. 13In the final report, all of the women used their own names without titles. Theemergence of the women’s own identities occurred in an early discussion heldin the spring of 1967 at which each of the Commissioners commented on her orhis understanding of the Commission’s terms of reference. (3rd meeting, A-3)MacGill wanted the individual Commissioners to use their professionalnames. “Judge Ogilvie,” “Professor Henripin,” and “Anne Francis” conveyedthe respected status and work experience that each of them brought to theirnew jobs. The group decided that rather than impose a rule on anyone,everyone would be addressed by the title and name she or he preferred.References to the men remained unchanged, but the women immediatelyswitched to using their own first names but without any professionaldesignation.When the Commissioners were appointed, Canadian Labour, a national organfor unionized labour, complained that there were “no direct representatives ofwomen wage and salary earners among its members.” (Canadian Labour,1967, 26) A similar complaint came in regard to the women of BritishColumbia. 14 (3rd meeting May 24-26, 1967) But just as for Aboriginalwomen, and visible minority women, the appointment of Commissioners tothe RCSW fitted into an already established pattern. Interests and identitiesthat were not formally represented in the corporate body of the Commissionwere expected to be included in the proceedings as writers of briefs and aswitnesses at public hearings. Britain continued the practice of appointingmembers to Commissions of “all affected interests,” whereas smaller bodiesthat provided for the representation of interests and identities, as the wellknownpolitical scientist J. E. Hodgetts expressed it — “in the witness box38


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterrather than on the commission itself” — was the norm followed in the case ofthe RCSW. (Hodgetts 1951, 477; Doern 1967, 423) Once the Commissionersbecame aware of the blatantly discriminatory attitude of the law towardAboriginal women, they worked to obtain additional information about andsubmissions from aboriginal women. 15In the absence of multi-variable breakdowns of the census data, theCommissioners’ initial sense of which cleavages in the population meritedstudy appears to have been strongly influenced by a one-page set of tablesentitled “An Objective Criteria for the Establishment of Priorities” that gavethe “Number of Women by Sub-Groups.” 16 The sub-groups included thenumber of women by province, ethnic origin, religious denomination,percentage of the total labour force, age and marital status, marital status ofwomen in the labour force and the numbers of women in select occupations.The disproportionate attention to age, marital status and employment indicatesthat marital status in relation to labour force participation was a primary andeasily understandable concern from the outset of the Commission’s work.Because 90 percent of women married and remained so for an average 40years, the Commission’s emphasis on the phases in the life cycle of mostwomen made considerable sense based on the assumption that the marital statewas the defining characteristic of their lives. (Canada 1970: 10) But the Reportalso stressed that the life cycle of women had changed from a two phase cycleexperienced by previous generations to a three phase cyle which gave women a“second life” following their child-bearing years. (Canada 1970: 5) Moreover,trends in employment indicated that almost all women worked prior tomarriage, and most of them continued working until their first pregnancy. Anincreasing proportion re-entered the labour market after their children hadgrown up, some beginning as soon as their youngest child started school. (40thmeeting, Jan. 28-30, 1970: item 24) MacGill notes in the margin, “Some don’tstop working.”What women were to do in the new third phase, between the ages of 35 — theRCSW assumed that assuming childbearing ended at 30 — and 76, posed acrucial question in the judgement of the Commission. Work of some kindseemed to interest many women. But whether this work was to be paid or not,full-time or part-time, had yet to be determined. Regardless of the individualsolution chosen by women, the Commission strongly affirmed women’scapacity even their right to make their own choices. From this perspective,feminism and women’s liberation centred on choice and women’s right to haveand exercise choice. 17 Without adopting the label of either of thesemovements, the RCSW agreed with their basic assumption but stopped shortof making a structural analysis of production, reproduction, sex and thesocialization of children of the sort associated with Juliet Mitchell’s Marxism.(1966: 29) Not only did the RCSW give a wide birth to Marxist class analysis,it viewed divisions within Canadian society from a relatively traditionalperspective.Other differences recorded in the analysis by sub-groups included region,ethnicity, religion or language. But these divisions were of much lessimportance to the Commission than their relation to the economy. Among39


IJCS / RIÉCthese categorizations, the most controversial criticism of the work of theRCSW in recent years has been its apparent blindness to matters of race.In the case of visible minority women, the Commission’s workingassumptions were that the vast majority of immigrants sought to beacculturated to one of the two main language groups, and that visibleminorities did not compose a significant portion of the immigrant group. Inadopting these attitudes, their views were consistent with those of Canada’sfirst woman Cabinet minister, Ellen Fairclough:We must explain to these new arrivals that they are welcome to ourmidst and that our grandmothers and great grand-mothers were invery much the same position a century or more ago. We are of variedracial backgrounds and relations and we are anxious to see our newfriends become Canadians in feeling as we are, without destroyingthe memories of their homelands. (Canada 1959: 12)Her suggestion that new immigrants be invited into people’s home for coffeeand acculturation in the ways of Canadian living expresses the same sense ofconfidence in the unity of the Canadian identity and of Canadian womanhoodreflected little more than a decade later in the RCSW report.Preliminary fact-finding completed 3 November 1967 indicated thatimmigrant populations remained primarily European and American.According to immigration statistics used by the RCSW in setting its researchpriorities, less than 2 percent of Canada’s female population were visibleminority women at the time, most of them aboriginal women (1.5) and the rest(.5) of Chinese or Japanese descent. 18 Two years and four months later, theDepartment of Manpower and Immigration supplied information thatindicated significant immigration by visible minorities, and not only from thePacific Rim. 19 In 1969, 2 percent of new immigrants came from Africa, 3.3percent from India, 3.5 percent from Trinidad and Tobago, and 5.1 percentfrom China. Visible minorities made up 13.9 percent of immigrants. Many ofthese more recent, visible minority immigrants could not readily claim Englishor French ancestry as the RCSW had conceived only two years before! Thedisjunction between their initial assumption and the information they obtainedmuch later is striking. I conclude that their inattention to visible minorities isunderstandable. This said, the possible error, oversight, indifference orracially motivated wilful disregard for the category of race deserves closescrutiny.For its time, the RCSW figured among royal commissions as the mostprogressive, relatively successful example of incorporation of diversity. TheRCSW was the first royal commission headed by a woman and comprising amajority of women (including its staff). Most of the regions and the country’stwo main language groups, varied marital status, professional and laypersons,urban and rural, older and not so old Commissioners provided the RCSW witha wealth of inexhaustive yet bold range of interests and identities.Given the times, it would be inappropriate for anyone to assume that theCommission and its senior staff were uniformly heterosexual. In the late1960s, sexual orientation was not a common form of public self-identification40


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterin the way that it has become somewhat more readily accepted today. Aparallel argument applies to the representation of persons with disabilities. Forexample, had Elsie Gregory MacGill been appointed to a Royal Commissionnow, rather than in 1967, some reference to her “disability” would certainly bemade. As the result of myelitis contracted when she was a graduate student,MacGill’s mobility was permanently affected. 20 She would now be seen atleast for some limited purposes to represent women with disabilities. Beforeshe died in 1980, she had accepted an appointment to the Canadian OrganizingCommittee for the International Year of the Disabled to be held the next year.Earlier, in her appointment to the RCSW, the emphasis fell exclusively on hercompetence as a professional woman. She was the first woman to graduate inelectrical engineering from the University of Toronto and the first to earn amaster’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan.All of the Commissioners repeatedly demonstrated deep concern for somecategories of women not strongly represented on the Commission.Accordingly, the Commission developed a concern for Aboriginal women.MacGill in particular sought to have Aboriginal women speak for themselvesrather than have their views interpreted by a third party. Lange’s concern forwomen who were isolated from social networks for whatever reason,Lapointe’s interest in women’s associations, Ogilvie’s concern formarginalized women (prostitutes and incarcerated women), Henripin’sconcern for mothers who stayed at home to raise children, and Gordon’sconcern to professionalize the function of housewives, readily suggest theircollective understanding and empathy for the different social identities andcircumstances of women across the country. Poverty, care for the elderly, andimmigrant women all receive some attention in the minutes. No one can claimthat the Commission wilfully overlooked the full range of women’s interestsand identities. The RCSW merits high praise as a forum for the politics ofrepresentation on three counts. First, its composition was innovative comparedto recent past practice. Secondly, its mandate covered a broad but open-endedrange of topics. Thirdly, the Commissioners’ response to their mandateinvolved a large measure of innovation.It was only the second Commission to hold meetings in cities across thecountry scheduled at times when its subjects — women — would most likelybe able to attend. 21 Members of the Commission were sent to the Yukon toseek additional input from Northerners. Segments of the public hearings weretelevised. Most importantly, the Commission scrutinized its own performanceon this score. Lists were made of the various ways in which different categoriesof women had been approached to make their views known to the public.The RCSW has certainly received a good deal of criticism for inadequaterepresentation in its makeup or in the range of opinions solicited. But some ofits members were acutely aware of these shortcomings — both perceived andreal — and did everything in their power to conduct their inquiry in a mannerthat we would now call inclusive. For example, Donald J. Gordon’sinterpretation of the Commission’s mandate stressed the need to be forwardlookingand to take into account the present and future function of “minoritygroups such as Ukrainians, Italians and Jews as well as Indians and Eskimos.”41


IJCS / RIÉC(3rd meeting, p. 8) Following theB&BCommission, ethnicity was a variablealmost routinely included in the list of parameters. In response to persistentrequests from Lola Lange for more extensive efforts to elicit the views ofwomen’s voluntary organizations, and to reach out to what she referred to asthe “unorganized individual” whose interests and identities might give her novoice whatsoever in any association, club, union, church group or professionalorganization, the executive secretary drafted a list of all of the ways in whichthe secretariat had tried to contact different categories of women by region,ethnic origin, religion, marital status, socio-economic status andprofessions. 22 (8th meeting, March 12, 1968, Appendix J) In addition to lettersof opinion from old women, poor women and female heads of households,many of which gave personal accounts of alleged discrimination, more formalbriefs and submissions came from individuals — “teachers, students, lawyers,doctors, [and] nurses” — and from groups, including but not limited to “laborunions, national women’s associations, governments, universities andpolitical associations.” (Bird 1977, 170)The Commission was given some credit even at the time for its efforts to “cometo terms with the special problems faced by women living in rural areas, byIndian and Eskimo women, by immigrant women, and by those in low incomegroups.” (Bird, 1974, 27) Feminist women, especially women involved inorganizations associated with the women’s movement — branches of theVoice of Women, Women’s Institutes and daycare committees — presentedsubmissions that provided the Commission with competing approaches andanalysis of the origins of women’s condition in Canada. Foremost among thesewas that of Bonnie Kreps of the New Feminists, a Toronto-basedconsciousness-raising group that had its own premises and activities inToronto. The Vancouver Caucus of the Women’s Liberation Movementprovided the RCSW with a background paper on its activities. 23 (37thmeeting, Jan. 7-9, 1970: item 36) A member of the local women’s liberationgroup, Dr. Margaret Mahood, presented a very powerfully argued position on“The Availability of Medically-Safe Abortions” at the public hearings held 3May 1968. 24 She presented this view on behalf of the Saskatchewan Voice ofWomen to the public hearings held in Saskatoon. Lapointe asked her to sendthe text to the Commission. It appears among the letters of opinion rather thanthe briefs. 25 The views of overtly feminist groups had relatively little impacton the Commission because of the members’ inability to understand theirdemands in terms of the Commission’s existing framework. (Bégin 1992, 28)However, they did have some influence, especially in broadening the range ofanalysis available to the Commission, and in challenging the Commissioners’frame of reference by demanding that they incorporate more differences thanperhaps the Commission would otherwise have been prepared to consider.MacGill offered the opinion that “groups like the New Feminists” weremultiplying and that their presence might permanently alter the existing arrayof women’s voluntary associations. (62nd meeting July 15-17, 1970:EGM/R262) This was possible because many of the members of the feministgroups “come from or associate with disadvantaged groups.” They expressed afundamental dissatisfaction with what had formerly been regarded as the“proper channels of political communication.” Feminist groups positioned42


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterthemselves “— by choice — outside the [political] party structure whichtoday is intrinsic to political power.”On the whole, established women’s groups spoke most volubly for white,urban, middle-class apparently able-bodied and heterosexual women whoviewed lobbying as a legitimate form of political participation. But the samewas not true for the feminist groups associated with the women’s movement,according to MacGill. This said, it was the established women’s groups — theBusiness and Professional Women’s clubs, church women’s groups,homemakers’ associations, and the occupational associations of nurses,teachers and social workers — that provided the voices around which theCommission constructed its conception of Canadian Women. (Findlay 1995,21, 25) Slightly more than half the submissions received by the Secretariatcame from groups, many of them Ontario-based national organizations. 26 Atthe same time, the Commission attempted to incorporate other viewpoints,most notably that of Indian women and poor women, with mixed success.The Commission’s final report certainly adopts the rhetoric of equality assameness in its effort to give Parliament a strongly drawn, coherent account ofwomanhood in Canada. This rhetorical strategy used and reproduced anessentialized category of woman that significantly flattens the real differencesbetween women into euphemistic and highly sanitized descriptions ofrelatively less well off women and relatively better educated women. It doesnot call poverty, marginalization, exploitation and violence by the names thatwe more recently use to identify the multiple forms of gender oppression.Despite the calculatedly dispassionate tone of the Report, the Commissionersdiscussed what we now refer to as the politics of representation and identitypolitics. Elsie Gregory MacGill asked her fellow Commissioners to considerany personal commitments that might limit their collective capacity toconsider such topics as “free love” and lesbianism.Early in the life of the RCSW, the Commissioners made a conscious choice tohave their text address every woman in Canada in her capacity as a citizen ofthe nation. Like the parallel Commission in the United States — thePresident’s Commission on the Status of Women entitled American Women(1963) — the text of Canadian document emphasized the inclusiveness anduniversality of the “Canadian women” category. The Commissioners decidedto adopt this linguistic strategy to avoid any misinterpretation of theirrecommendations that might instead be used to suggest that women’scitizenship, their relation to the family, public affairs and employment dividedcategories of women against each other. They decided to forestall thegovernment, detractors of the Report or anyone else from continuing to justifydifferent entitlements to different categories of women. They did not wish toperpetuate already existing inequalities or to generate new ones. They thoughtthat new immigrants or Aboriginal women might be singled out as differentfrom other Canadian women. The prospect of perpetuating inequality anddiscrimination was utterly abhorent to the majority of the Commissioners. 27They were prepared to take their official stand on principle, and the inherentlogic behind the principle then had to be worked through in every aspect ofCanadian society.43


IJCS / RIÉCSo strongly did they come to believe in this principle that, late in the life of theCommission during a discussion of a subsection of a draft of Chapter One thatreferred to women as a “psychological minority,” Humphrey made a motion“That nowhere in the Report should the specific name of any (especially racialor ethnic) minority be used as a point of comparison with women.” (53rdmeeting, April 22-24, 1970: item 22) The motion carried by a vote of four totwo with Lange and Lapointe opposed, and MacGill abstaining. If womenwere not a minority, how were they to be discussed? Ready to hand was thelanguage of individual rights.The RCSW Grasps the Nettle of Rights TalkMore than any other document sponsored by the international community, theunanimous adoption of the United Nation’s General Assembly resolution ofDecember 10, 1948 “clarified” the issue of women’s rights for the RCSW:“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” (RCSW1970, xi) This statement is the first idea expressed in the Report in the initialsection on “Criteria and Principles.” The principle expresses a philosophiccommitment to sameness involving freedom and equality in dignity and rightsamong people regardless of differences in their identitites and interests. Thereis to be “no distinction in rights and freedoms between women and men,” aposition which takes as its ideal a common status for women and men ratherthan a separate status for each gender or, presumably, a ranking within eachgender. This commitment to sameness sets the stage for a “new society” to be“equally enjoyed and maintained by both sexes” and informs the documentfrom beginning to end.The RCSW was to “inquire into and report upon the status of women inCanada, and to recommend what steps might be taken by the FederalGovernment to ensure for women equal opportunities with men in allaspects of Canadian society.” [emphasis added] (Canada 1970, vii) Inaddition to the general distribution of legislative powers under theConstitution, Parliament directed the RCSW to give particular attention tomatters falling under federal jurisdiction. Thereafter followed a list of nineitems of particular interest including laws and practices related to politicalrights for women, their participation in the labour force; their training andeducation, federal Labour laws; their employment by the federal government;taxation, marriage and divorce, the criminal law, immigration and citizenship,and any other matter relevant to the status of women in Canada.The view that the Commission was obliged to compare women to men, takingmen’s performance as the norm, arose in several different contexts. At severalof its earliest meetings, some of the discussion referred to “full equality forwomen” until Donald Gordon reminded the group that “equal opportunities”and not full equality for women was the actual language used in the terms ofreference. [emphasis added] Thereafter for the sake of consistency, “equalopportunities” is referred to in “all official statements.” (3rd meeting, May 24-26 1967,18) The idiom of full equality had been used by Bird-cum-Francis inher pamphlet on women’s rights published in 1950. (Bird 1974, 210) In it, shehad outlined the numerous limitations that prevented the realization of this44


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterideal. In reviewing Catherine Cleverdon’s historical account The WomanSuffrage Movement in Canada, reviewer Frank Underhill had noted in 1950 inthe Canadian Historical Review that Francis’s pamphlet provided “anenlightening supplement” to Cleverdon’s historical overview preciselybecause the pamphlet tackled the disjunction between formal politicalequality and the capacity to effectively make use of the entitlements womenhad won for themselves. [emphasis added] (Underhill 1950, 423) Thesophisticated account of slippage between formal rights and the capacity toexercise them alluded to by Underhill did not become a conscious conceptualdivision for the RCSW.The government’s official commitment to the realization of every Canadian’sentitlement to the rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declarationof Human Rights is used in the Report as the standard for assessing whether ornot women possessed the associated entitlements in theory and were capableof exercising them in practice. Foreshadowing the Report’s findings, and itsrecommendations, a measure of equality is said to have been “lacking” at thetime “for men as well as for women.”Women are to be discussed consistently in terms of their relation to men, astandard of comparison used consistently throughout the report. Thejustification for reform is grounded in the commitment to realize the perceivedinternal logic of equality that requires both men and women in their capacity ashuman beings to receive the same treatment in respect to their rights, freedomsand dignity. This said, the norm of behaviour and aspirations for all humanbeings is generalized from the experience of men. Moreover, this norm isnever used to differentiate between men and their relative capacity to possessand enjoy the rights and privileges they were all presumed to have in virtue ofbeing male. What difference there might be, if any, between men and differentclasses of men or differently situated individual men does not enter into thedirective and principles at all. Differences between men, between men andwomen, and among women are less important than the broadest possiblegeneralizations about how women, in general, can become more like men, ingeneral, if they choose to enter male domains.The Commission did not have an explicit conceptual framework of ashared philosophy, other than its commitment to the “equal rights”approach, which co-existed with general notions of the value of aspecifically “female culture.” (Bégin 1992, 29)More than twenty years later, a person as closely associated with the Report asBégin appears not to take into account the philosophically inconsistentposition involved here.The sameness standard of treatment implicit in the internal logic of equal rightssits uncomfortably with the difference standard of treatment of the gendersimplicit in valuing the specificity of “female culture.” Cross-pressure thatresulted from these two fundamentally irreconcilable positions made it all theeasier for the Commission to be constrained by the advice of acknowledged“experts,” especially civil servants in the Privy Council Office and academicexperts. Conflicting opinions among the Commission’s members, particularlyin the form of male resistance and self-censorship, also reined in the45


IJCS / RIÉCCommission’s ambitions to make the world over. These constraints createdcontainment strategies that influenced almost every aspect of theCommission’s activities.Containment StrategiesInteractions with the Privy Council Office taught the Commissioners what wasrequired of a Royal Commission. Leo LaFrance, supervisor of RoyalCommissions in the PCO, appeared before the Commissioners at their secondmeeting to answer questions and offer advice on the development of theirwork. The research plan and how to finance it were the most important issuessince research would take up the lion’s share of the Commission’s expenses.The initial planning stage for the research program had to be scrutinized withgreat care to avoid duplicating research and ensure that the researchcommissioned was relevant to the Commission’s terms of reference. Theexperience of B&BCommission had showed the importance of takingadequate time and care in drafting the initial plan. TheB&BCommission, heimplied, had undertaken research and committed resources that would play nodirect part in its report. Such excess ought to be avoided. He offered to makehis experience in this and related matters available to the RCSW.Lafrance’s overview of the function of Royal Commissions described them asan “autonomous entity within the constitutional system” created by the federalexecutive under an order in council. At the same time, the Commission’soperations and reports were completely its own. He provided a two-waychannel of communication between the PCO and the Commission. The PCOcould give “advice and assistance based on its experience of otherCommissions,” and thereby possibly forestall any difficulties the Commissionmight encounter in conducting its work. No minister of the Crown would beneeded to facilitate effective communication of this kind. He further explainedthat a Royal Commission was treated in the manner of a government’sdepartment for budgetary reasons. Finally, LaFrance encouraged theCommissioners to take a special interest in research subjects that interestedthem as individuals in virtue of their education and experience. TheCommissioners agreed that some degree of specialization might prove useful,but they did not wish to work in isolation from each other. What theCommission now needed above all else was a viable program of research.Research Design: Three ConstraintsPersonnel changes, budgets and time constraints all influenced the researchdesign adopted by the RCSW. The hiring of a Research Director had initiallybeen left to a sub-committee made up of Mrs. Bird and the male professors.They selected, H. David Kirk, a sociologist and former colleague of Gordon’sat the University of Waterloo. The main research instrument proposed by Kirkinvolved a Central Survey of 1,200 women and 600 men in each of four regions— the West, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes — for a total of 7,600respondents. The questionnaire would have asked about women’ssocialization, their aspirations and their coping mechanisms for dealing withthe personal consequences to their health, psychological well-being andinterpersonal relations that resulted from their status. The respondents were to46


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterbe classified primarily according to their “age” as determined by their maritalstatus. From the earliest meetings of the Commission, a crucial operatingassumption was that a woman’s marital status more or less determined herparticipation in the labour force. As the tables on women’s sub-groupsindicated, married women were much less likely to work outside the home forpay than were single women. More than any other correlation, that betweenmarital status and paid employment informs every other aspect of the analysis.The Central Survey was Kirk’s brainchild.Kirk’s absence from his new job during the summer of 1967 (between May 29and September 5) left much of the initial planning to the Assistant Director,Mark McClung, who had been seconded from the Department of the Secretaryof State. McClung, the son of newspaperwoman and feminist Nellie McClung,was hired as Assistant Director of Research. His job was to act as executiveassistant to Kirk, the Director, and to help coordinate all of the Commission’sresearch. He was to be responsible especially “for liaison between researchstaff and consultants with the federal government departments and agencies.”This job description explains why a person who was already knowledgeableand familiar with the workings of the public service would have beenconsidered ideal for the job. 28 McClung knew much about the idea of relativedeprivation, a precursor of modern theories of oppression. His efforts,however, concentrated almost entirely on writing an analytical essay ondiscrimination that the Commissioners did not find useful, with the result thatit was not used, and McClung contributed to the RCSW only in the earliestplanning phase. 29The cost of administering the survey was estimated at $450,000, combinedwith other studies, the total cost of the general research budget climbedsomewhere between 1 to 1.5 million dollars, leaving 400,000 to 900,000dollars to run all of the Commission’s other operations. This ambitious,research-oriented agenda was gradually pared down and then abandonedentirely. By mid-October, McClung returned to the Department of theSecretary of State.Personality conflicts and financial pressures had put the Central Survey injeopardy. The two key research posts, that of Research Director and AssistantResearch Director, were vacant by the end of the autumn, leaving what at firstglance appears to have been a huge hole in the coordination of the researchprogram. Control over the Commission’s research slowly but surely eluded themen to whom it had been awarded by the hiring committee made up of Bird,Gordon and Henripin.Regardless of budgetary constraints, Kirk insisted that the Central Surveyproceed, even if only a scaled-down version could reasonably be completed.So strong was his resolve that he offered to resign as Research Director todevote his entire efforts to this one project. A messy business of trying tochange the terms of his employment in mid-stream followed. On the advice ofthe PCO, the Commission severed all ties with him at considerable financialcost. The Central Survey was a dead letter.47


IJCS / RIÉCAs for the other research projects, many were already committed. MoniqueBégin had earlier been put in charge of projects in economics, education,taxation and law. (3rd meeting May 24-26, 1967, p. 11) Kirk retained controlover projects involving sociology, anthropology and demography. Thedeparture of Kirk and McClung had little impact except to place the operationof the Commission’s research program almost entirely in the hands of womenunder the coordination of Dorothy Cadwell and Monique Coupal. Cadwell hadworked at Treasury Board prior to being brought in not as a direct replacementfor Kirk as Director of Research, but to fill the newly created post ofCoordinator of Research. (6th meeting Dec. 13-14, 1967) Monique Coupalhad initially been hired as the Assistant to the Executive Secretary of theCommission. But she became heavily involved in overseeing different aspectsof the research program. In the final report, she is described as a senioradministrative officer.The personnel difficulties with staff members Kirk and McClung, and theresignation of Commissioner Gordon effective 1 November 1967, appears tohave forced the remaining staff and Commissioners to rely on their ownresources, intensifying their commitment to fulfil the mandate assigned tothem, without anyone being able to cast aspersions on their work. Neitherdifficult time constraints nor tight budgets were going to stop the Commissionfrom completing its work!Following budget estimates tabled in the House of Commons, the RCSW’sbudget would apparently be subject to the two percent cut announced by thegovernment for all government departments. (8th meeting, March 1968)Within days, the Commission’s budget for the fiscal year April 1 to March 31,1969 was calculated at $600,000. For the rest of the Commission’s short life,its members made shrewd decisions in domestic science to ensure that thishousehold did not overspend its budget to avoid public criticism concerning itsability to hold to the terms of its appointment. When the subject of unpaidovertime on the part of Commissioners came up, rather than pay themselvessmaller honoraria, the Commissioners decided to keep track of their hours ofunpaid work. (18th meeting, March 19-20, 1969) It would have been unseemlyfor the Commission to ask for a larger budget or an extended length of time tocomplete its task. As it was, the final draft, editing and production took almosta half year longer than scheduled. This delay, and the additional expense ofmaintaining a skeleton staff, was a source of embarrassment to theCommission, especially considering its overall scrupulous compliance withthe wishes of the government as specified by the PCO. (51st meeting, April 15-17, 1970: item 5 and Appendix C, attachment) Printing costs droppedrepeatedly, along with the number of additional studies to be published. Onecost-saving measure that was soon reversed involved a plan to lay off thetranslation staff. Once the PCO became aware of the lengths to which theCommission was prepared to go to stay within its budget — letting staff go,minimizing its plan for publications and discussions of working for free —additional money for translation and publication was made available and thecompletion date extended.48


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes AfterEarlier, the budget crunch resulted in the Commission’s taking a morecircumspect attitude toward any additional research that involved spendingmoney. Instead, the body hunkered down to await the results of the researchcontracts already assigned, to fill perceived gaps in the research design and toorganize the material collected through briefs and interaction at publichearings. Deciding on the design of the report and the content of the chapterswas a collective effort by the Commissioners in the meetings that began withthe Fourth Meeting in May 1967 and ended more than two years later in thesummer of 1969.In the end, most of the research studies published by the RCSW were not of thecalibre performed by the B&BCommission. Of the thirty-four studiesprepared for the Commission, the Commissioners were satisfied with onlyabout half of the eleven that were published. Unlike theB&BCommission,that cost $9 million over slightly more than four years, the RCSW completedits equally wide-ranging mandate at a cost of just $1.9 million spent over twoand half years. (Jenson 1994, 60) The RCSW had neither the budget nor thetime to do as thorough a job, and yet the Commission grew up in the shadow ofits older sibling. As things turned out, the RCSW was appointed, produced itswork and tabled its report in Parliament while the B&BCommission wasextant. Lacking the long-term commitment from government and close ties tothe academic community that might have been able to produce originalresearch, the Commission’s research efforts were expended on the collectionand organization of basic information about the historical experience ofwomen, their legal status in various jurisdictions, their involvement in thelabour force and what would now be called their “gender socialization.” Theattention lavished by the press on theB&BCommission understandably madeit the most obvious comparison to the RCSW, at least in the eyes of theCommissioners. 30 The publicity already received by the B & B Commissionbenefited the RCSW insofar as it did a modest job of sensitizing theCommissioners and Commission staff about cleavages in the countryinvolving language and ethnicity.Sixty-Five Minutes and not a Moment to SpareFrom this overview of the Minutes of the RCSW, it becomes apparent that thedifficulties experienced in its interior dynamics were largely overcome by afear of failure and how such a failure would harm the cause of women’sadvancement. The Commissioners strongly believed that the Commission wasto amplify what was already apparent to them and to anyone else who cared tothink about what needed to be done. They felt a sense of obligation to thewomen who had submitted briefs and attended public hearings to do theirutmost to have the Report become a living document. In addition to the wishthat the report express the views of the active participants in its creation, mostof the Commissioners were highly aware that women in less advantagedcircumstances could also benefit from it, in spite of the fact that many if notmost of their number had been absent or even unaware of its proceedings. Inher autobiography, Florence Bird notes her hope that the women who hadcleaned her house and cared for members of her family would be able to lookforward to a better life as the result of the report. (Bird 1974, 4) Lola Lange’s49


IJCS / RIÉCcontinual concern for women who were isolated and not a part of women’straditional social organizations clearly indicates her concern for a broad rangeof women having different identities, interests and experiences, as did JacquesHenripin’s concern not to discount the value of the stay-at-home wife andmother. The Report’s plan of action identified three criteria for the success ofthe recommendations: implementation, enforcement and public education toraise public awareness of women’s rights. (Branching Out 1974, 26) In anassessment of the RCSW’s degree of success, published by the newly-createdNational Action Committee on the Status of Women founded in 1972 andentitled What’s Been Done, one finds that about one-third of the Commission’srecommendations affecting federal jurisdictions had already beenimplemented, a second third had been partially implemented, and the finalthird had not been realized at all.The main disjuncture between the minutes and the Report involves the way inwhich personal experiences were edited out of the drafts, and evidence that hadthe appearance of being objective, disinterested and scientific became theofficial voice of the Commission. Of the 469 briefs submitted to theCommission, fewer than 65 are referred to anywhere in the published volume.One-third are used to document women’s place in society, another third referto their position in the economy and the final third are sprinkled in the chaptersthat discuss education. The briefs are rarely quoted directly, as if theCommission is the better placed to express ideas about women than womenthemselves. Nothing of the content of the thousand letters of “opinion”received by the Secretariat is mentioned. As with the minutes in which theindividual voices and identities of Commissioners emerge, so the lack ofreference to the letters loses what might, in another place or time, haveprovided key evidence that past practices harm people and must bediscontinued through government intervention if necessary. 31Many people, including many of the members of NAC, consider anothergeneral inquiry into the status of women in Canada impossible. The issues ofrepresentation and identity politics which the RCSW dealt with in its own waynow virtually rule out such a large-scale report. The political will no longerexists to deal with issues involving gender equity, as the termination of theCanadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women indicates. Women nolonger speak the language of rights and universality as Bird and the rest of theCommission were prepared to do. Divisions among women have emergedsuch that the modern student of public policy might anticipate separateCommissions on the condition of aboriginal women, other visible minoritywomen, abused women, women and their reproduction, etc. This splinteringhas in fact taken place as shown by the Royal Commission on NewReproductive Technologies, the Task Force Panel on Violence and the RoyalCommission on Aboriginal Peoples. Today, it would not be Humphrey andHenripin who felt compelled to write minority reports but the latter-dayMacGill and Lange whose commitments to radical feminism and the women’smovement would have triggered their concern about the direction taken by theCommissioners in their collective capacity. But their sorts of concerns are notsolely creations of a later period in the development of the Canadian state andits public policy toward women. They existed already in the internal dynamics50


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes Afterof the RCSW. However, this subtext can now be clearly distinguished from thecontent of what has become the official version of women’s demands at thetime. By contrasting the two narratives, a more complex and richly- texturedanalysis emerges that can help feminists build links between the generationsand regain a continuity and solidarity with at least some aspects of ourcommon past.The historical record shows that much more was going on in the RCSW than acareful reading of its Report conveys. To an important degree, the RCSW didoperate as a “mechanism that contained the contradictions between demandsfor women’s equality and the interests of the groups that had historicallydominated the policy process in governments.” (Findlay 1995, 43) But a moreradical perspective also informed the Commission’s work. Its inflections weremuted but not entirely silenced. The larger context suggests that to discount itsfindings as the work of relatively privileged, white, middle-class womenassociated with the established women’s movement risks denying the very realsense in which the record also shows something else. The Commission itselfwas certainly a site of struggle over representation and women’s interests andidentities. Issues of representation and identity politics indeed informed itsfinal product minute by minute.Notes* Jill Vickers, the Halifax Women’s History Group (especially Frances Early), Sue Findlayand the anonymous reviewers at the Journal have helped me to produce a better account ofthe RCSW than I could have done without their highly valuable assistance. Judith Cumminggenerously provided me with a copy of her master’s thesis. Karyn Collins assisted me withbibliographical sources. Jack Crowley and Daniel Woolf provided helpful stylistic advice.1. Lester Pearson’s Liberal government created the Commission on the 3 February 1967 toinquire into the condition of women in Canada.2. MG31 K3 Vol 3, File 1 “Guidebook: Outlines for Organization of Commission, InternalAdministration and Research Program, sec I-8; hereafter cited as Guidebook.“Biographies.” Henceforth this manuscript group will be referred to as MG31 K7.3. MG31 K7 Vol. 3, File 3: Fifteenth Meeting of the Commissioners, December 4 and 5, 1968:Minutes of the Fourteenth Meeting, p. 13. Hereafter the minutes will be referred to by thenumber of the meeting and the date it was held.4. Barbara Freeman’s doctoral thesis being done for the Department of History at ConcordiaUniversity examines the interplay between the media and the RCSW, and will supply one ofthe missing pieces to this puzzle.5. National Archives, Royal Commission on the Status of Women, Record Group (hereafterRG) 33/89, vol. 24, file “Other Commissions.”6. RG 33/89 vol. 24, file “Other Commissions.”7. The RCSW was the first Commission to make a record of its proceedings in this way. I shareBarbara Freeman’s concern that the deteriorating quality of the physical material puts at riska very rich source of the oral tradition in women’s history in Canada for its expression ofwomen’s self-knowledge in their own voices. This source is likely to become of increasedinterest to historians over time. Action needs to be taken to ensure that the tapes arepreserved.8. MG31, K5, Vol. 5, File 24, Minutes of the 65th Meeting, 1 December 1970.9. The National Archives received MacGill’s personal papers in two batches, one in 1974 andthe rest from her estate in 1983.10. Telephone interview with Judith Cumming, October 17, 1994.51


IJCS / RIÉC11. Other nations including the United States, France, Norway, the United Kingdom andDenmark had already established national bodies to inquiry into the status of women. On theinternational scene the United Nations’ Declaration on the Elimination of Discriminationagainst Women provided further support for a timely show of good will.12. The importance of forms of address, especially in the work world, is discussed by BarbaraWootton in “Woman’s Place?” New Statesman (Dec. 24 1960, p. 997). A woman who signsher name “M. Smith” was said to be more likely to receive an interview than the candidatewho signed herself “Margaret Smith.”13. Brief biographical notes drawn from the biographies submitted to the Commission. Mentionis also made of members of the Secretariat mentioned here in the Appendix.14. Lola Lange took it as her special responsibility to see that the women of British Columbiahad their concerns brought to the Commission’s attention.15. Documenting this complicated claim would take me far beyond the limited scope of thispaper. It will be elaborated inCanadian Women” and “The Deliberate Choice of FalseUniversalism: Royal Commission on the Status of Women on Race and Ethnicity,” to bepresented at the Conference on Race, Gender and the Social Construction of Canadasponsored by the Center for Research in Women’s Studies and Gender Relations, Universityof British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., September 21-23, 1995.16. MG31 K7 Vol. 6, File 2. The page is dated in hand Nov. 3, 1967.17. For this attitude in the media see Isobel Lymbery, “The World of the New Feminists,”Homemaker’s (July/Ausgust 1970), 4-6, 11, 12, at 11; Doris Anderson, “Women: A Chancefor a Choice?” Chatelaine (Oct. 1969), 42. For a more women’s lib expression of the samepoint in stronger language see Amy Gross, “Women’s Lib Loves You,” Mademoiselle, (Feb.1970), 286-7. For its general use by the RCSW see 40th Meeting, Jan. 28-30, 1970,“Economics,” item 31.18. Women by Ethnic Origin English 3,998,334 (49.1); French 2,770,173 (34.0); German524,799 (6.4); Ukrainian 236,668; Italians 225,175; Netherlands 214,839; Chinese 29,098;Japanese 14, 578; Indians 108,932; Eskimos 6,500.19. Canada, Department of Manpower and Immigration, press release, March 9, 1970, for whichsee RG 33/89 vol. 20 “Documentation & Research on Citizenship and Immigration.”20. MG31 K7, Volume 2, “E. G. MacGill Funeral Service 1980.”21. “Royal Commission’s First Hearing in Victoria on 18-Day Tour,” Ottawa Journal, April 11,1968, p. 19.22. National Archives, MacGill papers.23. In future work, I plan to analyse the extent of the ties between the RCSW and the women’sliberation movement in Canada.24. She is named as the contact person for the Women’s Liberation group in an appendix to abackground paper written by Mrs. B. Myers in the spring of 1970. See Record Group 33/89vol. 24, “Miscellaneous Articles.” Dr. Margaret Mahood, Community Health ServicesMedical Clinic Group, presented brief on Availablity of Medically Safe Abortions May 3,1968 Women.25. RG33/89 Vol 8, File: Letters of Opinion – Saskatchewan.26. Only 19 of the 455 briefs, the origins of which are identified came from men. No more than65 of them were written in French. Regional representation included the largest number ofbriefs from the West (more than 150) followed by Ontario and Quebec (approximately 130and 105 respectively). Fewer than 50 originated from the Maritimes, 25 from the North and 3from abroad. In the near future, I will provide a similar breakdown of the “letters of opinion”received by the Secretariat.27. This topic deserves more attention than can be given here. The minutes show thatinclusiveness greatly concerned members of the Commission, and that it was a leitmotif inits day-to-day work.28. MacGill Papers, Vol 3, File 1: Guide-Book: Outlines for Organization of Commission,Internal Administration and Research Program, 1967, I-7.29. The last mention of the idea of deprivation was excised from the draft of the chapter onWomen in Canadian Society in March 1970 (Meeting 47, March 18-20, 1970: item 16). Withit, went the last remaining trace of McClung’s viewpoint.30. See “Lingering,” Globe & Mail, April 6, 1970, circulated at the RCSW at the 50th Meeting,April 8-10, 1970, p. 6.52


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes After31. See for example the letters of Mrs. J. S. S* of Port Mouton, N.S. whose American-borndaughter cannot get Canadian citizenship or of Mrs. M. M. W* a single parent of Torontowho works to support two children. She reports going without meals herself to provide forthem. She worries that her children will lose interest in their education due to their inability tojoin in activities that cost money. The situation of Miss N. S* of Prince Rupert left herpossessions uninsured because an insurance company would not sell a policy to a singlewoman. These personal accounts help to explain some of the Commission’s concerns and Iwill give them considerably more attention in the future.BibliographyArscott, Jane. “`A Job Well Begun’: Representation, Electoral Reform and Women,” ed.François-Pierre Gingras Gender and Politics in Contemporary Canada (Toronto: OxfordUniversity Press, forthcoming July 1995).——. “Women’s Representation in the Mirror of Public Policy,” a paper presented at theColloquium on Women and Political Representation in Canada held at the University ofOttawa, Ottawa, September 29-30, 1994.Anderson, Doris. “Women: A Chance for a Choice?” Chatelaine (Oct. 1969), 42.Ashforth, Adam. “Reckoning Schemes of Legitimation: On Commissions of Inquiry asPower/Knowledge Forms,” Journal of Historical Sociology 3 (1990), 1-22.Aucoin, Peter. “Contributions of Commissions” in Commissions of Inquiry, eds. A. Paul Pross,Innis Christie and John A. Yogis (Toronto: Carswell, 1990), 197-207.Bégin, Monique. “Debates and Silences: Reflections of a Politician,” Daedelus, 117 (Fall 1988),335-352.——. “The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada: Twenty Years Later,”Challenging Times. The Women’s Movement in Canada and the United States, ed.Constance Backhouse and David H. Flaherty (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press,1992), 21-38.——. “The Great Decade for Canadian Women,” Current History 72 (April 1977), 170-172,179-180.Bird, Florence. Anne Francis: An Autobiography (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin, 1974).[Bird, Florence]. Francis, Anne [pseud.]. The Rights of Women. Canadian Institute of InternationalAffairs. (Behind the Headlines) 1950.Black, Naomi. “The Canadian Women’s Movement: The Second Wave,” in Sandra Burt et al, eds.Changing Patterns: Women in Canada (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1988).“Where are the recommendations of yesteryear?” Branching Out (June-July 1974), 25-8.Cairns, Alan. “The Macdonald and Other Royal Commissions’ Role in Public Policy,” the 1986David Alexander Lecture delivered at Memorial University, November 3, 1986.——. “Reflections on Commission Research” in Commissions of Inquiry in Pross, Christie andYogis, 87-108.Cameron, David R. “Not Spicer and Not theB&B:Reflections of an Insider on the Workings ofthe Pépin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity,” International Journal of CanadianStudies 7-8 (spring-fall 1993), 333-345.Canada. Department of Manpower and Immigration, press release, March 9, 1970.Canada. Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Report (Ottawa, 1970).Canada. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Ellen Fairclough speech to a luncheon meetingof the Progressive Conservative Women’s Association, Ottawa, 30 Nov. 1959.Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Ten Years Later: An Assessment of theFederal Government’s Implementation of the Recommendations made by the RoyalCommission on the Status of Women (Ottawa, 1979).Canadian Labour, “No working women on royal commission,” 12 (March 1967), p. 26.Courtney, J.C. “In Defence of Royal Commissions,” Canadian Public Administration 12 (1969),198-212.Cumming, Judith. “The Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women: A LiberalFeminist Analysis,” Master’s Thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1991.Doern, G. Bruce. “The Role of Royal Commissions in the General Policy Process and in Federal-Provincial Relations,” Canadian Public Administration 10 (Dec. 1967), 417-33.Findlay, Sue. “Democracy and the Politics of Feminist Struggles with the Canadian State, 1960-1990,” doctoral diss., School of Public Administration, University of Toronto, to bedefended winter 1995.Gross, Amy. “Women’s Lib Loves You,” Mademoiselle, (Feb. 1970), 286-7.Hodgetts, J.E. Institute of Public Administration of Canada. Proceedings of the AnnualConference, 1951, 351-367.——. “Should Canada be De-Commissioned? A Commoner’s View of Royal Commissions,”Queen’s Quarterly, 70 (Winter 1964), 475-90.53


IJCS / RIÉCJenson, Jane. “Commissioning Ideas: Representation and Royal Commissions,” How OttawaSpends 1994-1995: Making Change, ed. Susan D. Phillips (Ottawa: Carleton UniversityPress, 1994), 39-69.——. “Learning by Doing: Decision-Making in Royal Commissions,” (Internal report to theRoyal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Ottawa, 1992).LaMarsh, Judy. Memoirs of a Bird in a Gilded Cage (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968).“Lingering,” Globe & Mail, April 6, 1970, circulated at the RCSW at the 50th Meeting, April 8-10,1970, p. 6.Lymbery, Isobel. “The World of the New Feminists,” Homemaker’s (July/Aug. 1970), 4-6, 11, 12.Mitchell, Juliet. “Women: The Longest Revolution,” The New Left Review 40 (1966), 11-37.Morris, Cerise D. “`Determination and thoroughness’: the movement for a Royal Commission onthe Status of Women in Canada,” Atlantis 5 (1980), 1-21.——. “No More than Simple Justice: the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and SocialChange in Canada,” doctoral diss., McGill University, 1982.National Action Committee on the Status of Women. What’s Been Done?: Assessment of theFederal Government’s Implementation of the Recommendations of the Royal CommissionStatus: a Report (Ottawa: Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 1974).National Archives of Canada. Elsie Gregory MacGill papers, Manuscript Group 31, K 7.——. Margaret MacLellan papers, Manuscript Group 31, E 17.——. Royal Commission on the Status of Women, Research Group 33/89Phillips, Susan D. “Political Strategies of the Canadian Women’s Movement: Who’s Listening?Who’s Speaking?” (Ottawa: School of Public Administration, Carleton UniversityDiscussion Paper Series, 1994).“Royal Commission’s First Hearing in Victoria on 18-Day Tour,” Ottawa Journal, April 11, 1968,p. 19.Simeon, Richard. “Inside the Macdonald Commission,” Studies in Political Economy, 22 (spring1987), 167-179.Underhill, Frank. “Review of The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada by Catherine LyleCleverdon (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1950),” Canadian Historical Review 31(1950), 422-423.Wilson, V.S. “The Role of Royal Commissions and Task Forces,” The Structures of Policy-Making in Canada, eds. G. Bruce Doern and Peter Aucoin (Toronto: Macmillan, 1971),113-129.Wootton, Barbara. “Woman’s Place?” New Statesman (24. Dec 1960), p. 997.54


Twenty-Five Years and Sixty-Five Minutes AfterAppendixBrief BiographiesMonique BéginPublic servant and politician. Born Rome, Italy. Master’s in Sociology.Founding member of the Fédération des femmes du Québec 1965-67. Firstwomen elected to Parliament from Quebec, 1972. Joint Chair of Women’sStudies Carleton and Ottawa Universities 1986-.Mrs. John BirdOttawa freelance journalist, broadcaster and lecturer. Born Philadelphia.Educated Bryn Mawr College. Winner of two Women’s National Press ClubAwards and four honourable mentions. She wrote a weekly newletter on thestatus of women in Canada for the International Service of the CBC. Married.Dorothy CadwellPublic Servant. Born Saskatoon. High school teacher. PersonnelAdministrator then Administrative Secretary with the Public ServiceCommission. Research Coordinator RCSW. Author: Murder on the House.D[onald] R. GordonAssociate Professor of Political Science, University of Waterloo. BornToronto. Print and radio journalist. University Professor. Author of Logic,Language and the Mass Media, Canadian Peacekeeping in the Congo, 1960-64. Study of the reporting of national issues in 30 Canadian daily newspapersfortheB&BCommission. Co-reporter of the Couchiching Conference 1964-6. Member of the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting, Board of BroadcastGovernors, 1967. Co-host “20,000,000 Questions,” about Canadian politicson the CBC national TV network (Oct. 1966-Feb 1967). Married, threechildren.Jacques HenripinDemographer. Born Lachine. Professor of Demography. Université deMontréal since 1954. Founder and director of the Department of Demography1964-1973. Member of the Royal Society. Member of the Canadian Instituteof Public Affairs. Married, three daughters.John HumphreySpecialist in International Law. Born Hampton, NB. Lawyer. Director,Division of Human Rights, UN Secretariat, 1946-66. Articles on internationallegal subjects. Professor of Law and Political Science, McGill University1966-.Mrs. Lola LangeNoted for her work in voluntary associations involved in farming andcontinuing education. Born Edmonton. Winner of the Bank of Montreal FarmLeadership Award. Director of the Farm Women’s Union of Alberta; FieldInstructor for the Farmer’s Union and Co-operative DevelopmentAssociation; Vice President of Lutheran Women’s Missionary League; PastPresident Claresholm Ladies Curling Club, Treasurer of the Welfare55


IJCS / RIÉCCommittee for Claresholm & District Community Chest, Senior 4-H Leader ofthe Claresholm Girls’ 4-H Club, enumerator and deputy returning officer;church organist. Married, three daughters.Jeanne LapointeBorn Chicoutimi. Raised in Quebec City. Professor of Literature since 1939.Member of the Royal Commission on Education in Quebec (ParentCommission), 1961-1966. Contributor to the periodical Cité libre. Member ofthe Advisory Arts panel of the Canada Council. Member of the executivecommittee of the Canadian Conference for the Arts.Elsie Gregory MacGillBorn Vancouver. Consulting Engineer. Daughter of Helen Gregory MacGill,judge of the Vancouver Juvenile Court. Master’s degree in Aeronauticalengineering. Canadian Technical Advisor at the United Nations Civil AviationOrganization. Professional Awards. Life Member of the Canadian Federationof Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (National President 1962-4) andof the Toronto Business and Professional Women’s Club. Life Member of theArt Gallery of Ontario. Author of technical articles in scientific journals andMy Mother, the Judge. Married with stepchildren.Mark McClungPublic Servant. Son of Nellie McClung, journalist and women’s activist.Mrs. Robert OgilvieDeputy judge of the New Brunswick Juvenile Court. Born Halifax. Bachelorof Secretarial Sciences, Mount Saint Vincent University, 1938. BA,University of Newbrunswick, 1962. Law degree, 1963. Admitted to the Bar1964. Married, four daughters.56


Manon TremblayLes femmes, des candidates moinsperformantes que les hommes?Une analyse des votes obtenus par lescandidates et candidats du Québec à uneélection fédérale canadienne, 1945-1993*RésuméIl y a près d’un quart de siècle, la Commission royale d’enquête sur lasituation de la femme au Canada identifiait dans les partis politiques un acteurvraisemblablement responsable de la sous-représentation des femmes enpolitique; croyant en un ressentiment de l’électorat envers les candidaturesféminines, les organisations locales se montreraient réticentes à les retenir.Cet article se propose de comparer la performance électorale des candidateset candidats du Québec, en analysant leurs votes obtenus aux élections fédéralescanadiennes de 1945 à 1993. L’objectif est d’établir si les femmes obtiennent ounon moins de votes que les hommes. Les analyses bivariées et multivariéesdémontrent que le sexe affecte le nombre des votes reçus, mais non dans le sensattendu : lorsque certaines composantes du cadre électoral sont contrôlées, lescandidates des grands partis terminent en moyenne avec plus de votes que leursvis-à-vis masculins. Il faut donc chercher ailleurs que dans l’électorat uneexplication à la présence marginale des femmes aux Communes, notamment dansle statut qui leur est dévolu lorsqu’elles sollicitent un mandat.AbstractTwenty-five years ago, the Royal Commission on the Status of Womenidentified political parties as a possible cause of women’sunderrepresentation in politics. Fearing voter resentment against femalecandidates, local political organisations were hesitant to retain them. Thisarticle compares electoral showing of Québec candidates by analyzing thenumber of votes received during the federal elections of 1945 to 1993. The aimis to determine whether or not women receive fewer votes than men. Bivariateand multivariate analyses show that gender does influence the number of votesobtained, but not with the expected result: when certain elements of theelectoral parameters are controled, female candidates of major politicalparties receive on average more votes than their male counterparts. Onetherefore must look elsewhere to explain the marginal representation ofwomen in the House of Commons, for example to the status that is given towomen when they seek a nomination.À l’instar de la Commission Kennedy créée au début des années 1960 auxÉtats-Unis, en 1967 le Canada met sur pied la Commission royale d’enquêteInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCsur la situation de la femme (Commission Bird), laquelle déposera son rapporten 1970 (Tremblay 1993). Près d’un quart de siècle après sa publication, leRapport Bird demeure aujourd’hui une référence incontournable en ce qui atrait à la situation des femmes dans la société canadienne. Le Rapport a nonseulement permis d’éveiller l’opinion publique aux conditions de vie desfemmes et aux discriminations systémiques qu’elles rencontraient dans lasociété canadienne, mais aussi d’interpeller l’action des gouvernements enmatière de droits des femmes. En outre, un apport tangible du Rapport résideen sa contribution à l’émergence et au développement du mouvementféministe au Canada (cf. Adamson, Briskin et McPhail 1988, Collectif Clio1982). C’est ainsi qu’il a suscité la mise sur pied du Comité canadien d’actionsur le statut de la femme — un groupe de pression toujours actif surtout auCanada anglais —, avec l’objectif de veiller à ce qu’il soit donné suite auxrecommandations formulées par les commissaires (pour un historique de cegroupe de pression cf. Vickers, Rankin et Appelle 1993).Mais la référence encore consacrée au Rapport Bird tient certainement au faitque plusieurs de ses observations demeurent toujours d’actualité. Au chapitrede la participation politique par exemple, la Commission remarquait que lanomination par un parti semblait constituer une épreuve bien plus difficile àréussir pour une aspirante-candidate que l’élection elle-même (CommissionBird 1970: 392). Certes, depuis la première moitié des années 1980, lesdirections nationales des partis politiques affirment haut et fort rechercher desfemmes « compétentes » intéressées à briguer les suffrages (comme si parl’ajout de ce qualificatif on voulait signifier que tous les hommes qui posentleur candidature à une élection ont la compétence pour occuper un postepolitique). D’ailleurs, les principales formations politiques canadiennes ontdepuis adopté des mesures particulières en ce sens, allant de fonds monétairesde soutien aux candidates 1 à des mesures de quotas pour les candidatures auxCommunes. 2En fait, le problème se pose davantage au niveau des organisations locales quirésistent à asservir leur autonomie du choix de leurs candidates ou candidats audiscours des directions nationales des partis concernant une représentationplus équitable des sexes parmi les rangs des candidatures. 3 La déclaration deJean Chrétien lors de l’élection de 1993, à l’effet de retenir 25 p. 100 decandidates dans les rangs libéraux en constitue un exemple récent. À ladirection nationale, on expliquait que cet espoir a du être abandonné en raisondes résistances des exécutifs locaux qui voulaient un processus plus« démocratique »! De cette façon, plusieurs éléments laissent à penser que lesorganisations locales exprimaient des doutes sur les capacités des femmes defaire aussi bonne figure que les hommes face à l’électorat. Des constats récentsont été posés en ce sens, tant au niveau canadien (Brodie 1991, Erickson 1991)que québécois (Tremblay et Pelletier 1995). Par exemple, les femmesrencontreraient plus d’opposition au moment de la campagne d’investiture ouferaient les frais d’un sexisme éculé de la part de militantes et militants. Lesstructures locales imposent ainsi une pratique qui sonne faux avec les volontésexprimées par les partis depuis Ottawa.60


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?Norris et Lovenduski (1989; cf. aussi Norris 1993), ainsi que Studlar etMcAllister (1991), avancent l’explication suivante pour rendre compte decette réticence des militantes et militants envers des candidatures de femmes :un modèle abstrait du « candidat idéal » inspirerait informellement lesorganisations locales des partis politiques dans leur quête de la personne qui, lejour de l’élection, défendra leurs couleurs. Or, en vertu de ses traits, ce typeidéal rejoint peu les femmes. De sexe masculin, il possède un haut degré descolarité, une occupation dans les professions du droit ou de l’enseignementuniversitaire, etc. C’est ce que Norris et Lovenduski (1989) nomment lemodèle de l’homo politicus. Dès lors, les personnes ne correspondant pas à cemodèle (dont les femmes) ou bien ne seraient pas sélectionnées par lesorganisations locales ou bien verraient leur candidature retenue dans lescomtés peu compétitifs (ou « perdus d’avance »). Dans ce cas, même si lescandidates perdaient des votes parce qu’elles ne répondaient pas auxsupposées attentes de l’électorat telles que cristallisées dans l’homo politicus,les conséquences en seraient limitées pour le parti, donné perdant au départ.Pourtant, il semble bien qu’il s’agisse là d’un scénario caduc. Comme l’adémontré Maillé (1990a) par son examen des résultats de sondages publiésdans des quotidiens francophones du Québec depuis 1960, l’électorat endossede plus en plus l’engagement des femmes dans des fonctions politiquesd’importance. Ce soutien grandissant pour les femmes dans des rôles publics aaussi été observé aux États-Unis (Costain 1992, Hartmann 1989, Rinehart1992). De telles tendances de l’opinion publique militent contre l’idée que lesfemmes seraient des candidates moins « sûres » que les hommes, notammentparce qu’elles « perdraient des votes ».C’est précisément l’objectif de cet article : comparer la performance électoraledes candidates et candidats en termes de votes obtenus aux élections fédéralescanadiennes depuis près d’un demi-siècle. Dans un premier temps, je situeraile point de vue retenu parmi les recherches canadiennes et québécoisesconcernant la sous-représentation des femmes au sein des institutionspolitiques et expliquerai pourquoi le cas du Québec retient plusparticulièrement l’attention. Ensuite, je présenterai et analyserai les résultatsde cette recherche, puis en discuterai les implications en conclusion.La sous-représentation des femmes en politique canadienne : unétat des recherchesÀ l’instar d’autres démocraties représentatives du monde industrialisé, leCanada se caractérise par une faible proportion de femmes au sein de sonParlement national. En effet, l’élection de 1993 a fait passer la représentationféminine de 13,9 p. 100 à 18 p. 100. Pourtant, sans atteindre le seuil des paysscandinaves, cette proportion se compare avantageusement avec la placelaissée aux femmes dans les Parlements nationaux en général et les Parlementsdu monde occidental en particulier. Une recherche effectuée sous l’égide duCentre de développement social et des Affaires humanitaires de l’ONUmontre qu’en 1987 les femmes occupaient en moyenne 9,7 p. 100 desbanquettes des 124 Parlements nationaux retenus par l’étude, cette proportionétant de 13,2 p. 100 dans les démocraties occidentales (United Nations 1992).61


IJCS / RIÉCDans le contexte canadien, plusieurs théories ont été élaborées pour expliquercet effacement des femmes de la scène politique. Une première se concentresur la division sexuelle du travail qui, en confinant les femmes à la sphèreprivée et en consacrant le domaine public aux hommes, limiterait, pour cespremières, les occasions d’acquérir les habiletés psychologiques,intellectuelles et sociales généralement associées à un engagement dans la viepublique. L’identité de genre, la socialisation et les obligations familialesrestreindraient les capacités de développer certains préalables associés à unecarrière politique, plaçant les femmes hors d’un réseau informel au sein duquelles élites politiques émergent et se développent (cf. par exemple Bashevkin1983a, Brodie 1985, Brodie et Vickers 1982, Vickers et Brodie 1981). Il fautdire toutefois qu’il ne s’agit pas là d’une barrière incontournable. Lesrecherches de Gingras, Maillé et Tardy (1989) et celle de Tardy et sescollaboratrices (1982) ont permis de démontrer que les normes culturelles quiproscrivent la participation des femmes à la vie politique pouvaient êtredépassées, dans la mesure où ces dernières connaissaient des expériences decontre-socialisation au cours de leur existence (par exemple une mèresocialement engagée ou un conjoint qui supporte l’engagement politique de sacompagne; en France, cf. Sineau 1988, particulièrement les pages 47-73).Une seconde théorie suggère plutôt que les femmes ne parviennent pas à êtresélectionnées par défaut de ressources financières; elles n’auraient pas lesfonds nécessaires pour assumer les dépenses liées à une campagned’investiture, souvent non encadrée par la législation comme c’est le cas auCanada. Et, de fait, plusieurs chercheuses canadiennes voient dans l’élémentfinancier une raison de l’effacement des femmes de la scène politique(Bashevkin 1993, Brodie 1991, Maillé 1990b). À tel point que, dans le cadredes travaux de la Commission royale sur la réforme électorale et lefinancement des partis, Brodie (1991) recommandait que les dépensesengagées par les candidates et candidats au moment d’une campagned’investiture fassent l’objet d’un remboursement. 4Une théorie fréquemment avancée veut que les femmes ne parviendraient pas àse faire élire au Parlement parce qu’elles seraient candidates dans descirconscriptions peu compétitives. Bien que cette proposition ait été formuléeet vérifiée dans plusieurs travaux à la grandeur du Canada (Bashevkin 1982,1983b, Brodie et Vickers 1981, Erickson 1993, Vickers 1978, Vickers etBrodie 1981), nous sommes parvenus à une conclusion contraire pour lesélections provinciales québécoises de 1976, 1981, 1985 et 1989 (Pelletier etTremblay 1992) : à l’exception du Parti québécois au scrutin général de 1981,les candidates libérales et péquistes n’étaient pas désavantagées par rapport àleurs vis-à-vis masculins, entendons par là qu’elles n’étaient pasdisproportionnellement plus nombreuses dans des circonscriptions dites« perdues d’avance ». C’est aussi le constat posé par Studlar et Matland (1994)au niveau canadien.Les conditions et le rythme de renouvellement du personnel politique se sontégalement retrouvés au centre de propositions théoriques qui visent à mieuxcomprendre l’accès restreint des femmes aux institutions démocratiques. Àl’heure actuelle, les règles du jeu permettent à une personne membre du62


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?Parlement de solliciter un renouvellement de mandat autant de fois qu’elle ledésire. Or, devant l’urne, les parlementaires jouissent d’un avantage certainsur leurs adversaires non membres de la Chambre au moment de sa dissolution(Krashinsky et Milne 1983, 1985, 1986). Peu de candidates se prévalant dustatut de députées sortantes, il est facile d’y voir là une situation qui limitel’accès des femmes aux Communes. Il faut toutefois dire qu’au Canada, le hauttaux de roulement du personnel politique fédéral réduit cet effet néfaste sur lescandidatures féminines (Young 1991).Une dernière théorie privilégie le mode de scrutin canadien — du typemajoritaire, uninominal à un seul tour — pour expliquer la sous-représentationdes femmes de la scène politique. Au contraire des systèmes proportionnelsqui semblent favoriser la victoire de femmes (particulièrement le scrutin deliste qui permet l’élection de plusieurs représentantes et représentants parcirconscription), au Canada, dans la mesure où chaque parti ne peut espérerfaire élire qu’une seule représentante ou un seul représentant parcirconscription, les organisations locales seraient soucieuses de présenter lapersonne la plus susceptible de remporter la victoire. Or, craignant quel’électorat ne discrimine négativement les femmes en ne votant pas — oumoins — pour elles, les exécutifs locaux porteraient alors leur choix vers descandidatures masculines jugées plus « sûres ». 5 Au contraire des autresthéories, cette dernière, selon laquelle l’électorat discriminerait les femmes,n’a pas fait l’objet d’un examen approfondi. La seule recherche canadienne àavoir abordé cette question sous cet angle est celle de Hunter et Denton,publiée il y a plus d’une décennie (en 1984). La principale conclusion de cetteétude indiquait que les femmes ne perdaient pas de votes. Lorsqu’elles seprésentaient à la députation, les femmes constituaient des candidates aussicompétitives que les hommes, dans la mesure où elles se trouvaient sur un piedd’égalité avec eux en termes de rival titulaire, de compétitivité du siège disputéet d’allégeance partisane. En fait, Hunter et Denton (1984) croient que la sousreprésentationdes femmes aux Communes tient moins à un sentiment de rejetde l’électorat qu’à leur difficulté d’être sélectionnées dans des circonscriptionsoù leur parti présente des chances de succès.Pourtant, bien que cette étude constitue une contribution incontournable auproblème qui retient l’attention du présent texte, elle apporte une réponselimitée à la question de savoir si les femmes constituent des candidates moinsperformantes que les hommes au chapitre des votes qu’elles obtiennent. Eneffet, cette recherche n’a retenu que deux élections générales canadiennes, afortiori très rapprochées (les scrutins de 1979 et 1980). En outre, elle ne traitepas de façon distincte le Québec, alors qu’il me semble y avoir là un terrainparticulièrement propice à l’examen de l’idée selon laquelle l’électoratdiscriminerait les candidates, qui obtiendraient par conséquent moins de votesque les candidats masculins.Bien que les Québécoises aient obtenu le droit de vote aux élections fédéralesau même moment que les Canadiennes des autres provinces, ce n’est qu’en1972 que trois représentantes du Québec font leur entrée à la Chambre descommunes, soit plus d’un demi-siècle plus tard. 6 Ce n’est aussi qu’en 1940,bien après les autres provinces, 7 qu’elles obtiennent le droit de vote aux63


IJCS / RIÉCélections provinciales et en 1961 qu’une première femme siège à l’Assembléenationale du Québec. 8 Qui plus est, avant 1960, le Québec vivait dans unesociété traditionnelle, marquée notamment par une division hiérarchique desrôles selon les sexes. Sans affirmer que cette division était plus forte au Québecqu’au Canada-anglais, il n’en demeure pas moins que les Québécoises ontacquis certains droits liés à la citoyenneté bien après les femmes du reste duCanada, notamment en matière d’éducation et de droits civils (cf. Boivin 1986,Commission Bird 1970, Lamoureux 1989), ce qui semble significatif dementalités réfractaires à l’insertion sociopolitique des femmes. Il est vrai queles Québécoises ont fait preuve d’une assiduité insoupçonnée au plan de laparticipation électorale à cette époque (Maillé 1990c), mais c’était bien àl’encontre du discours sexiste des élites cléricales et politiques, alors fortementliées. 9 En fait, une telle conception hiérarchique et ségréguée des rôles selonles sexes n’a pas fait l’objet d’un large questionnement public avant 1967, dansle cadre des travaux de la Commission Bird. Dans un tel contexte, il est aiséd’imaginer une hostilité de l’électorat aux candidatures féminines quis’estompe graduellement au profit d’un décloisonnement des rôles selon lessexes — du moins au plan politique.Objectif, hypothèse, données et analysesL’objectif premier de cet article est de cerner le rôle de l’électorat dans la sousreprésentationdes Québécoises à la Chambre des communes du Canada. Enfait, il importe d’établir si les femmes constituent des candidates moinsperformantes que les hommes, notamment en attirant moins de votes. Le pointde vue défendu ici est que le fait d’être du sexe féminin ne génère pas unressentiment de l’électorat, de telle sorte que les candidates obtiennent moinsde votes que les candidats. La difficulté des Québécoises à se faire élire auxCommunes tient plutôt à d’autres considérations, notamment leur statut en tantque candidates.Cette recherche repose sur les résultats électoraux obtenus par les candidates etcandidats du Québec à une élection fédérale générale canadienne de 1945 à1993. Les statistiques électorales compilées aux fins de cette étude sont tellesqu’elles apparaissent dans les rapports du directeur général des élections duCanada depuis la fin de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Six variables ont étéretenues : l’année d’élection, la circonscription électorale, 10 le sexe, le partipolitique, le statut, 11 finalement les votes en nombres absolus. En tout, 5 487personnes — soit 562 femmes et 4 925 hommes — ont cherché à représenterune circonscription électorale québécoise à Ottawa depuis 1945. Laperformance de ces candidates et candidats sera comparée et analysée entermes de votes obtenus.La variable du statut demande certaines précisions. Deux modèles de cettevariable ont été élaborés. L’un, plus simple, attribue la cote«1»austatut demembre sortant du Parlement qui sollicite un renouvellement de mandat et lacote«2»auxautres candidates et candidats. L’autre, plus complexe, réservedes cotes plus étendues aux deux statuts déjà mentionnés. Elle a été nomméevariable « statut plus ». Cette démarche visait non seulement à saisir plusjustement la réalité, mais également à optimiser les conditions d’utilisation des64


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?calculs de régressions, notamment en limitant l’usage de variables nominalesdichotomiques. L’échelle de la variable « statut plus », y compris unedéfinition de ses modalités, apparaît en annexe.L’analyse quantitative qui suit repose principalement sur des mesuresdescriptives. Dans un premier temps, la moyenne des votes obtenus par lescandidates et candidats est examinée, et ce, en fonction de différents contextes.Par la suite, des corrélations, des régressions simples et multiples permettrontde mieux situer le rôle et l’importance des relations distinguées de cettepremière démarche. La variable dépendante au centre de ces analyses est celledes votes obtenus — et valides — en nombres absolus; les variablesindépendantes sont le sexe, le parti politique, le statut des adversaires encompétition, le vote à l’élection précédente et la compétitivité de lacirconscription. Aucun test de signification n’a été réalisé parce que cetterecherche prend en compte l’ensemble des candidates et candidats du Québecà l’une ou l’autre des seize élections générales canadiennes de 1945 à 1993, etnon un simple échantillon tiré de façon aléatoire de cette population.Présentation des résultatsL’histoire politique du Québec à Ottawa (comme ailleurs) se veut résolumentmasculine. Comme l’illustre le tableau 1, des 5 487 femmes et hommes qui ontbrigué les suffrages au Québec à l’occasion d’une élection fédérale depuis1945, seulement 562 (ou 10,2 p. 100) étaient des femmes. De ce nombre, 54femmes ont été élues, contre 1 131 hommes, soit 9,6 p. 100 des aspirantesdéputées(contre 23 p. 100 des aspirants-députés). 12 Il est important desouligner que les premières Québécoises firent leur entrée aux Communes en1972, soit à la première élection suivant la publication du Rapport Bird. Cedocument fait ressortir, entre autres, l’absence des femmes des institutionsdémocratiques canadiennes. La contribution du Rapport à l’accès deQuébécoises aux Communes s’avère d’autant plus probable, que c’estégalement lors de l’élection de 1972 que le nombre de candidatesconservatrices et libérales a légèrement augmenté, témoignant d’une certainesensibilité des partis politiques aux critiques formulées par la Commissionroyale d’enquête sur la situation de la femme. 13 Il faut également voir que ledébut des années 1970 correspond aux premières mobilisations du mouvementféministe canadien. Or, ce mouvement a constitué une véritable expérience decontre-socialisation pour les femmes, notamment en questionnant la divisionprivé-public qui consacrait leur exclusion des lieux du pouvoir (cf., entreautres, Carroll 1989, Klein 1984).Certes, on ne peut guère s’étonner du faible nombre de femmes élues à laChambre des communes du Canada depuis un demi-siècle, puisqu’elles ont éténettement moins nombreuses que les hommes à se présenter. Pourtant, mêmelorsqu’elles posent leur candidature, elles parviennent moins bien à se faireélire que les hommes; pour la période 1945-1993, leur taux de succès commecandidates se situe à 0,42. En d’autres termes, alors qu’un candidat sur cinq agagné son élection, ce n’est vrai que pour une candidate sur dix.65


IJCS / RIÉCTableau 1Nombre des candidates et candidats du Québec aux élections fédéralescanadiennes, taux de féminisation des candidatures et taux de succès descandidates, 1945-1993Annéed’électionCandidaturesF H Total Taux deféminisationp. 100Personnes éluesF H Taux desuccès descandidates*1945 4 280 284 1,4 0 65 01949 2 251 253 0,8 0 73 01953 11 217 228 4,8 0 75 01957 3 210 213 1,4 0 75 01958 2 217 219 0,9 0 75 01962 4 279 283 1,4 0 75 01963 7 288 295 2,4 0 75 01965 8 319 327 2,4 0 75 01968 9 314 323 2,8 0 74 01972 29 314 343 8,4 3 71 0,461974 43 327 370 11,6 3 71 0,321979 83 435 518 16,0 4 71 0,291980 94 424 518 18,1 6 69 0,391984 75 384 459 16,3 14 61 1,171988 86 300 386 22,3 13 62 0,731993 102 366 468 21,8 11 64 0,62Total 562 4 925 5 487 10,2 54 1 131 0,42* Ce taux de succès est emprunté à Jorgen Rasmussen (1981). Il a été établi à partir de laformule suivante :Nombre d’élues/Nombre de candidatesNombre d’élus/Nombre de candidatsCet indice varie entre 0 et l’infini. Lorsqu’il excède 1,00, comme à l’élection de 1984, cecisignifie que proportionnellement plus de candidates sont parvenues à se faire élire que decandidats.Il faut noter que l’élection de 1984, où les femmes affichent un taux de succèssupérieur à celui des hommes, constitue l’exception. Ce résultat va dans le sensdes propos récents de Studlar et Matland (1994). Il est courant de soutenir quel’augmentation du nombre des élues aux Communes en 1984 tient au fait quele Parti conservateur aurait sélectionné des femmes dans des circonscriptionsqu’il considérait marginales, celles-là profitant alors de la « vague bleue » pourse faire élire. Ces auteurs suggèrent plutôt qu’il y avait alors assez de femmescandidates pour assurer une augmentation appréciable de la représentationféminine aux Communes, nonobstant l’humeur de l’électorat à ce moment. Enoutre, l’avènement d’un débat organisé par le Comité canadien d’action sur le66


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?statut de la femme, où les trois chefs des principales formations politiquess’affrontèrent sur des questions concernant de façon spécifique lesCanadiennes, a pu sensibiliser l’électorat à la condition féminine au Canada,particulièrement au chapitre politique. Finalement, il faut tenir compte qu’estsurvenue alors une diminution du nombre des candidates pour les tiers partis— de 84 en 1980 leur nombre passa à 49 en 1988 — et une augmentationparallèle des candidates au Parti conservateur (PC) et au Parti libéral duCanada (PLC) — de 10 en 1980 à 26 en 1984 —, les deux seules formationspolitiques qui, en 1984, pouvaient espérer faire élire des candidates etcandidats au Québec. Pourtant, aux élections générales de 1988 et 1993, le tauxde succès des femmes décroît de nouveau. Comment expliquer cette difficultéplus grande des femmes d’accéder au Parlement canadien? Plus précisément,peut-on l’attribuer au fait que les femmes obtiennent moins de votes que leshommes?Analyse bivariéeUne étape préliminaire d’analyse consiste à comparer sous différents angles lamoyenne des votes obtenus par les candidates et candidats du Québec auxélections fédérales de 1945 à 1993. Le tableau 2 montre ces moyennes enfonction du sexe et d’autres variables indépendantes. Plusieurs des résultatsjettent le doute sur l’affirmation que les femmes constituent des candidatesmoins performantes que les hommes en obtenant moins de votes qu’eux.Certes, toutes formations politiques confondues, les candidates obtiennent enmoyenne 1 980 votes de moins que les candidats. Pourtant, ce constat demeuresimpliste s’il n’est pas accompagné d’une considération pour la couleurpartisane, et ce, parce que tous les partis n’offrent pas à leurs candidates etcandidats les mêmes chances de succès. Ainsi, en considérant seulement lescinq principales formations politiques québécoises sur la scène fédérale de1945 à 1993, 14 on constate que le déficit des femmes s’abaisse à un mince 92votes. Puisque cet article veut d’abord comprendre le rôle de l’électorat dans lasous-représentation des Québécoises à Ottawa, l’analyse subséquente nereposera que sur les candidates et candidats de grands partis, à l’heure actuelleles seuls susceptibles de faire élire des femmes et d’accroître ainsi leurprésence au Parlement fédéral.Le tableau 2 fait ressortir une donnée intéressante en ce qui a trait à la périodehistorique. Comme il a été mentionné plus haut, le Québec d’avant 1960constituait une société fortement marquée par des valeurs conservatrices,ruralistes et traditionnelles. La Révolution tranquille des années 1960 signalele passage à une société plus libérale, ce qui n’a pas été sans affecter lesmentalités et les valeurs collectives et personnelles, notamment eu égard auxrôles selon les sexes. L’assignation de rôles inégalitaires basée sur le sexe ad’ailleurs fait l’objet de critiques dans les pages du Rapport Bird (1970), puis amobilisé et nourri le mouvement féministe dont les intérêts se sontgraduellement déplacés vers l’arène politique au cours de la décennie 1980.Comme le montre le tableau 2, ces étapes de l’histoire politique desQuébécoises transparaissent dans le soutien de l’électorat pour lescandidatures féminines : leur déficit de 7 463 votes en 1945-1958 s’abaisse à 1959 votes en 1984-1993. Un tel résultat vient en quelque sorte appuyer les67


IJCS / RIÉCTableau 2Votes moyens obtenus par les candidates et candidats du Québec auxélections fédérales canadiennes, 1945-1993Partis politiquesFemmes Hommes Différencefemmes-hommes• Tous les partis politiques 5 324(562)*• Seulement les grands partis 9 445(302)Périodes historiques, grands partis•1945-1958 1 375(11)•1962-1968 3 006(24)•1972-1980 7 564(106)•1984-1993 12 194(161)Statut comme candidate et candidat,grands partis• Membre sortant du Parlement 25 070(33)• Personne qui n’était pas membre duParlement au moment de sadissolution7 528(269)Vote antérieur, grands partis• Nouvelles circonscriptions 12 790(70)• 1 à 5 000 votes 4 048(101)• 5 001 à 10 000 votes 5 038(45)• 10 001 votes et plus 15 365(86)Compétitivité, grands partis7304(4 925)9 537(3 577)8 838(839)7 435(1 112)9 739(1 038)14 153(588)16 651(928)7 045(2 649)9 164(745)4 234(1 015)7 693(765)16 259(1 052)-1 980-92-7 463-4 429-2 175-1 9598 4194833 626-186-2 654-894• Faible 7 617(248)• Moyenne 20 636(23)• Forte 15 760(31)7 143(2 558)14 588(467)16 357(552)* Le chiffre entre parenthèses indique le nombre de personnes impliquées dans l’analyse.4746 048-59768


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?sondages québécois qui montraient un soutien grandissant de l’électorat enfaveur d’un rôle politique plus engagé des femmes (Maillé 1990a).La performance électorale des femmes dépend également de leur passépersonnel et partisan dans la circonscription. Plusieurs études ont déjàdémontré l’avantage des parlementaires qui sollicitent un nouveau mandat surleurs adversaires qui n’étaient pas membres du Parlement au moment de sadissolution. Dans ce cas, le succès des femmes se compare avantageusementavec celui des hommes : lorsqu’elles demandent à leurs électrices et électeursde les représenter de nouveau à Ottawa, en moyenne elles gagnent la faveur de25 070 commettantes et commettants, contre 16 651 votes pour les hommes. Iln’est donc pas étonnant de constater qu’elles performent mieux dans lescirconscriptions remportées par leur parti à l’élection précédente (voir l’aspectde la compétitivité moyenne au tableau 2). Pourtant, leur avantage estégalement manifeste lorsqu’elles posent leur candidature dans unecirconscription nouvellement formée, comme si elles compétitionnaient alorsavec des adversaires de même taille. Aussi, l’analyse multivariée permettramaintenant de démêler et de préciser ces relations.Analyse multivariéeEn vue de mieux saisir la dynamique du vote féminin et masculin, j’ai élaboréun modèle explicatif destiné à cerner le rôle et l’importance de certainesvariables en ce qui concerne les votes attribués aux femmes et aux hommes. Enplus du sexe, ce modèle intègre une variable partisane, 15 une variable relativeau statut des adversaires en présence (laquelle comporte quatre valeurs commedéfinies à l’annexe), une variable portant sur le vote obtenu par la candidate oule candidat du parti dans cette circonscription à l’élection précédente, 16finalement une variable qui traduit la compétitivité de la circonscription. 17 Lechoix de ces composantes s’inspire des recherches similaires réalisées auCanada (Hunter et Denton 1984) et à l’étranger (entre autres, McAllister 1992,Rasmussen 1983, Studlar, McAllister et Ascui 1988) et se base sur desanalyses bivariées destinées à identifier dans un premier temps les relations quiprésentent un certain intérêt. 18 Ce modèle n’a évidemment pas la prétention detenir compte de l’entièreté des facteurs qui aient pu affecter les votes obtenuspar les candidates et candidats du Québec depuis 1945, mais plutôt de saisirl’impact de certaines variables qui semblent significatives.Des analyses de régressions multiples ont été faites en vue de mesurer les effetsde ces variables sur les votes obtenus par les candidates et candidats du Québecaux élections fédérales de 1945 à 1993. L’analyse multivariée est guidée pardeux questions principales : 1º Une fois que plusieurs variables du « combatélectoral » sont contrôlées, les femmes obtiennent-elles moins de votes que leshommes?; et 2º Est-ce que les variables qui agissent pour expliquer les votesobtenus par les femmes et les hommes sont les mêmes ou si elles différent? Letableau 3 apporte une réponse à ces interrogations. Afin de répondre à lapremière question, j’ai effectué une régression multiple en considérant le sexecomme variable indépendante. Le résultat apparaît à la colonne gauche dutableau 3. Pour répondre à la seconde interrogation, j’ai réalisé69


IJCS / RIÉCindépendamment deux analyses de régressions, l’une pour les femmes etl’autre pour les hommes.Une première observation à tirer du tableau 3 suggère que le nombre des votesobtenus à une élection dépend à la fois de considérations personnelles(notamment le sexe) et partisanes. Toutefois, par-delà cette influencecommune sur les votes reçus, l’importance de l’impact de chaque critère variegrandement; le parti politique constitue la variable la plus déterminante, alorsque le vote antérieur a somme toute peu d’influence. Quant à la compétitivitéde la circonscription, elle exerce un effet contraire à ce qui était attendu. Cetterégression multiple sur les votes obtenus en fonction des variables du sexe, duparti politique, du statut, du vote à l’élection antérieure et de la compétitivité dela circonscription explique 41 p. 100 de la variance. Autrement dit, bien qued’autres éléments interviennent pour expliquer les votes obtenus (pensonsseulement à l’effet des « vagues » électorales, au phénomène des« candidatures-vedettes », à la région ou au portrait socio-économique dechaque circonscription), le modèle élaboré ici permet néanmoins de saisir lerôle et l’importance de certaines variables sur les votes reçus, particulièrementen ce qui a trait au statut et au parti politique.Une seconde observation qui ressort du tableau 3 — probablement la plusinattendue de cette recherche — montre que le sexe affecte le nombre des votesobtenus par une candidate ou un candidat. Ce résultat va à l’encontre de laprincipale conclusion de Hunter et Denton (1984) concernant les électionscanadiennes de 1979 et 1980; il et elle montraient alors que les femmes et leshommes obtenaient un nombre de votes essentiellement identique. Aussi, pardelàune caractéristique personnelle, le sexe structure un rapport social, ce quel’on nomme les rapports sociaux de sexe (ou le genre). Comme l’illustrent lesrésultats obtenus ici, le genre se pose comme une variable d’analyse propre àfaire émerger des rapports conflictuels — ou de pouvoir — sur la base du sexe.Il s’agit là d’une piste de recherche et de réflexion qui mériterait d’êtreapprofondie prochainement.Plus intriguant encore, la relation identifiée au Québec entre le sexe et les votesreçus ne se manifeste pas dans le sens attendu : loin de constituer descandidates moins performantes que les hommes, les femmes attirent aucontraire plus de votes qu’eux, une fois pris en considération les variables duparti politique, du statut, du vote antérieur et de la compétitivité de lacirconscription. En outre, le sexe se situe parmi les variables les plus influentesretenues par le modèle, au contraire de la compétitivité et, surtout, du voteantérieur. Il s’avère donc sans fondement de soutenir que les femmesconstituent des candidates plus à risque que les hommes; dans un contexteidentique de confrontation électorale, les femmes s’affirment plusperformantes que les hommes dans le sens qu’elles attirent plus de votesqu’eux. Un tel résultat renforce les conclusions d’une autre rechercheeffectuée auprès des candidates et candidats du Québec (Pelletier et Tremblay1992) : puisque les femmes font aussi bonne figure que les hommes, tout laissecroire qu’elles ne sont pas « sacrifiées » dans des circonscriptions perduesd’avance. Ainsi, une clé au problème de la sous-représentation des femmesaux Communes se situerait au niveau de l’investiture (processus moins70


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?Tableau 3Régressions multiples sur les votes obtenus en fonction du sexe, duparti politique, du statut, du vote à l’élection antérieure et de lacompétitivité de la circonscriptionFemmes ethommesConstant -2 562****(556,6)¥Sexe (femmes) 1 463***(411,3)Parti politique 1 507****(87,6)Statut 1 498****(80,5)Vote antérieur 406****(17,9)Compétitivité -1 046****(94,4)Femmes-2 881**(909,4)Nil2 946****(316,5)3 247****(379,2)-1 +(77,9)-1 292**(447,4)Hommes-737*(299,2)Nil1 380****(90,3)1 410****(81,5)434****(18,3)-997****(95,2)R2 ,413 ,478 ,420R2 ajusté ,413 ,471 ,419Nombre 3 879 302 3 577¥ Les nombres entre parenthèses sont l’erreur type.+ Indique que les femmes obtiennent moins de votes que les hommes.* P £ 0,05** P £ 0,01*** P £ 0,001transparent qu’il ne paraît, comme je l’ai souligné plus haut), soit de décrocherune « bonne » circonscription.Trois explications sont susceptibles d’éclairer ce résultat (plutôt étonnantcompte tenu de la faible présence des Québécoises au Parlement d’Ottawa).Une première veut que l’opinion publique concernant les rôles politiques desfemmes se soit transformée au cours des années 1980 : l’idée d’un rôle plusengagé des femmes en politique a progressé (Maillé 1990a). Ceci n’aprobablement pas été sans affecter le soutien électoral aux candidaturesféminines, à une époque où augmente le nombre des aspirantes-députées àbriguer les suffrages sous la bannière d’un grand parti. Mais, plus encore, monidée est qu’à cette ère de désabusement de la population face à la classepolitique, les femmes attirent peut-être plus de votes, car elles incarnent unrenouveau ou une alternative en raison de leur exclusion historique du pouvoir.Une seconde explication propose de vérifier si les femmes ne sont pas plussusceptibles que les hommes d’être des « candidates-vedettes », attirant ainsiplus de voix en raison de leur notoriété. Finalement, les recherches71


IJCS / RIÉCaméricaines ont montré l’existence d’un gender gap en matière électorale : lespoliticiennes en faveur du féminisme s’attiraient le soutien de l’électoratfavorable aux droits des femmes (Somma 1992). Un phénomène apparenté apu être observé au Canada : dans un sondage réalisé entre le 4 et le 7 janvier1989 auprès de 1 021 adultes répartis à travers le Canada, la maison Gallup atrouvé que 20 p. 100 des femmes interrogées affirmaient qu’elles seraient plusportées à appuyer un parti dirigé par une chef, contre 10 p. 100 des répondants(Gallup Canada 1989). Des résultats comparables ont été obtenus auprès dejeunes politologues francophones au Canada (Tremblay 1994). Aussi, lesrecherches futures devraient tenter d’identifier si, au sein de l’électoratcanadien, les femmes expriment un « préjugé favorable » aux candidaturesféminines, dans l’optique d’expliquer qu’elles obtiennent plus de votes que leshommes.Pour ce qui est de la seconde question abordée par les analyses de régressionsmultiples, il ressort que les variables du parti politique, du statut, du voteantérieur et de la compétitivité de la circonscription structurent d’une façondifférente les votes obtenus par les candidates et candidats. D’abord, le modèleexplique une part plus grande de la variance pour la régression multipleeffectuée sur le groupe des femmes seules (soit 47 p. 100) que sur le groupe deshommes seuls (42 p. 100). Puis, la donnée la plus importante qui apparaît, sil’on compare les résultats des régressions d’une part pour les femmes etd’autre part pour les hommes, est la suivante : plus que pour ces seconds, lesvotes obtenus par ces premières reposent principalement sur deux variables.En effet, alors que chez les hommes les votes subissent des influences répartiesd’une façon plus régulière, au moins entre trois variables, chez les femmes cesont principalement leur statut et le parti politique dont elles défendent lescouleurs qui affectent les votes qu’elles reçoivent. Sans dire que le voteantérieur de leur parti dans la circonscription n’a pas d’effet chez elles, aucontraire de leurs vis-à-vis masculins.Des corrélations viennent étayer cette importance du statut qui est plusdéterminante sur les votes obtenus par les candidatures féminines. Lorsque lescandidates sollicitent un nouveau mandat alors qu’elles siégeaient auParlement au moment de sa dissolution, la corrélation avec les votes obtenuss’établit plus haut que dans le cas des hommes : 0,534 pour elles contre 0,486pour eux. Un autre statut favorise la performance des femmes, soit lorsqu’elleshéritent d’un siège abandonné par la personne titulaire qui ne sollicite pas denouveau mandat aux Communes : la corrélation avec les votes obtenus estalors de 0,129 (et de 0,113 pour les hommes). Pour ce qui est du parti politique,je mentionne d’abord que les candidates libérales, conservatrices et bloquistes(les trois seuls partis à avoir fait élire des représentantes du Québec à Ottawa)obtiennent en moyenne plus de votes que les candidats de ces partis. 19 Enoutre, des corrélations plus fortes entre le parti politique et les votes obtenus semanifestent à la faveur des candidates, 20 expliquant ainsi l’importance plusgrande de cette variable sur les gains des femmes. Il se distingue unecorrélation assez importante entre les votes obtenus par un parti dans la mêmecirconscription au cours de deux élections successives, et ce, tant pour lesfemmes que pour les hommes. 21 Par contre, si l’on contrôle la variable dustatut, la corrélation devient pratiquement inexistante chez les femmes (soit72


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?0,069), ce qui n’est pas le cas chez les hommes (0,387). Le même phénomènesurvient entre les variables des votes obtenus et de la compétitivité, bien quesous l’effet d’un contrôle de la variable du statut, la corrélation devient cettefois presque inexistante pour les deux sexes. 22 Ces résultats confirment unefois de plus l’importance du statut eu égard au problème de la sousreprésentationdes femmes aux Communes canadiennes.ConclusionSept élections générales canadiennes plus tard, le problème identifié en 1970dans le Rapport Bird semble toujours d’actualité pour expliquer la faibleprésence des femmes à la Chambre des communes du Canada. L’analyse desrésultats du Québec aux élections canadiennes de 1945 à 1993 montre quel’absence des Québécoises du Parlement fédéral ne peut s’expliquer par unressentiment de l’électorat; loin d’attirer moins de votes que les hommeslorsqu’elles sollicitent un mandat à Ottawa, les candidates terminent enmoyenne avec plus de voix que leurs vis-à-vis de l’autre sexe, une foiscontrôlées les différentes composantes du contexte électoral (notamment leparti politique, le statut, le vote à l’élection antérieure et la compétitivité de lacirconscription). Il faut donc chercher ailleurs la raison de cet effacement; toutporte à croire que les partis politiques ont quelque chose à y voir.Cette recherche a permis de démontrer l’importance du statut sur le nombredes votes obtenus et, par conséquent, sur l’élection de femmes. Ainsi, 66,7 p.100 des candidates québécoises sollicitant un renouvellement de mandat ontobtenu gain de cause entre 1945 et 1993. Quarante pour cent de celles qui onthérité d’un siège abandonné par un membre sortant du Parlement ont remportéleur élection. Par contre, seulement 8,7 p. 100 des candidates ne possédantaucun de ces avantages ont franchi le seuil des Communes. Puisquel’augmentation du nombre des femmes au Parlement ne peut reposeruniquement sur le renouvellement du personnel féminin déjà élu une premièrefois, il faut envisager d’autres solutions en vue de gonfler les rangs de cellesqui nous représentent.Une voie royale d’accès pour cela se trouve dans le statut d’héritière : plus defemmes doivent se présenter dans ce type de circonscriptions. Or, lesestablishments locaux des organisations partisanes peuvent se montrerréticents à un tel projet, craignant un sentiment défavorable de l’électorat (nonfondé comme le démontrent les résultats présentés ici), 23 prétextant l’absencede candidates « compétentes » 24 ou, simplement, n’appréciant guère de voirleur autonomie assujettie au discours national d’une représentation pluséquitable des sexes sur la scène politique fédérale. Pourtant, dans la mesure oùles femmes constituent des candidates plus compétitives que les hommes (dumoins en termes de votes obtenus), les partis politiques ont tout intérêt à retenirleur candidature, surtout s’il est prouvé qu’elles attirent l’électorat féminin.Aussi, il me semble que la présence plus importante des femmes au Parlementd’Ottawa passe par une modification des règles du jeu électoral. En ce sens,limiter le nombre de mandats consécutifs aux Communes à deux aurait pourconséquence de favoriser un taux de roulement plus élevé du personnelpolitique fédéral. Dès lors, plus de candidates et candidats néophytes (statut du73


IJCS / RIÉCtype 1) pourraient se prévaloir des avantages électoraux — en termes de tauxde succès — attachés au statut d’héritière ou d’héritier (du type 3). En outre, ilme semble indispensable de compléter cette mesure par l’imposition dequotas, au niveau des organisations locales, concernant le sexe de la personnequi défendra les couleurs du parti le jour de l’élection. On pourrait ainsi penserà un quota de 40-60 en vertu duquel, à l’intérieur de cinq élections générales oupartielles consécutives, un parti ne pourrait pas présenter plus de troiscandidates ou candidats du même sexe. Un tel délai de cinq élections, combinéà un quota de 40-60, préserve une certaine flexibilité quant au choix du sexe dela candidate ou du candidat.En outre, avec un tel scénario les organisations locales demeurent maîtred’oeuvre du processus de choix de la personne qu’elles désirent voir siéger auParlement. En effet, même lorsqu’un sexe devra être privilégié au détriment del’autre en vue de satisfaire les exigences liées aux mesures de quotas, le choixdes militantes et militants s’exercera toujours à l’intérieur d’une pluralité defemmes seulement, ou d’une multiplicité d’hommes, toutes et tous aptes àdevenir parlementaires. D’ailleurs, n’est-ce pas ce dernier scénarioentièrement à saveur masculine plutôt que ce premier qui, le plus souvent, aencadré le choix des militantes et militants au sein des partis politiquesfédéraux depuis que les femmes ont le droit de siéger à Ottawa? Le sexe nedeviendrait alors qu’un critère de sélection à prendre en considération parmid’autres, au même titre que le sont actuellement le milieu de vie (urbain ourural) ou la maîtrise du français et de l’anglais dans plusieurs circonscriptionsdu Québec. En ce sens, la proposition envisagée ici ne constitue en rien unerévolution; tout au plus, elle participe à une réforme de nos institutionsdémocratiques, afin de les rendre plus représentatives de la population.Notes* Cette publication s’intègre à un projet de recherche plus vaste subventionné par le Conseil derecherches en sciences humaines du Canada (#410-93-0163). Elle a été écrite alors quej’étais chercheuse invitée au Centre for Research in Public Sector Management, Universityof Canberra (Australie). Je tiens à exprimer mes remerciements au Centre pour son soutientechnique et matériel, ainsi que sa contribution financière à ce projet. Je veux toutparticulièrement remercier la professeure Marian SAWER de son assistance et de sacollaboration. Je tiens finalement à souligner la participation de Kevin KOCH à ce projet, quia travaillé à titre d’assistant à la recherche.1. Il s’agit du Fonds Agnes MacPhail au Nouveau Parti démocratique (NPD), de la FondationEllen Fairclough au Parti conservateur (PC) et du Fonds Judy LaMarsh au Parti libéral(PLC). Ces Fonds veulent offrir un appui financier aux femmes qui se présentent auxélections fédérales. Les argents alloués peuvent être utilisés, entre autres, pour financer desservices de garde d’enfants et d’entretien ménager. En favorisant ainsi le cumul des rôlesprivés et publics des femmes, ces Fonds agissent pour limiter les effets d’un obstacleimportant à l’élection de femmes, soit leurs responsabilités familiales. À titre d’exemple, àl’élection de 1993, les montants alloués étaient de $1 200,00 au Fonds Agnes MacPhail, de$1 000,00 à la Fondation Ellen Fairclough (plus une masse monétaire pour subventionnerdes projets présentés par des candidates) et de $2 000,00 au Fonds Judy LaMarsh.2. C’est le cas notamment du Nouveau Parti démocratique qui, à l’occasion de l’élection de1993, avait un quota de 50-50 en ce qui a trait à des groupes précis — dont les femmes.3. Au Canada, le processus de sélection des candidatures s’exerce au niveau descirconscriptions : la supervision au niveau national s’avère rare, bien que la ou le chef du74


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?parti peut, exceptionnellement, exercer un droit de veto en refusant de signer les papiers decandidature (comme au NPD) ou imposer quelques candidates ou candidats en vertu despouvoirs que lui confère la Constitution de son parti (comme c’est le cas au PLC).Autrement, à l’occasion d’une convention de nomination, il revient aux membres en règle del’organisation locale d’un parti de choisir la personne qui défendra les couleurs partisanes àl’élection. Le choix s’effectue par le moyen de votes secrets jusqu’à ce que, par suited’éliminations successives, une seule candidate ou un seul candidat demeure dans la course.Pourtant, le processus de sélection des candidatures n’est pas aussi compétitif etdémocratique qu’il ne paraît. En effet, retenant les sélections effectuées au PLC, au PC et auNPD à l’occasion de l’élection fédérale de 1988, Erickson et Carty (1991) montrent que lesdeux-tiers des candidatures ont été désignées par acclamation. Lorsqu’ilyaeucompétition,58 p. 100 n’opposaient que deux personnes. Comme le soulignaient Norris, Carty, Erickson,Lovenduski et Simms (1990), l’homogénéité des membres du Parlement (notamment entermes de sexe) me porte à croire que « [i]f this is not what selectors explicitly seek, it iscertainly what they normally get. » (p. 241)4. La Fédération des femmes du Québec faisait la même recommandation dans son mémoireprésenté à la Commission; cf. Maillé 1990d.5. Ceci, dans le contexte d’un processus de sélection des candidatures fortement décentraliséau sein des partis politiques fédéraux, comme souligné plus haut.6. Par comparaison, c’est en 1921 qu’est élue une première représentante en provenance d’unecirconscription de l’Ontario, puis en 1935 venant du Territoire du Yukon, en 1940 de laSaskatchewan, en 1941 de l’Alberta, en 1961 de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, en 1962 desTerritoires du Nord-Ouest, en 1963 du Manitoba, en 1964 du Nouveau-Brunswick et en1965 de la Colombie-Britannique. Cf. Bibliothèque du Parlement 1992.7. Les femmes ont acquis le droit de vote aux élections provinciales en 1916 (Manitoba,Saskatchewan et Alberta), en 1917 (Colombie-Britannique et Ontario), en 1918 (Nouvelle-Écosse), en 1919 (Nouveau-Brunswick), en 1922 (Île-du-Prince-Édouard) et en 1925(Terre-Neuve).8. C’est en 1967 qu’une première députée entre à la législature du Nouveau-Brunswick et en1970 à celle de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard. Pourtant, dans toutes les autres législaturesprovinciales du Canada une femme fut députée avant 1961 (soit en 1917 en Alberta, en 1918en Colombie-Britannique, en 1919 en Saskatchewan, en 1920 au Manitoba, en 1930 à Terre-Neuve, en 1943 en Ontario et en 1960 en Nouvelle-Écosse).9. On peut apprécier la teneur de l’opposition des élites cléricales et politiques à la participationdes Québécoises à la vie politique en consultant Jean (1974) et Lamoureux (1989).10. De nombreuses modifications à la carte électorale sont survenues au cours de la période1945-1993, rendant d’autant plus difficile le dénombrement des sièges du Québec.L’évolution historique des frontières d’une circonscription a donc été retracée à l’aide dedocuments internes produits par la Bibliothèque du Parlement canadien et qui faitl’historique de chaque circonscription électorale québécoise; cf. Bibliothèque du Parlement1982.11. Dans sa composition, la variable du statut ne tient pas compte du phénomène des« candidatures-vedettes ». La première raison en est qu’il s’agit d’un type de candidaturerelativement restreint en termes de nombres; plus souvent, ce sont des personnes plus oumoins imposées par la ou le chef du parti aux organisations locales. La seconde raison tient àla difficulté de définir ce qu’est une candidature-vedette: difficulté dans le temps (peut-ondéfinir de la même façon une telle candidature en 1945 — en supposant que ce phénomèneexistait — et en 1993?), mais aussi difficulté en termes de source (qui détermine qu’unecandidature est « vedette » : la ou le chef du parti et sa direction nationale, les exécutifslocaux, les médias ou l’opinion publique?). En fait, il me semble que ce phénomène descandidatures-vedettes, sans être ici complètement ignoré, devrait faire l’objet de réflexionssérieuses dans un proche avenir.12. Une personne a pu être élue plus d’une fois. Par ailleurs, cette faible proportion descandidates élues par rapport aux candidats élus s’explique par une concentration de celles-làdans les tiers-partis ou comme candidates indépendantes. En effet, si on désigne commegrand parti le PLC et le PC au cours de la période 1945-1958, puis le PLC, le PC et le Créditsocial de 1962 à 1979, le PLC et le PC de 1980 à 1988, finalement le PLC, le PC et le Bloc75


IJCS / RIÉCquébécois (BQ) en 1993, on s’aperçoit que seulement 28,1 p. 100 des 562 candidates se sontprésentées sous les couleurs d’un parti majeur.13. En effet, alors qu’il n’y a jamais eu plus de trois candidates libérales et conservatrices àdéfendre les couleurs du Québec à une élection générale avant 1972, cette année là elles sontsept.14. Ces principaux partis sont le PC, le PLC, le NPD, le Ralliement des créditistes/le Créditsocial (RC/CS), enfin le BQ. Au contraire des tiers partis, ceux-ci ont tous fait élire au moinsune personne à Ottawa au cours de la période à l’étude, que ce soit à une élection générale oupartielle.15. Pour les fins de l’analyse, les partis ont été codés selon le nombre de candidates et candidatsqu’ils ont fait élire aux Communes depuis 1945, soit : la valeur«1»pour le Nouveau Partidémocratique du Canada, «2»pour le Bloc québécois, «3»pour le Ralliement descréditistes/le Crédit social,«4»pour le Parti progressiste-conservateur du Canada et«5»pour le Parti libéral du Canada.16. Pour les fins de l’analyse, les codes de cette variable varient de 0 à 99. Ainsi, la valeur«1»aété attribuée si la candidate ou le candidat du même parti dans la même circonscription aobtenu entre 1 et 1 000 votes à l’élection précédente,«2»sielle ou il a obtenu entre 1 001 et 2000 votes et ainsi de suite.17. Dans ce cas, j’ai repris pour l’essentiel la codification effectuée par Hunter et Denton (1984)et décrite à la page 399 de leur article.18. Le tableau suivant présente l’effet de chaque variable indépendante sur le nombre des votesobtenus (variable dépendante) et la proportion de la variance expliquée pour chacune d’elles.D’autres variables n’ont pas été retenues (comme le nombre des adversaires en présence etleur position après le décompte des votes) parce que trop peu significatives.Femmes et hommes (R 2 ) Femmes (R 2 ) Hommes (R 2 )Sexe -92* (,000) Nil NilParti politique 2 875 (,238) 3 598 (,346) 2 859 (,232)Statut des adversaires 2 104 (,253) 3 737 (,315) 2 048 (,255)Vote antérieur 542 (,285) 400 (,144) 557 (,304)Compétitivité 1 792 (,180) 2 054 (,124) 1 784 (,188)* Un résultat négatif indique que les femmes obtiennent moins de votes que les hommes.19. Au Parti libéral, 18 911 votes pour les candidates contre 15 675 votes pour les candidats, auParti conservateur 13 218 votes pour elles contre 8 891 votes pour eux et au Bloc québécois29 517 votes pour les femmes contre 24 136 votes pour les hommes.20. Notamment au Parti conservateur, pour les femmes la corrélation est de 0,204 et pour leshommes de - 0,048. Au Ralliement des créditistes/Crédit social, les corrélations respectivessont de 0,362 et 0,229 et au Nouveau Parti démocratique de - 0,593 et - 0,392.21. Pour les femmes, la corrélation est alors de 0,379 et pour les hommes de 0,551.22. Soit une corrélation de - 0,29 pour les femmes et de 0,089 pour les hommes.23. Ce qui m’amène d’ailleurs à croire qu’il serait important que des recherches futuress’appliquent à cerner de quelle façon sont perçues les candidatures féminines au sein desorganisations locales.24. Dans cet esprit, pourquoi ne pas penser à l’établissement de banques de ressources humaines« au féminin » dans les partis politiques, au sein desquelles les organisations localespourraient puiser lors de leur recherche de candidates « compétentes ». En outre, la mise enplace d’une politique de quotas inciterait les femmes à se présenter, sachant qu’elles auraientdes chances d’être sélectionnées en raison même des quotas.BibliographieADAMSON, Nancy, Linda BRISKIN and Margaret McPHAIL (1988), Feminist Organizing forChange. The Contemporary Women’s Movement in Canada, Toronto, Oxford UniversityPressBASHEVKIN, Sylvia B. (1993), Toeing the Lines. Women and Party Politics in English Canada,Toronto, Oxford University Press76


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IJCS / RIÉCMAILLÉ, Chantal (1990c), « Le vote des Québécoises aux élections fédérales et provincialesdepuis 1921: une assiduité insoupçonnée », Recherches féministes, 3, 1: 83-95MAILLÉ, Chantal (1990d), Mémoire de la Fédération des femmes du Québec à la Commissionroyale sur la réforme électorale et le financement des partis, Montréal, Fédération desfemmes du QuébecMcALLISTER, Ian (1992), Political Behaviour: Citizens, Parties and Elites, Melbourne,Longman CheshireNORRIS, Pippa (1993), « Conclusions: Comparing Legislative Recruitment » dans JoniLOVENDUSKI et Pippa NORRIS (sous la direction), Gender and Party Politics, London,Sage: 309-330NORRIS, Pippa, R. J. CARTY, Lynda ERICKSON, Joni LOVENDUSKI et Marian SIMMS(1990), « Party Selectorates in Australia, Britain and Canada: Prolegomena for Research inthe 1990s », Journal of Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, 28, 2: 219-245NORRIS, Pippa et Joni LOVENDUSKI (1989), « Pathways to Parliament », Talking Politics,1,3:90-94PELLETIER, Réjean et Manon TREMBLAY (1992), « Les femmes sont-elles candidates dansdes circonscriptions perdues d’avance? De l’examen d’une croyance », Revue canadiennede science politique, 25, 2: 249-267RASMUSSEN, Jorgen S. (1983), « The Electoral Costs of Being a Woman in the 1979 BritishGeneral Election », Comparative Politics, 15, 4: 461-475RINEHART, Sue Tolleson (1992), Gender Consciousness and Politics, New York, RoutledgeSCOTT, Joan (1988), « Genre: Une catégorie utile d’analyse historique », Les cahiers du Grif,37/38: 125-153SINEAU, Mariette (1988), Des femmes en politique, Paris, EconomicaSOMMA, Mark (1992), « The Gender Gap and Attitudes Towards Economic DevelopmentStrategies Among Midwestern Adults », Women & Politics, 12, 2: 41-57STUDLAR, Donley T. et Richard E. MATLAND (1994), « The Growth of Women’sRepresentation in the Canadian House of Commons and the Election of 1984: AReappraisal », Canadian Journal of Political Science, 27, 1: 53-79STUDLAR, Donley T. et Ian McALLISTER (1991), « Political Recruitment to the AustralianLegislature: Toward an Explanation of Women’s Electoral Disadvantages », WesternPolitical Quarterly, 44, 2: 467-485STUDLAR, Donley T., Ian McALLISTER et Alvaro ASCUI (1988), « Electing Women to theBritish Commons: Breakout from the Beleaguered Beachhead? », Legislative StudiesQuarterly, 13, 4: 515-528TARDY, Évelyne et al. (1982), La politique: un monde d’hommes? Une étude sur les mairessesau Québec, Montréal, Hurtubise HMHTREMBLAY, Manon (1994), « Les opinions des nouvelles et des nouveaux politologuesfrancophones concernant les rôles des femmes et des hommes en politique », Revuequébécoise de science politique, 26: 103-159TREMBLAY, Manon (1993), « Gender and Society: Rights and Realities » dans David THOMAS(sous la direction), Canada and the United States: Differences that Count, Peterborough,Broadview Press: 271-300TREMBLAY, Manon et Réjean PELLETIER (1995), Que font-elles en politique?, Ste-Foy,Presses de l’Université LavalUnited Nations (Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs) (1992), Women inPolitics and Decision-Making in the Late Twentieth Century. A United Nations Study,Dordrecht, Martinus Nijhoff PublishersVICKERS, Jill McCalla (1978), « Where Are the Women in Canadian Politics? », Atlantis. AWomen’s Studies Journal/Journal d’études sur la femme, 3, 2 (Part II): 40-51VICKERS, Jill, Pauline RANKIN et Christine APPELLE (1993), Politics As if Women Mattered.A Political Analysis of the National Committee on the Status of Women, Toronto, Universityof Toronto PressVICKERS, Jill McCalla et M. Janine BRODIE (1981), « Canada » dans Joni LOVENDUSKI etJill HILLS (sous la direction), The Politics of the Second Electorate. Women and PublicParticipation, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul: 66-74YOUNG, Lisa (1991), « L’incidence du taux de roulement des députés sur l’élection de femmes àla Chambre des communes » dans Kathy MEGYERY (sous la direction), Les femmes et lapolitique canadienne. Pour une représentation équitable, Montréal, Wilson & Lafleur: 89-109 (Volume 6 de la collection d’études de la Commission royale sur la réforme électorale etle financement des partis)78


Les femmes, des candidates moins performantesque les hommes?AnnexeValeurs attribuées aux modalités de la variable nommée « statut plus »Définitions des modalités de la variable « statut plus »Les néophytes : Candidates ou candidats qui n’étaient pasmembres du Parlement au moment de sa dissolution. Ellesou ils affrontent une héritière ou un héritier ou, encore, unepersonne membre du Parlement précédent.Les égalitaires : Candidates ou candidats qui n’étaient pasmembres du Parlement au moment de sa dissolution et quiaffrontent des adversaires qui ne l’étaient pas non plus. Cespersonnes se confrontent dans une circonscriptionnouvellement formée, de telle sorte qu’aucune n’hérite d’unsiège remporté à l’élection précédente par le parti dont elleporte les couleurs.Les héritières et héritiers : Candidates ou candidats quin’étaient pas membres du Parlement au moment de sadissolution et qui affrontent des adversaires qui ne l’étaientpas non plus. L’avantage de ce statut est d’hériter du siègeremporté par son parti à l’élection précédente dans cettecirconscription.Les parlementaires : Candidates ou candidats qui étaientmembres du Parlement au moment de sa dissolution.Valeurs123479


Nelda K. PearsonWomen’s Leadership Styles and Empowerment: ACase Study of a Canadian Farm Women’sMovement 1AbstractAs the New World Economy’s down-sizing continues, regions andcommunities in the GSeven World confront the need to develop alternativestrategies to top-down development. These strategies require a leadershipstyle that empowers indigenous people to solve local economic problems usinglocal talent and resources. Women’s grassroots groups are an excellentsource for observing these alternate styles. Using Belenky’s Women’s Way ofKnowing, we analyze the style differences of the first two leaders of aCanadian grassroots farm women’s movement, Women for the Survival ofAgriculture. Our findings show that the connected, empathic, conciliatory andinclusive leadership style tends to be more empowering than the moretraditional, adversarial style. These findings have implications both for socialmovement theory and community leadership training.RésuméAu fur et à mesure que la nouvelle économie mondiale continue à êtrerationalisée, les régions et les communautés du Groupe des sept doivent faireface à la nécessité de créer de nouvelles stratégies pour trouver des solutionsau développement dont les décisions proviennent de la haute gestion. Cesstratégies requièrent un style de leadership qui donne pleins pouvoirs à lapopulation locale, dotée des talents et des ressources nécessaires pourrésoudre les problèmes économiques de leur communauté. Les groupespopulaires, plus précisément les groupes de femmes, constituent un excellentmodèle pour observer ce type de style. En se servant du livre de Belenky,Women’s Way of Knowing, l’article analyse les différences de styles entre lesdeux premières chefs d’un regroupement de fermières canadiennes, « Womenfor the Survival of Agriculture ». Les résultats indiquent qu’un style deleadership où la chef est compréhensive, conciliatrice, en contact avec la baseet inclut les autres est plus apte au partage du pouvoir qu’un style où la chef estplus traditionnelle et antagoniste. Ces résultats ont des conséquences sur ledomaine des théories des mouvements sociaux et sur la formation des chefs degroupes populaires.As the global economy continues to down-size (Brecher and Costello, 1994),more and more communities in the GSeven countries will turn towardcommunity economic development as an alternative to competing for majorcorporations as a source of employment. Community economic developmentis a strategy of underdeveloped countries and requires an approach unfetteredInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCby the formalization, professionalization and routinization typical of complexorganizations and bureaucracies. It demands a way of defining economicdevelopment that motivates and empowers people to solve their own problemsusing their own resources with little dependence on experts and professionals.(GATT-Fly, 1983; Freire, 1970; Lederach, 1992) It also requires a differentstyle of leadership. Our case study looks at one grassroots movement and howits leaders’ “ways of knowing” affected their style of leadership and theirability to empower others.A quick look at Women for the Survival of Agriculture (WSA) presents aglowing picture of success. Here is a grassroots farm women’s organizationthat started in a small farming community in Eastern Ontario in 1975 and hasspread to every province. It has completed four farm studies, participated ininnumerable projects and political actions and was the primary organizer offour of six national farm women’s conferences: Ottawa, 1980; Charlottetown,PEI, 1985; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1987; St. John, New Brunswick, 1989.This was all done with no national executive committee, no ongoing source ofmoney and no paid staff. WSA has been a dramatically successful grassroots,community-based organization developed by farm women for farm womenand the family farm.However, deeper probing of all materials, including WSA newsletters since1975 2 (there were no minutes kept of meetings), interviews with key actorsbeginning in 1984, 3 especially “Dotty Harris” the founding mother of WSAand “Dede Morris” the second president of the “home” chapter, as well as overone hundred interviews with WSA members in all ten provinces, andparticipant observation at three of the six national farm women’s conferences,suggests a much more complex picture. (Although all leaders in this group aresemi-public figures, the names used in this article are fictitious.) Using thismaterial, we will analyze how leadership style has affected this grassrootsmovement.EmpowermentEmpowerment is a concept widely used in women’s and economicdevelopment literature and/or participatory community developmentliterature, although it has not been clearly defined nor operationalized. Moser,in her review of Third World policy approaches to development, articulates anempowerment model without defining it. According to Moser, empoweringgroups “are committed to empower women and [have] a concern to reject rigidbureaucratic structures in favor of non-hierarchical open structures.” (Moser,1993:79) Braidotti, et al. discuss the “acquisition of subjectivity” asempowerment through “the living process of transformation of self and other.”(Braidotti, et al., 1994, 81) This rejection of women as other and object is alsoraised by Vella:The principle behind the theme of the AWID conference is that eachwoman, each person, is a subject in her own life. People are notcreated to be objects. We are made to be subjects, decision makers, inour own lives. (Vella, 1993:105)84


Women’s Leadership Styles and EmpowermentAll of these approaches derive from a non-western tradition and blendecofeminism (Shiva, 1989; Meis and Shiva, 1993), feminist science (Harding,1986; Fox-Keller, 1985), post-modern feminism (Haraway, 1991), AfricanAmerican feminism (Collins, 1990) and popular liberation education (Freiri,1970), all of which reject Euro-American thinking as a “monoculture of themind” that destroys both biodiversity and cultural diversity, oppressingwomen, people of colour, tribals, manual workers and nature. (See especiallyMeis and Shiva, 1993)Participatory development literature also tends to use empowerment as anunderstood concept and primarily concentrates on ways to be empowered. TheNational Women’s Training Sourcebook (1993) discusses the importance of agroup or individual being able “to articulate, discover, or reclaim theirparticular vision” (Ibid., 31) and sets up exercises to “voice” the dreams andvisions of neighbourhood women. This manual also critiques the approach ofprofessional women who use a more traditional, “top-down”learning/teaching approach such as a) deciding for grassroots women whatshould be done, b) fixing problems without teaching how to fix them, c) havinginflexible viewpoints and thinking things can only be done one way, d) beingarrogant, pulling rank and not being able to take criticism, and e) being blind toand failing to use grassroots women’s expertise. (Ibid., 137) Hope and Timmel(1984), in their three-volume training manual, Training for Transformation,make clear that no education is neutral, that all education either “domesticates”or “liberates,” and that their DELTA project listens, respects and affirms allparticipants’ ideas and feelings in an elicitive model of learning. Bookman andMorgan (1988), in their book Women and the Politics of Empowerment, alsodo not define empowerment but state in their introduction:...empowerment begins when they [women] change their ideas aboutthe causes of their powerlessness, when they recognize the systemicforces that oppress them, and when they act to change the conditionsof their lives. (Ibid., 4)The statement which best articulates the concept of empowerment is an articlefrom a discussion of Israeli and Palestinian women:Women experience others having power over them as women and asmembers of oppressed communities, but they seek to empowerthemselves. They want this sense of empowerment to be “powerwith”; power with other women, power with men, power with othernational groups with whom they are in conflict....The goal of empowerment is to help the weaker party become awareand utilize the power that it does have, in order to equalize therelationship and transform the nature of the conflict. (Bernards1993:199-200)The components of empowerment identified from this discussion are: a)voicing the silenced, b) owning one’s own vision, c) facilitating selftransformationfrom object to subject, reactive to proactive, acted upon toagent of action d) creating autonomy, e) raising self-esteem, and f) developinga person committed to reconciliation, inclusivity and consensus-building85


IJCS / RIÉCwhile allowing for diversity. The group structure which best allows this issmall and informal, where the leader plays the role of facilitator to the voice ofthe participants, listening respectfully to ideas and feelings, and affirming thevalidity of the experience and vision of the participants.The ProblemOne of the primary problems of grassroots leadership is burnout among keyleaders as the movement grows and takes on new challenges. (Pearson, 1993)Leaders must recruit, empower and train new grassroots leaders asreplacements while they are leading the movement. The type of groupidentified above tends to disappear as a movement grows larger and becomesmore task-oriented. Limiting group size is obviously one way to continue toempower (Gilman, 1993), although this would ultimately defeat the purpose ofa grassroots group concerned with political action. Another solution is tomaintain leaders whose style empowers others. Our discussion of leadershipstyle and ways of knowing will take place within the constraints toempowerment inherent in a movement that becomes larger and more taskoriented.Theoretical Background and Belenky’s ParadigmMuch of the literature on social movements over the past twenty years hasfocused on resource mobilization. (Mueller, 1992) Recently, more interest hascentred on how individuals come to be identified with and remain involved insocial movements. However, the research has placed little emphasis on thedifferences between men’s and women’s way of becoming identified with amovement. Most literature that has dealt with women’s participation hasconcentrated on their role as wife and mother, i.e., their status derived fromtheir relationship to men, and has ignored their class, race and occupationalposition as variables that relate to their belief that they can bring about change.(Morgen and Bookman, 1988) In addition, research has not examined whethera gender difference affects how and why women lead, although it is debated insustainable development literature. (ECOFEM@csf. colorado.edu, 1994)As discussed above, a key issue in community economic development isempowerment, the awareness that one personally has the capacity to create amovement and/or participate as a leader in a movement to solve a problem.Women are frequently not empowered because they believe, or have been ledto believe, that they have no power to obtain the resources to solve problems oreven if they had those resources that they lack the ability to use themeffectively. (Schaef, 1985) Given the stereotype of farm women this is eventruer for them. Farm women are less likely to believe that they can bring aboutchange due to their continued stereotyping by urban society as less thancompetent. They are seen as less sophisticated, less well educated, and moretraditional. (“Farm Women through...,” Manitoba Co-ordinator, April 11,1985; Rosenfeld, 1985)Belenky, et al. (1985) produced a developmental model helpful in examininghow women become empowered. This model sees women moving in stagestoward a mastery of the world wherein more and more the locus of control is86


Women’s Leadership Styles and Empowermentinternal to themselves. It specifically addresses how women come to relate toan authority structure that is patriarchal both in terms of who holds authorityand its andrologocentric view of reality which stresses hierarchy, meritocracy,linearity, rationality and objectivity. (Mies and Shiva, 1993) A key point of hermodel is that women, unlike men, maintain a connectedness to others, i.e.,have a sense of the common good which remains unchanged by their sense ofmastery and empowerment. Whether this assumption is essentialistic or asocial construction is left moot by Belenky, and since discussions in theAfrican American culture suggest similar connectedness for both men andwomen (bell hooks [sic] and West, 1991; Collins, 1990), we assume that this isa social construction (for a discussion of essentialism vs. social constructionon gender see Biehl, 1991). This connectedness contrasts with the rationalactor assumption of most of mobilization theories which, based on theandrologocentric worldview, assume that most people act on self interest(Ferree, 1992), rather than the common good.Although her analysis grows out of Gilligan’s (1985) comparison of men andwomen in the U.S., and overlooks the tendency for both sexes in the U.S. to bemore individualistic in their thinking than Canadians, who are more concernedwith the common good (Lipset, 1985), it nonetheless applies to Canadianwomen given their status in Canadian society. (The World’s Women, 1991)Belenky expanded on Gilligan by pointing out that women’s historicalposition in society has shaped this connectedness in various ways dependingon the individual woman’s experience. Belenky’s paradigm moves from thelevel one, silence, in seven steps to the final level, constructed knowledge. Thefirst two levels, silence and received knowledge, describe women’s limitedknowing due to the oppression of the patriarchal authority structure. Women atthese levels deny their potential to be empowered. The third and fourth levelsinclude subjective knowledge. Here “truth and knowledge are conceived of aspersonal, private and subjectively known or intuited.” (Belenky, 1986:15)These women become empowered and gradually move from anger anddistrust of all external authority to beginning to trust what they hearsubjectively and placing it within the broader framework of externalknowledge.At the level of procedural knowledge, women become involved in “learningand applying objective procedures for obtaining and communicatingknowledge.” (Belenky, 1985, 15) At this level, there are two different kinds ofprocedural knowers. The connected procedural knower depends on personalexperience rather than pronouncements of authorities, has a capacity forempathy, can see a lot of different points of view at the same time, tends towant to understand what circumstances led others to think the way they do,sees personal experience as adding to perception, and believes that the diversepersonalities of a group enrich the group’s understanding. The connectedknower tends to criticize the system but has not reached the point where shecan question the andrologocentric premises of the system. Belenky contraststhe connected knower with the separatist procedural knower, who is muchmore critical and adversarial while accepting the pronouncements of authorityif it is based on pure reason and/or empirical data. (Belenky,1986:95 im87


IJCS / RIÉCpassem) The connected knower rejects the hierarchical, linear, objectiverational worldview of patriarchy as not so much wrong as limiting. Theseparatist masters this worldview and uses it either to her personal ends or forwhat she sees as the common good.Women in these two categories are empowered but in very different ways.Although both types of women use procedure, the connected knower issuccessful because of her empathic links to others, while the separatist issuccessful because she can make the procedure “work for her.” The connectedknower tends to empower others while the separatist tends to use herknowledge as power over others to get the job done as she has defined it.Belenky concludes with the final way of knowing, the constructed knowerwho transforms knowledge and is capable of being a “servant leader.”(Greenleaf, 1977)It is tempting to see this as a hierarchy, and Belenky and her coauthors oftenwrite as though it were. The intention of the authors is to see different styles asmerely differences in order to articulate these differences. When we link thesestyles to leadership, it is also tempting to see one style as better than another. Inour discussion, the point is not to decide which is “right” but which is moreappropriate to the task at hand. From the description, the connected knower ismore affirming and person-oriented while the separatist knower is more taskoriented.In our analysis of WSA and its leaders, we found the primary struggle to bebetween connected procedural leaders and separatist procedural leaders.We also found that group members in denial (silence or received knowledge)or angry (subjective knowledge) had difficulty participating in the movement.The impact of connected vs. separatist ways of knowing on leadership styleand the organization is the focus of this analysis.WSA: A Brief HistoryDotty Harris, the wife of a beef feed lot farmer in Winchester, Dundas County,Ontario (thirty-five miles south of Ottawa), initiated a new farm women’sorganization in 1975. A regular attender of the Ontario Farmer’s Association,Ms. Harris was struck that only one other woman attended regularly. At thesame time, Ms. Harris had been writing letters to the editors of variousnewspapers to protest articles that suggested farmers were getting rich off the“poor” consumer.Ms. Harris addressed both the issue of farm costs and the low visibility of farmwomen in a letter to the editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail dated November16, 1974. 4 This letter echoes the main theme of Ms. Harris’ early messagewhich was that a) urban consumers were misinformed about farm life and foodproduction, b) farm costs were “crippling the farmer” and c) farm wivesneeded a greater voice in farm policy and more recognition by both the farmingcommunity and the urban consumer.In mid-March of 1975, Ms. Harris signed up twenty potential members forWSA at an Ontario Federation of Agriculture banquet and dance in Dundas.Her position had obviously struck a chord with farm women.88


Women’s Leadership Styles and EmpowermentWSA started with a strong emphasis on public/political action and wasmisread as a strident radical group of “marching mothers.” In fact, the headlinein the April 22, 1975 Farm and Country states “Women form militant farmgroup.” However, the call for the May 1975 WSA meeting presents asomewhat more benign picture. The goals of WSA are stated as follows:1. To be aware and informed of all aspects of farming so wecan effectively support our men in agriculture.2. Open the lines of communication between the farmer andthe public, to seek ways and means of creating a betterunderstanding of farming, its work, its influence and itsproblems to all people.3. To take a stand on critical issues which affect us.4. To defend our way of life.5. To tell of the vital role women play in agriculture.6. To form a network of women for agriculture across thecountry so we can speak with one voice on issues that affectus all.(“W.S.A. Plans Meeting ...,” Winchester Press, May 1,1975, no page number)From the very beginning, Ms. Harris worked to keep WSA and its message inthe public eye. WSA was involved in eleven activities in 1975 includinglobbying, putting together the WSA newsletter (edited by Dotty Harris), letterwriting, grant writing, and networking with other farm groups. These projectsand activities generated over thirty-three newspaper articles in everythingfrom Farm and Country to the Globe and Mail.By 1976, WSA was receiving national recognition and was featured on CBCTelevision’s hour-long show Platform. However, the number of new projectsdwindled. In 1976, WSA concentrated on only four activities and generatedfewer newspaper articles (twenty-two). Only three newspaper articles weregenerated in 1977 and eight in 1978. Only four newsletters exist for 1977 andtwo for 1978. There are no annual reports. The May 1978 newsletter (the lastfor that year) starts with Ms. Harris’ usual positive style. “The past two monthshave been significant for WSA. Farm leaders and publishers have contacted ussaying `you have earned recognition in the farm community...you have a tigerby the tail, don’t let go’” (page one). She then devotes over half of thenewsletter to encouraging members to participate. During this period of slowdown,Ms. Harris initiated many leadership workshops to encourage morefarm women to take roles of responsibility in the group. By 1979 this tacticbore fruit.The January 1979 newsletter, now edited by L. D., spells out five goals forWSA, making it very clear that WSA needed more support from all members.That year, Dede Morris also became extremely active as Education Coordinatorand initiated several courses/workshops at Kemptville. AlthoughMs. Harris remained as president of WSA until 1984, when Ms. Morris tookover, she now had two extremely dedicated workers who took responsibilityfor two major time consumers: the newsletter and the education program. The89


IJCS / RIÉCaddition of these two colleagues altered the direction of WSA and the “tone” ofthe organization.The years from 1979-1984 were years of steady expansion. More WSAchapters were formed in the ten provinces. Ms. Harris continued to travel andpromote her vision while Ms. Morris worked at home on the expandingeducational program. L. D., the newsletter editor, expanded its format. Thenewsletter was still primarily filled with WSA news, but now includedinformation from relevant articles in other publications, listings of meetings ofother groups and compilation of statistics. Most importantly, it frequentlyreferred to the activities of WSA chapters in other provinces. The mailing listincluded members of WSA in all other chapters. Winchester’s newsletter wasthe co-ordinating link among the various independent chapters.The First National Farm Women’s Conference was planned by WSA and tookplace in December 1980 in Ottawa. This conference was an invigoratingmoment for farm women. For the first time, women from across Canada weremeeting and asking to be recognized as partners in the family farm. Theconference was both a celebration of the identity of these women as co-farmerswith their husbands, brothers, fathers and a sharing of common concerns. Atthis point, a big part of Ms. Harris’ vision was realized; the recognition ofwomen as co-farmers and not as “merely” farm wives.D. R. replaced L.D. as newsletter editor in 1982 and the newsletter becamesystematically more formal, more dependent on other sources for information,more statistics-based, and less likely to report either local or national WSAnews in depth. At times, the newsletter read (and still reads) very much like a“reader’s digest” of agricultural news and information. While the newsletterprovided a plethora of technical information, personal WSA stories illustratingthe data were less frequent. The newsletter was no longer a primary source ofinformation about WSA and its members, and no longer worked to link thechapters together.The farm crisis hit Ontario badly in 1983-1984. This pushed Ms. Harris harderto try to fulfill her vision of a national farm women’s organization officiallyrecognized and funded by the federal government. Planning began for theSecond National Farm Women’s Conference. In the midst of this planning,Ms. Harris turned the presidency over to Dede Morris. Ms. Harris had a varietyof reasons for doing this including burn-out and a need to plan her and herhusband’s retirement, but mostly she thought it was time. She felt that WSAhad become too dependent on her leadership and she wanted to empower morewomen. She had personally chosen Dede Morris as her successor due to Ms.Morris’ competence and dedication as educational co-ordinator. Ms. Harrishad also identified another young woman as the likely person to start trainingas Ms. Morris’ vice president. (Interviews, 1985)The Second, Third and Fourth Farm Women’s conferences saw increasingfactionalization, politicalization and acrimony. The Second NationalConference in 1985, through the use of grassroots work groups, developed theidea of creating a national farm women’s network. At the Third NationalConference in 1987, the network was established and C. Y. from90


Women’s Leadership Styles and EmpowermentNewfoundland WSA was selected as president. At the Fourth NationalConference in 1989, a constitution was adopted for the network. However, ateach conference, the attempt to maintain an inclusive grassroots atmospherediminished.At the Second National conference, work groups were facilitated by neutralfacilitators trained to illicit the opinions of all group members and develop aninclusive, consensual statement from the conference for the federal Minister ofAgriculture. By the Fourth Conference, the groups were headed by handpickeddelegates in order to control and shape debate in the direction ofacceptance of the constitution (discussed below).Despite efforts at the Second Conference to maintain an inclusiveparticipatory democracy approach, political struggles emerged. The splitprimarily concerned WSA, Women’s Institute, National Farmer’s Union andthe Quebec delegation, Comité des fermières de l’Union des producteursagricoles. A further divisive element was the regional coalitions: the prairieprovinces, the maritimes and a coalition of BC and Newfoundland formedthrough Ms. Harris’ intervention (discussed below), with Ontario and Quebeceach standing alone. These groups caucused privately and worked across thediscussion groups created for the conference. Many did not want a neworganization. Ms. Harris developed the idea of a network of organizations.This compromise was accepted.By 1987, at the Third National Farm Women’s Conference in Saskatoon, thepolitical lines were fairly clearly drawn. The recommendation that the federalgovernment sanction and support a national farm women’s network was themain issue of the conference. Opponents maintained that a new organizationwas redundant in light of existing organizations, such as Women’s Instituteand National Farmer’s Union. WSA leadership (but not all members)maintained that no one organization spoke for farm women across Canada.They pointed out that although WSA existed in all provinces, it lacked a centraloffice and although Ms. Harris had been seen as the national leader she had infact only been the president of Ontario WSA. They raised the issue that untilthere was one national organization, funding from the federal governmentwould remain problematic. This was countered with debate as to whether theformation of the new organization was really just funding-driven. Manydelegates feared that the new network would constitute a new organization andthat the primary motivation was funding. (Interviews 1987) Although therewere several programs and speakers, everyone knew the real issue was thevote. Ms. Harris reiterated the phrase — a network not a new organization. Thenetwork was formed and C. Y., the WSA president from Newfoundland, waschosen to head it.At this conference, Ms. Harris kept a lower profile and spoke frequently of herconcern that much of the opposition to the national network came from thosewho thought she was getting “too big for her britches” and that she was a “glorygrabber.” She limited her presence on the floor of the conference, using herinfluence in private conversations or by working through Ontario delegates,and spoke of becoming inactive in WSA. (Interviews,1987)91


IJCS / RIÉCThe second and third conferences made a very clear point with regard to therole of Dotty Harris and Dede Morris. Although both were “only” the presidentof Ontario WSA, Ms. Harris was seen as the national leader while Ms. Morriswas not. At both the 1985 and 1987 conferences, Ms. Harris was more of apolitical force than Ms. Morris. This changed by 1989 at the Fourth NationalConference.Ms. Harris did not attend the 1989 conference in St. John, New Brunswick.This conference was much more clearly a convention for the purpose ofratifying a constitution for the newly formed network. Ontario WSA, at Ms.Morris’ behest, had hired a lawyer to write a constitution for the group.Although this was to be merely a “working paper” for discussion, it quicklybecame an adversarial issue.The constitution came to the floor for a vote. Several manoeuvres involvingRobert’s Rules of Order were made in an attempt to unseat some delegates andprevent the issue from coming to a vote. This move was viewed by WSAmembers as an attack on them and a misuse of the Rules of Order. A good dealof back-room politics and strategizing occurred, but not across groups. Thetone was definitely not conciliatory. Ms. Morris promoted this adversarialatmosphere in part by using the lawyer as the spokesperson for the constitutionrather than WSA delegates. When questions were raised, the lawyer tended toargue against the question rather than answering, much like a courtroom scene.In interviewing delegates from the various factions, it was clear that all felt theatmosphere to be very acrimonious and accused other groups of engaging inunfair tactics. The issue of the value of the constitution itself became mutedbehind the issue of “the way they (the other group) did things.” The phrases“shoving it down our throats” and “dirty politics” were used by all factions.Although the constitution was accepted, many delegates left feeling a gooddeal of ill will and vowing to never come back. Several delegates whom I knewvery well, and who had invited me in their homes while conducting myinterviews in the various provinces, now distanced themselves because I hadbeen seen “once too often with [Ms. Morris] and C. Y.” (Interviews, 1989)Dotty Harris’ “style” had enormous influence on the early years of WSA. Sheis the most prominent figure during the first four years of WSA in addition tobeing the founder. Although innumerable factors undoubtedly influence theevolution of an organization (and a broader more lengthy discussion of WSAwill look at these other factors), our analysis will examine how Ms. Harris’style shaped the first nine years. We will then examine how Dede Morris’ styleshaped the years 1984-1989 and conclude with a comparison.Dotty Harris’ StyleDotty Harris stressed: 1) promoting other women into leadership, 2) beingassertive yet conciliatory, and 3) being inclusive. Ms. Harris admits that for thefirst four years of WSA, she was the driving force. She also states that shewanted to include as many women as possible and was disappointed whenwomen did not move into positions of responsibility (telephone interview,December 1991). Evidence from the sixty-five newspaper articles from 1974-92


Women’s Leadership Styles and Empowerment1978 indicate that only twelve other WSA members were mentioned onlytwenty-three times. The newsletters are somewhat different. Ms. Harris clearlyattempted to involve as many members as possible and delegate as muchauthority as possible. While Dotty Harris was newsletter editor (1975-1979),twenty-five other WSA women were mentioned (excluding guest speakers,government officials, etc.) a total of fifty-three times, a rotating chair of themonthly meetings was initiated, activities such as “idea roads” were used todevelop both community spirit and empowerment, and authority wasdelegated to various committees for projects initiated by the membership.Dotty Harris personally empowered individuals. For example, she stronglysupported a very angry farm wife who had been abused as a child as the bestcandidate to run a shelter for battered women in Dundas County, a project ofWSA. E.R. was probably not the best candidate for the job based onprofessional skill, as Dotty Harris knew. She also knew that E.R. had been oneof the hardest workers in getting the shelter (a bitterly-fought communitybattle) and therefore in some sense “deserved” the position. She also believedthat E.R. would acquire the skills necessary to direct the shelter and thatsuccessfully running the shelter might “turn [E.R.] around.” Ms. Harris waswilling to work with her to cultivate these skills.Both C. Y. and W. McM., the PEI President, recounted the “very thorough”workshops Ms. Harris created for future leaders in WSA, including analysis ofbody language, dress style, general grooming, language and diction, attitude,general knowledge of the issues, and supporting data. W. McM. said: “Mydear, they look at everything, everything including what colors you wear.”(Interviews, 1985)An analysis of quotes from Dotty Harris in newspaper articles and in thenewsletter clearly shows that her vision of WSA and society is inclusive notexclusive. Although she would “speak the truth” for the farmer and farm life,she was always conciliatory. Repeatedly, she hit hard on misinformationperpetuated by government or consumer groups but always ended by placingthose groups on the “same side” of an issue.Ms. Harris characterized herself (February 1, 1991 telephone conversation) as“radical but conciliatory.” For example, although Ms. Harris had fought forrecognition of farm women as co-partners and was consequently labeled a“women’s libber” by the Globe and Mail, in the statement of WSA’s purposethe first item reads: “1. To be aware and informed of all aspects of farming sowe can effectively support our men in agriculture,” (emphasis added, “WSAplans...,” Winchester Press, May 1, 1985, no page number).In responding to criticisms by consumer groups, Ms. Harris took the sametough yet conciliatory approach. For example, in response to a newspapereditorial criticizing subsidies to farmers in her March 9, 1976 Globe and Mailarticle, Ms. Harris calls consumers a bunch of “spoiled brats” who benefit froma cheap food policy in Canada. However, she concluded “Those subsidieswhich you identify in your editorial are established for the benefit of lowincomeconsumers of this country,” (no page number). In other articles, shereturns to this theme and points out that low food costs help support a higher93


IJCS / RIÉCstandard of living for Canadians. Ms. Harris was convinced that once peopleunderstand an issue, they rally to the same side. “There are sympathetic peopleout there — they just have to be reached.” (Newsletter, May 1978, no pagenumber)I repeatedly saw Dotty Harris deal with people with skill and diplomacy. Oneexcellent example with far-reaching implications was the way she talked withthe Newfoundland delegation to the Second National Farm Woman’sConference in Charlottetown, PEI. The Newfoundlanders were attending forthe first time and having a hard time getting recognition for their unique farmproblems. Many other delegates took the attitude of “typical Newfies.”Caroline Young, the provincial co-ordinator from Newfoundland, came to mewith her concerns because I had spent several days with her in Lethbridge,Newfoundland the summer of 1985. I suggested that we discuss this with Ms.Harris. At a breakfast meeting, Ms. Harris listened carefully to C.Y.’s farmissues and her feelings of hurt. She then suggested that Newfoundland mightfind some common ground with British Columbia and proceeded to point outsome commonalties to her. This became the foundation of a coalition betweenBritish Columbia and Newfoundland that helped put C. Y. at the head of thenewly-formed National Farm Women’s Network in 1987.Ms. Harris’ style worked well in gaining WSA the support of the community,the media, other farm organizations and funding agencies. In the 1976 October12th Globe and Mail, Ms. Harris is summed up as follows:When [Dotty Harris] launched her Women for Survival ofAgriculture last year, reaction generally ranged from indifference toirritation.To some, [Dotty] and her association conjured up an image ofmilitant women’s libbers, marching to a well-intentioned but foolishdrummer.Others saw her WSA as a real nuisance. They felt her associationwould further fragment the farm voice.Well, the skeptics can relax: (a) [Dotty] is no “libber.” And (b) She’snot out to splinter the farm cause. (no page number)Dede Morris’ StyleDede Morris stresses: 1) mastery of formal knowledge, especially statistics, 2)development of formal structure, and 3) adversarial argumentation based onreason and logic. She is very skilled at gathering together data and building alogical, rational argument as to why her position or that of her group is the onlypossible position.In her newspaper column Farm and Country, she tackled serious social,economic and political issues relevant to the farm family. These included suchissues as husband and wife as co-owners and its impact on capital gains, theimpact of free trade on the Canadian farmer, federal funding and day care,parity, and the need for lobbying a new agricultural minister. Nowhere doesMs. Morris draw on stories either about her own farm and family or her94


Women’s Leadership Styles and Empowermentneighbours to stir our hearts. Her tone in print tends to be adversarial. Forexample with regard to farm foreclosures:Now bankers are no fools. They know they have been handed alollipop, and so unload they did. While the federal government wenton vacation, farm loans were called, and farmers were faced withforeclosure...Canadians have traditionally been naive in believing theirgovernment will protect them.(Farm and Country, Oct 22,1985 FL31)or parityWe had parity. We had prosperity. From 1942 to 1952 we felt theripple effect of legislated parity in the U.S. In 1953, the legislationwas scuttled and the result is a horror story of borrowing and debt:government, business, and personal debt. All this debt occurredbecause farmers were denied a fair price for their product.(Farm and Country, March 26, 1985 FL66)or family violenceFamily violence is on the upswing...None of the horrendous factsincludes the injuries and silent screams of the women and childrenwho are trapped with no money, no transportation and no means ofcommunicating with the authorities.(Farm and Country, February 26, 1985 FL 43)The reader is left with the feeling that there are unseen threats lurkingeverywhere and that no one, especially not the government, is sharing the load.Although Ms. Morris usually ends her column with a call to unity, a “we can doit if we all pull together” that call rests on an “it’s us vs. everyone else”argument.The most overt example of this adversarial style perceived by the author wasDede Morris’ handling of the political divisions at the Fourth NationalConference. At this time, she was the spearhead for the acceptance of theconstitution and she had enlisted C. Y. as her ally.Once again, work groups at the conference were formed but along highlypolitical lines. Group leaders were not neutral facilitators but hand-picked tolead the groups toward supporting the constitution. Several “problematic”delegates were put together in the same groups where the lawyer, Ms. Morrisand C. Y. could “shout down” (their words) their opposition. In the work groupI attended, the lawyer fielded most of the questions, and disagreement withratifying the constitution was not tolerated. Critics were silenced which led tothe “political manoeuvres” with Robert’s Rules of Order. This approach wastotally different from the consensual work groups of the Second NationalConference.C.Y. tended to reinforce Ms. Morris’ tactics of “shouting down” theopposition. C.Y. still stung from the lack of recognition that Newfoundlandhad gotten at the Second National Conference in 1985 confided to me herfeeling that the other provincial presidents were not taking her seriously. Shemade it clear that now that she “had the whip hand” she was going “get back95


IJCS / RIÉCsome of her own.” (Interview, 1989) Other women among the pro-ratificationdelegates also voiced a “we’re going to show them” attitude. When the vicepresident of the Ontario Farm Women’s Network urged a more benign view oftheir “opponents,” she was accused of disloyalty. Dede Morris did not worktoward reconciliation but used loyalty issues and pressure to create a votingblock.Dede Morris modeled her style at this conference after that of a “professional,”the lawyer, whose behaviour suited her background, namely, the legalisticadversarial structure of the courtroom and the corporate boardroom. She reliedon the lawyer to help strategize and orchestrate the ratification and used her tofield questions. The identities of both Dede Morris and C.Y. were closelyentwined in their recognition as the official head of their organizations andtherefore deserving of political loyalty. More than the final step in establishingthe network, ratification of the constitution reaffirmed their own self images asleaders and powerful “professional” women.Dotty Harris’ and Dede Morris’ “Way of Knowing”Dotty Harris is a connected knower. Her whole style revolves aroundacquiring information and being a “skillful” communicator. Ms. Harris is agreat believer in workshops for acquiring skills and encourages other womento acquire these skills. She works on the assumption that all women are capableand that it is simply a matter of finding the right technique to help them bloom.Ms. Harris sought the help of “professionals” from time to time but she neverbelieved they had “all the answers” or that a formal education was necessary inorder to accomplish her goals. Ms. Harris has no university education but sheused the research techniques common to the term paper. In all her letters, shebacked up every opinion with solid information. She also tended to includevery personal stories which brought those statistics to life.Ms. Harris is empathetic and willing to see all view points at the same time.Perhaps one of her great strengths as founder of WSA was to value everywoman who came to the meetings and to treat each one in such a way that they,too, believed in their value.Dotty Harris gave the women of WSA a sense of worth and value that theirfamily and community had denied them. However, her “way of knowing” wasquite different from most. She clearly felt that she had never empowered thewomen as fully as she could have. She mourned the fact that some womenwould take up a cause and work for it as “long as it benefited their family farm”but could not move beyond that.Dede Morris presents a very different way of knowing. Ms. Morris is a clearexample of a separatist knower. Under her leadership as Education Coordinatorand later as President of WSA (1984-1991), WSA took a differentdirection. She developed greater dependence on paid professionals such aslawyers, researchers and educators, and on statistics generated byprofessionals. This approach worked well for her as co-ordinator of educationfor WSA. Her courses at Kemptville College, where every winter she96


Women’s Leadership Styles and Empowermentorganized formal courses specific to the needs of farm women, were excellentand highly praised.However, it did not work so well in empowering other women. As we haveseen, her approach was adversarial. She tended to use the rules in order to win.This was very clear in the debate at the Fourth National Conference on whocould or could not vote. In this case, Robert’s Rules of Order were used not tofacilitate but to block debate, not to enfranchise everyone but to disenfranchisethose against the constitution.In my discussions with Dede Morris (interviews, 1989), she clearly did not seeher strategy as disempowering and in fact seemed unaware that her stylediffered from that of Dotty Harris. She was fulfilling Ms. Harris vision of aNational Farm Women’s network. That was what was important. In looking atDede Morris’ style, she seems to fit the management style developed by EltonMayo and described as a “masculine ethic” in the classic Men and Women ofthe Corporation. (Kanter, 1977) This masculine ethic elevates the traits oftough- mindedness, critical and analytic ability and cognitive superiority.(Ibid., 22) As Belenky points out, the separatist knower is elitist in thinking andwould rather exclude someone who should be included than include someonewho should not, based on this criterion of tough-mindedness. (Op cit, 104)ConclusionFrom the perspective of resource mobilization, the creation of the CanadianNational Farm Women’s Network was a wise move since it maximized accessto resources. How Dede Morris managed this accomplishment was irrelevant.In fact, some would argue that the ensuing dissent was empowering. (Flora andFlora, 1992) However, in the process, women who were once empowered by aless organized, centralized and legitimized organization were silenced andexcluded unless they changed their views and agreed with Dede Morris.According to our definition of empowerment, they were no longer beingempowered. Our case study suggests that the leadership style of separatistprocedural knowers is not transforming.However, the separatist knower is task-oriented, can make hard decisions andcan get the job done. Weber maintained that professionalizing, routinizing andrationalizing of a charismatic movement is inevitable and the hallmark of amodern formal organization. As an organization grows, someone like DedeMorris would inevitably have to “take charge.” Our case study suggests that“professionalizing” and “routinization and rationalization” tend to blockfurther empowerment and partly support the criticisms raised againstprofessionalism in The Neighborhood Women’s Sourcebook. We must ask thefollowing: does empowerment have to be sacrificed in order to formalize anorganization and thereby maximize access to resources?It is the author’s belief that Ms. Harris and Ms. Morris made a good team whenthey worked together. Without Ms. Morris, the highly successful educationalprogram would not have been developed. This program changed the lives ofmany farm women, giving them knowledge and skills that they greatly neededand deeply wanted. Dotty Harris needed Dede Morris to accomplish that goal.97


IJCS / RIÉCWithout Ms. Harris, empowerment disappeared from WSA’s leadershipagenda and the voicing of women’s visions fell silent. When Ms. Harris andMs. Morris worked together, they complemented each other.This leads to three further questions: 1) what style of leadership is mostappropriate for grassroots development, 2) must that style change as theorganization grows or is dual leadership possible, and 3) are women leadersmore typical of the empowering style of leading or is this style problematic forboth men and women in our routinized and rationalized andrologocentricculture? More research on the way of knowing of leaders of other groups thathave moved from grassroots to national organizations, such as the NationalCongress of Neighborhood Women and the National Coalition BuildingInstitute, is required to develop a workable model of development whichthreads its way between formalization and the lives of empowered women.Notes1. An earlier version of this paper covering only the years 1974-1979 was presented at the ThirdTriennial meeting of the Nordic Association of Canadian Studies in Turku, Finland, August1993.2. Funded by a grant from the Government of Canada, 1990 and a Radford UniversityFoundation Grant, 1990.3. Funded by grants from the Government of Canada, 1984 and 1985. All interviews weretaped with the permission and knowledge of the interviewee. Due to the author’s longassociation with this group the author’s research role tended to be forgotten. At nationalconferences, the author tended to be seen in the outsider role although she was a dues payingmember of WSA. This article has been read and/or discussed with leaders of WSA.4. Newspaper information came from clippings in the WSA Archives and usually had no pagenumber.Bibliography(Excluding articles written by “Dotty Harris” and “Dede Morris.”)Belenky, Mary Field, et al. 1986. Women’s Ways of Knowing (New York: Basic Books).bell hooks and West, Cornell. 1991. Breaking Bread. South End Press.Bernards, Reena. 1993. “Forging Across the Borders of Conflict: in Women at the Center, ed. byGay Young et al., Kumarian PressBiehl, Janet. 1991. Rethinking Ecofeminism, South End Press.Braidotti, Rosi, et al. 1994. Women, the Environment and Sustainable Development, ZED Books.Brecher, Jeremy and Tim Costello. 1994. Global Village or Global Pillage, South End Press.Collins, Patricia Hill. 1990. Black Feminist Thought, Routledge.ECOFEM@csf.colorado.edu. Archives, September 1994. Gopher to csf.colorado.edu or email toListerv@csf.colorado.edu and send message: get ecofem sep94.“Farm Women through the Eyes of Their City Sisters.” 1985. Manitoba Co-operator, April 11.Ferree, Myra Marx. 1992. “The Political Context of Rationality: Rational Choice Theory andResource Mobilization,” in Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, ed. Aldon D. Morris andCarol McClung Mueller, Yale University Press.Flora, Jan and Cornelia Butler Flora. 1992. “Self-development: a viable rural developmentoption,” Policy Studies Journal, V20, n2, Spring.Fox-Keller, Evelyn. 1985. Reflections on Gender and Science, Yale University Press.Freire, Paulo. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Trans. Myra Bregman Ramos, ContinuumBooks.Gatt-fly. 1983. AH-HAH! A New Approach to Popular Education, Between the Lines Publishing,427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Canada, 1983.Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Gilman, Robert. 1994. “Emerging Patterns in the Workplace,” in Mindfulness and MeaningfulWork, ed. by Claude Whitmyer, Parallax Press.98


Women’s Leadership Styles and EmpowermentGreanleaf, Robert K. 1991. The Servant Leader. Paulist Press.Harding, Sandra. 1986. The Science Question in Feminism, Cornell University Press.Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, Free Association Press.Hope, Anne and Sally Timmel. 1984. Training for Transformation V.I, II, III, Mambo Press.Kantor, Rosabeth Moos. 1977. Men and Women of the Corporation, Basic Books.Lederach, Jean Paul. 1992. “Beyond Prescription: A New Lense for Conflict Resolution TrainingAcross Cultures,” Working paper: Inter-racial and Cross-cultural Conflict ResolutionProject, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario.Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1985. “Canada and the United States: The Cultural Dimension,” inCanada and the United States: Enduring Friendship, Persistent Stress, ed. by Charles F.Doran and John H. Sigler, Prentice-Hall.Mies, Maria and Vandana Shiva. 1993. Ecofeminism. Zed Books.Morgen, Sandra and Ann Bookman. 1988. “Rethinking Women and Politics,” in Women and thePolitics of Empowerment, ed. Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen, Temple University Press.Moser, Caroline. 1993. Gender Planning and Development, Routledge.Muller, Carol McClung. 1992. “Building Social Movement Theory,” in Frontiers in SocialMovement Theory, ed. by Aldon D. Morris and Carol McClung Mueller, Yale UniversityPress.The Neighborhood Women’s Sourcebook. 1993. National Congress of Neighborhood Women,249 Manhatten Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.11211 USA.Pearson, Nelda K. 1993. “The Story of Two Self-Help Organizations: Women for the Survival ofAgriculture and Farmworker’s Self-Help, Inc.,” in Women at the Center, ed. by Gay Young,et al., Kumarian Press.Rosenfeld, Rachel A. 1985. Farm Women: Work, Farm, and Family in the United States.University of North Carolina Press.Schaef, Anne Wilson. 1985. Women’s Reality, Harper and Row.Shiva, Vandana. 1989. Staying Alive, ZED Books.Vella, Jane K. 1993. “Popular Education in Practice: Lessons of the 1991 AWID Conference,” inWomen at the Center, ed. by Gay Young, et al., Kumarian Press.99


Mimi AjzenstadtCycles of Control: Alcohol Regulation andthe Construction of Gender Role,British Columbia 1870-1925AbstractThe paper analyzes the social processes involved in the construction of genderrole. The analysis locates the transition from a familistic view, relating towomen’s role, to a state-oriented approach within wider shifts in the relationsbetween state and society in British Columbia during the 19th and 20thcenturies. Through an historical study examining the formulation of women’srole in relation to alcohol consumption between 1870 and 1925, the articleexamines the changing images of women and their relations with stateinstitutions. These changes were historically and politically constructed andform part of the state formation process which introduced new perceptionsabout the community’s moral framework. This construction was an outcome ofdynamic social processes in which moral reformers, politicians and variousgroups of professionals discussed the role of the state in regulating privatebehaviour. Their perceptions about statehood and womanhood reflected theirresponses to economic, political, and demographic events changing thedemographic landscape of Western Canada. Alcohol-related controls shouldbe understood in the wider context of the historical, specific realities of racial,class and gender differences within the various hierarchies of power in BritishColumbia between 1870 and 1925.RésuméL’article analyse les processus sociaux qui participent à la composition desrôles basés sur les sexes. Selon l’analyse, durant le 19 e et 20 e siècle, le rôle desfemmes a subi, en Colombie-Britannique, une transition, qui partait d’uneperspective familiale pour arriver à une approche axée sur l’État, dans lecadre de l’élargissement des relations entre l’État et la société. Une étudehistorique, examinant l’élaboration du rôle des femmes en ce qui a trait à laconsommation d’alcool entre 1870 et 1925, permet d’étudier latransformation de l’image de la femme et la relation de celle-ci avec l’État.Cette transformation, effectuée par le politique et l’historique, faisait partiedu processus de formation de l’État, introduisant ainsi de nouvelles idées surles composantes morales de la communauté. Cette construction résultait d’unprocessus social dynamique par lequel les réformistes de la morale, lespoliticiens et divers groupes professionnels discutèrent du rôle de l’État dansla réglementation du comportement des individus. Leurs perceptionsconcernant l’État et les femmes reflétaient leurs réactions aux conjonctureséconomiques, politiques et démographiques qui transformaient le paysagedémographique de l’Ouest du Canada. Les contrôles sur la consommationd’alcool doivent être vus à la lumière du contexte des réalités historiquesInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCparticulières, c’est-à-dire les différences de races, de classes et de genres àl’intérieur des diverses hiérarchies au pouvoir en Colombie-Britannique entre1870 et 1925.Various scholars have recently attempted to draft an analytical framework fortheorizing the complex relations between gender and the state. (Barrett andPhillips 1992, Connell 1990, Peterson 1992) Two central points of departurefor such theorization are a critical examination of the relationships of womento the “private” and the “public” spheres, and an investigation of theconstruction of such spheres. While proponents of the liberal doctrine in thenineteenth century claimed that the private and public spheres were separate“but equally important and valuable” (cf. Pateman 1989:120), this separationwas not universal and gender-natural; rather, it reflected and reinforceddifferent assumptions about the attributes and characteristics ascribed to menand women. (Pateman 1989, and Pateman and Shanley 1991) Free and rationalmen, owners of property, belonged to the public sphere where they couldexercise their rights and opportunities. Dependent women belonged to theprivate sphere outside state politics and concern: “manhood and politics gohand in hand, and everything that stands in contrast to and opposed to politicallife and the political virtues has been represented by women, their capacitiesand the tasks seen as natural to their sex, especially their motherhood.”(Pateman and Shanley 1991:3)Analyzing the political dimensions of these spheres and their impact on menand women and their relations to the state, scholars such as Barrett and Philips(1992), Pateman (1989) and Reverby and Helly (1992) claim that these twodomains are convolutely interrelated and cannot be regarded as totallyseparate. Moreover, over the years, numerous links connected them through anetwork of educational, welfare, medical and legal policies and controlmechanisms. (Donzelot 1979, Edwards 1988) The process leading to theconstruction of these domains was influenced by ideas of the dominant groupsin society about citizenship, and the “appropriate” social and moral orderwhich they believed should prevail in their society. The establishment of bothspheres created the categories of femininity and masculinity.Claiming that these domains were culturally and politically constructed,Reverby and Helly (1992) state that the concepts of “public” and “private”spheres must be tempered by an awareness of their “origins, limitations andcomplications.” (p.24) To understand the process by which the domains andthe complex relations between them and the state were constructed, Reverbyand Helly (1992) and Rosaldo (1980) call for the historicization of the notionsof “public” and “private” and link them to other hierarchies of power andsocial relations in various regions. In particular, such an examination should begrounded in the “material realities of class, race, sexuality, social structure,and politics.” (Reverby and Helly 1992:20)This article examines the relations between women and the private and publicspheres in British Columbia during the 19th and 20th centuries. It locates theconstruction of these relations within a wider context of women’s role asagents of social control and as guardians of their families’ morality and health.It traces the complex social processes involved in these aspects of gender102


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender Roleconstruction through an historical examination of alcohol regulations inBritish Columbia between 1870 and 1925. During these years, various actswere passed regulating the production, distribution and consumption ofalcohol in the province. These acts resulted from intense debates amongpoliticians, reformers and members of professional groups negotiatingalcohol-related matters and other political and social issues, including therelations between women, families and society in the new province. Ananalysis of the discussions among those active in alcohol campaigns facilitatesan historical examination of certain factors at play in the construction ofwomen’s role.Locating the debates within wider developments in Canada and othercountries, the following analysis draws on the works of Garland (1985, 1990),Gusfield (1981) and Melossi (1990) who indicate that state regulations arisefrom dynamic negotiations among various social actors aiming to achievevarious political, ideological and social goals. Moreover, such struggles existwithin changing demographic and social circumstances.After reviewing relevant events in the history of the province of BritishColumbia, the paper examines three main discourses promulgated in variousperiods concerning the relations between women and the state as reflected indebates about alcohol, paying particular attention to the race, gender and classaspects embodied in these discussions.British Columbia — Change and Moral ReformThe Western province of British Columbia was established in 1871, when itjoined the Canadian federation. More than two-thirds (70.8%) of the youngprovince’s residents were Natives, 23.7% European immigrants and only4.3% Orientals. (Barman) The province’s economy was linked to naturalresources: minerals, timber and fish. A large proportion of non-Native males(72.9%) sought employment in these industries.The opening of the railway connecting the province to Eastern Canada, and thelater development of port facilities to serve ships sailing to Asia at the turn ofthe 19th century, led to demographic change. (McDonald 1981:372) Theprovince’s population almost doubled from 98,173 in 1891 to 178,657 in 1911.(Barman 1991:363) Newcomers who were not Protestant and who came fromrural places were depicted by church representatives as immoral and thusrequiring education and control over their behaviour, including their drinkinghabits. Expressing such a view, Rev. Dr. Rowe explained that the increase inalcohol consumption resulted from the “opening up of new territory and theinflux of settlers that had not been always in temperance sentiment.” (TheWestern Methodist Recorder 1902:5)Inspired by the doctrine of the social gospel, Protestant ministers and socialreformers mainly in Eastern Canada called for the purification of society inkeeping with Christian values. (Birrell 1977, Valverde 1992) In BritishColumbia, the activities of reform movements were relatively limited.However, various groups, such as the Royal Templers of Temperance, theTemperance and Moral Reform League of Victoria and the Women’s103


IJCS / RIÉCChristian Temperance Union (WCTU), established in 1890, initiatedcampaigns demanding that the authorities enact legislation regulating themoral behaviour of individuals. (Mosher 1974)Up until World War I, fishing, forestry and mining flourished as a result offoreign investment in British Columbia. (Barman 1991:182) A steady flow ofimmigrants poured into the province, increasing its population from 392,480in 1911 to 524,582 in 1921. (Barman 1991:363) Many immigrants resided intowns which grew into commercial and industrial centres. In the seconddecade of the 20th century, British Columbia had the largest urban populationin Canada. (McDonald 1981:377)Attitudes of reformers, politicians and the business elite in British Columbiafollowed perceptions of the dominant groups in Eastern Canada. For thesegroups, a pervasive social disorganization and crisis was articulated in“overlapping discourses about rampant immorality, family breakdown, andrace suicide.” (Chunn 1992:28) Such concerns focused on the marginal —racial minorities, members of the working class and dependent poor — whowere perceived as not adhering to the Anglo-Saxon, Christian, middle-classvalues and thus ran the risk of becoming deviant and/or dependent on the statewelfare and medical institutions. To overcome such dangers, a wide range ofreform movements were established influenced by a combination of reformspirit, social gospel ideas and scientific rationale. These social movementsdemanded that the government introduce medical inspections, enactimmigration laws, introduce sexual regulations and establish educational andwelfare measurements as well as alcohol regulations to educate, discipline andregulate members of the low orders to safeguard the “proper” working of thenation. (McLaren 1986, Valverde 1992, Chunn 1992)In British Columbia, representatives of the WCTU and other reformmovements, such as the People’s Prohibition Association (PPA), establishedin 1915, initiated campaigns demanding the introduction of various reformprograms. Their activities were influenced by reform ideas generated in theUSA and Eastern Canada. In these early years, the province’s social andadministrative framework began to evolve, alcohol regulations were enacted,and the various discourses focusing on women and the state along the axes ofgender, class and race were promulgated.The State and the “Drunkard’s” Wife, 1870-1890Between 1870 and 1890, various laws were introduced in British Columbia toestablish an administrative system for collecting revenues from the liquortrade. (S.B.C. 1872, c.35 R.S.B.C. 1877. c.106, S.B.C. 1885, c.18) Theenactment of these laws was accompanied only by limited debates amongliquor entrepreneurs and civic officials who encouraged the state to grant thealcohol trade a respectable image. Members of the British Columbia chapter ofthe WCTU resisted this demand.Influenced by a liberal philosophy of the state, members of these groupsbelieved that the state was not authorized to interfere in the private behaviourof individuals. (Ajzenstadt 1994) Politicians and church representatives who104


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender Rolewere active in debates about alcohol during this time portrayed an image of amale family head supporting his family. This image of a husband is evident inan article published in a Canadian monthly which calls upon the Canadiangovernment to punish “drunkards,” claiming that:a man has no right to put himself in a condition in which he is disabledfrom performing his duties to society, or driven by a fury within himflagrantly to violate them, as in the case of the drunkard who disableshimself, temporarily or permanently, from maintaining his family byhis labor, or puts himself into a condition in which he brutallymaltreats them, nor even, to bring himself to a premature grave, andleave society to support his children. (Fidels 1877:373)In this family structure, women were portrayed as legally, socially andfinancially dependent upon their husbands. Perceptions about women andtheir relations with the state reflected Canadian and American attitudes,depicting women as part of a family framework beyond state control,regulation and intervention. (Chunn 1992, Zaretsky 1986, Messerschmidt1987, Pateman 1989:123) Women’s exclusion from the public domain wasexpressed in the denial of their right to vote. Similar to other jurisdictions (seeGordon’s 1988:295), this perception was not universal but race-oriented.Natives’ lives, including family practices and women’s behaviour were notimmune to legal and social regulation. For the representatives of the whitecommunity of the province, the life of Native peoples was not perceived asbeyond state control. Indeed, politicians and church representatives calledupon the state institutions to regulate the behaviour of all Natives whom theyregarded as primitive, barbaric and immoral. During this period, restrictivelegislation exposed the religious practices, culture, education, occupation aswell as drinking habits of Natives to state control. (See for example 37 Vic,chap 21 s.3(4), Woodcock 1990, Ajzenstadt and Burtch 1995)The first challenge to the perception that the white women’s position wastotally embedded within their families started with the enactment of the 1887Habitual Drunkards Act. This act empowered the wife of a “habitualdrunkard” to identify her husband as a “drunkard” and to report his behaviourto an officer of the peace. (1887 Habitual Drunkards Act. S.B.C., c.11, s.3) Onthe basis of this “private” identification, the legal institutions were authorizedto intervene in family life and punish the “drunkard” by prohibiting him to“manage or dispose of any real or personal estate.” (ibid.)This early alliance between the state and wife did not, however, grant the wifestate assistance to replace the husband’s support. By prohibiting the“drunkard” from managing his estate, the state took control of his financialaffairs but state institutions did not assume his obligation to support his wife. Inthis case, state intervention into family life required the wife to support herselfor to seek assistance from relatives or charitable institutions. Analyzing casesof family violence between 1880 and 1960 in the USA, Gordon (1988)observed a similar pattern where formal and informal controls further harmedthe women victims by removing husbands from the home. In those cases, the“victims often had their `rights’ defined for them in a way that they did notalways recognize, let alone want.” (294) Similarly, Dubinsky (1992) claims105


IJCS / RIÉCthat, in Ontario, women who complained about seduction were defined asimmoral and were regulated and disciplined.In sum, the 1887 Habitual Drunkards Act created a minor thread of connectionbetween women and the state, defining women as reporters of their husbands’failure to fulfil their social role to the state. This string of connection was onesidedsince the state did not oblige itself to support the reporter in place of thehusband. The Act did not emphasize the rights of drunkards’ wives to receiveassistance from the state, but shifted their dependency on their husbands to areliance on other private social institutions, relegating white women almostentirely to the private sphere.Women’s Morality and State Protection, 1890-1910Between 1890 and 1910, representatives of the WCTU and other moralreformers, most of them middle-class Anglo-Saxon residents of the province,initiated campaigns to have provincial authorities restrict the distribution andconsumption of alcohol. The BC branch of the WCTU was part of a widerEuropean, North American and Canadian movement which attempted toconvince the various governments to pass legislation regulating the moralityof the citizens. (Bacchi 1985, Gough 1988, Pauly 1990, Sheehan 1986) At theturn of the 20th century, most of their demands vis-à-vis alcohol had not yettranslated into actual legislation in British Columbia. The claims and rhetoricin their discussions and debates indicate a mild shift in their perceptions aboutthe relationships between women and the state — a shift which was infusedwith class, race and gender constructs.Social gospellers, members of the WCTU and other moral reformersenvisioned a social framework based on the principles of the Protestantdoctrine to control moral behaviour. They considered the development of aninternalized, family-centered morality based on Christian principles as a firststep toward the formulation of a moral Christian framework, followed by theChristianization of Canada in general and British Columbia in particular.Reformers saw the family as a central foundation in this process. Such viewsregarding the centrality of families and women emerged in the campaigns ofthe WCTU and other reformers regarding the distribution and consumption ofalcohol. Reformers saw saloons and other liquor outlets as polluting the moralenvironment of the city, families and mothers and as hindering mothers fromfulfilling their familial moral role. Describing alcohol as the “dreaded foe ofour sacred homes and institutions” (WCTU 1883), they claimed that it was thestate’s responsibility to engineer the proper conditions enabling mothers tofulfil their social role. The enactment of regulations monitoring alcoholdistribution and immoral behaviour of husbands in the saloons would purifythe city environment.State protection of women’s behaviour was legitimized on the basis ofwomen’s place within the family institution and not on the basis of theirentitlement to rights as free citizens of a certain state. Reformers demandedthat the minor, succinct thread connecting women to the state in the earlierperiod develop in two interrelated ways. First, women would be considered asagents of control transmitting public values of Christian morality to their106


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender Rolefamily members; women, according to the Declaration of Principles preparedin 1884 by the BC branch of the WCTU, were the “natural conservator of thehome.” (cited in Gough 1988:3) Second, the state would be obliged andrequired to protect women in order to allow them to fulfil their new role asagents of control. This protection would take place by purifying theatmosphere of the community through the regulation of saloons and drinkingbehaviours, especially by restricting the hours and the days when alcohol wassold. (WCTU 1883)These ideas mark the establishment of an “entitlement-oriented culture” whichtranslated women’s relations to their families into political language,legitimizing calls for state protection and public support. Employing“maternal feminism” (cf. Chunn 1988), reformers grounded their demands forstate help in a familistic view and not in a perception emphasizing women’srights as free citizens. The rationale using family relations to support thedemand for state assistance reinforced a “feminine” model of the social order.Women were entitled to state assistance only on the basis of their familialposition and not on the basis of equality granting civil rights. Women’sinclusion in the state operated very differently from the original inclusion ofmen. (Pateman 1989:14) It contributed to a specific, gendered order in whichwomen were connected to the public domain only as fulfilling their social rolewhich remained firmly within the private sphere itself. This connection to thestate remained partial because women of this time lacked full politicalcitizenship.The images constructing a moral wife were reinforced through a classificationprocess distinguishing the moral “ideal” wife from “fallen” women. Theformer was seen as deserving of state protection against immoral prostitutesviewed as powerful women threatening the existence of the moral family andthus to be punished and controlled. The prostitute was seen, mainly byrepresentatives of the church, as tempting men to waste their wages in thesaloons and thus neglect their social role as bread winners. This classificationscheme created hierarchies among women by defining a dichotomy of the“pure” and “good” women who were entitled to be assisted by the state —assistance expressed in the creation of a pure atmosphere. In both cases,however, women were not considered as free, autonomous agents.Changes in perceptions about the relations between women and the state wererace- and class-oriented. Examining the WCTU’s claims, reform planes andsexual politics in Eastern Canada, Valverde (1992) points to racist ideas andconceptions involved in their rhetoric and concepts. Racial dimensions can bedetected in the claims of the reformers active in campaigns demanding theregulation of moral behaviour in British Columbia. The moral discoursepromulgated by reformers focused on the immorality of newcomers to theprovince. Ideas stated by the WCTU about the creation of a moral frameworkguiding the community’s behaviour reflected concerns of political, economicand religious elites troubled by the waves of immigrants to the province at theend of the 19th century. Non-Protestant immigrants and those who came fromrural places were depicted by reformers as contributing to the moraldegeneration of the community. Responding to this change and the resultant107


IJCS / RIÉCvolatile social situation, the reformers aimed to preserve white, Christian,middle-class values. Regulations protecting mothers from immorality werepresented as one step to safeguard the values of the white Protestantcommunity against the immorality of new immigrants. Women were seen asplaying a central role in the “preservation” task. In the programs of the WCTU,this important assignment, however, did not grant women full citizenship.Morality and women’s roles were differentially applied to racial and classcommunities with “rigid social hierarchies, and... served to reproduce thosehierarchies in new ways.” (Dubinsky 1992:34)During the 19th century, the WCTU did not succeed in implementing itsdemands to control the saloons. Its opinions depicting wives as harmed by thesaloons, however, translated into legislation which totally exclude womenfrom the public sphere by prohibiting them from visiting saloons ordistributing alcohol. The 1910 Liquor Act protected women from immoralityby restricting their rights to distribute and consume alcohol. (the Liquor Act,1910, S.B.C., c.30, s.57 (3).) The Act prohibited women from holding a licenseto sell liquor. It automatically transferred a female’s license to her husbandupon her marriage. If the husband was not qualified to hold such a license, theAct empowered the Superintendent of the Provincial Police to transfer orcancel the license. The same Act prohibited license holders from selling orserving alcohol to women. (ibid, s.66) This Act reinforced women’s economicmarginalization and dependence on their husbands by excluding them fromthe liquor trade. It left women within the private sphere and subjected them tosome state regulation.The Moral-Scientific Regulation of Women, 1911-1925During the second decade of the 20th century, various regulations changed theways in which alcohol was produced and distributed in the province.(Campbell 1988, 1991, 1993) Several acts legislated between 1901 and 1916restricted the hours and days during which licensed premises were permitted tosell alcoholic beverages (S.B.C., c.20, S.B.C., c. 37) The British ColumbiaProhibition Act of 1916 outlawed the sale of alcohol (S.B.C., c.49) The Actwas in force between 1917 and 1921 when it was replaced by the GovernmentLiquor Act which allowed alcohol distribution only through the provincialgovernment. Moreover, during this period, various educational and medicalregulations and policies were established, temperance courses taught, schoolchildren inspected for alcoholism and mothers and future mothers warned ofthe physical and moral damage inherent in alcohol consumption.The enactment of the various regulations and policies resulted from intensecampaigns by representatives of the WCTU, moral reformers and the People’sProhibition Association, politicians, church representatives and variousgroups of professionals established in Canada and British Columbia in thesecond decade of the 20th century. Members of these groups primarilyconsisted of middle-class, Anglo-Saxon families of Canadian society.(Valverde 1991) Promulgating a moral-scientific discourse, these peopledemanded that the state enact regulations supervising several aspects ofindividuals’ behaviours, mainly families, children and women.108


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender RoleThe new interventionist attitude was part of a general conceptual andpragmatic process afoot in Canada and British Columbia during the first twodecades of the 20th century. During this time, elite groups of Canadian societysupported the state’s authority to regulate the family and women’s behaviour.The state was seen further as entitled and even required to interfere in familymatters on behalf of women, children and the elderly, whereby stateinstitutions became directly involved in family relations. (Ursel 1986) Parents,for example were prohibited from neglecting or perpetuating conditions ofimmorality contributing to the criminality of minors. (cf. Chunn 1992:21,Ursel 1986) The relations between state, family and women were redefined,and various patterns of behaviours previously considered as private andbeyond state control gradually became matters of public concern. Women’srole was reconstructed, and women were defined by the leading groups ofCanadian society as accountable for the creation of a healthy and moralatmosphere at home. In this way, women became agents of control responsiblefor transmitting values of morality and principles of health and hygiene to theirfamily members. This perception of gender role connected women and thestate in two ways. On the one hand, women were held responsible fortransmitting values upheld by members of the elite groups of the state. On theother hand, the state was depicted as obliged to supervise women in theappropriate ways to raise their families, exposing women to growing statecontrol over various aspects of their health and moral behaviour. Dialecticrelations arose between women and the state because women’s connection tothe public sphere perpetuated and intensified their position within the privatedomain.The new perceptions which defined women as accountable for biological andcultural reproduction, and which depicted women’s health and morality asindispensable to the healthy development of modern society, were supportedby a moral-scientific discourse promulgated by reformers and professionalgroups in Canada and British Columbia. Mobilizing this discourse, reformersand professionals grounded their calls for state control over a whole range ofbehaviours on the basis of scientific developments. In particular, theysupported their claims through hereditarian theories attributing physical andmental sickness, as well as immoral behaviours, such as prostitution, gamblingand heavy drinking, to the transmission of defective genes from parents to theirchildren. Employing a combination of hereditarian explanations and eugenicideas, politicians, moral and social reformers and professionals warned thatmothers could initiate multiplying chains of immorality, vice, criminality andinsanity in individuals and families leading to the destruction of thefoundations of democratic societies. (McLaren 1990, McLaren 1986:129)This description redefined the mother’s health, especially her reproductivetraits and her moral behaviour as matters of state concern considering thatunnoticed, defective genes could threaten the community’s existence. Legal,educational and medical institutions were recruited to protect the future of thecommunity, exposing women to a network of controls supervising theirbehaviours and health.Moreover, the family was regarded as the key element of social change leadingto the creation of a moral and healthy Canadian nation. Various professional109


IJCS / RIÉCmechanisms were established to strengthen the nuclear family. (Strong-Boag1982) During the second decade of the 20th century, reformers may have usedthe same general conceptions about the purity of women and their relationswith the state as did reformers in the previous decades. However, the content ofthe discourses changed as the attitudes to a variety of health, social, welfareproblems were rationalized and grounded in professional knowledge. (Chunn1988:92) The definition of women as responsible for the health of theirfamilies is not a new phenomenon. Indeed, women had been assigned the taskof providing nursing care or midwifery assistance previously. However,during the second decade of the 20th century, the content of and thejustification for such responsibility changed. With the professionalization ofknowledge, mothers and future mothers were called upon to followprofessional advice.Campaigns for state intervention in the family as well as campaigns aboutalcohol had very specific class, gender and racial/ethnic characteristics.According to Chunn (1992), McLaren (1990), Mclaren (1986) and Valverde(1991), the main focus of these new initiatives and the arena for stateintervention was the moral and political regulation of the marginal — racialminorities, working class and dependent poor who were perceived as notadhering to the Anglo-Saxon Christian middle-class values.Such fears reflected the concerns of Canada’s dominant groups over themassive demographic, social and political changes taking place. Canadiansociety had started to move through the processes of industrialization andurbanization, absorbing waves of immigrants. Members of professional andreform movements demanded that immigrants and members of the lowerorders who resided mainly in the big cities be regulated to secure the “proper”working of the nation. Employing concepts drawn from social Darwinism,individuals active in the reform movements considered mothers as the“mothers of the race” (cf. Valverde 1992:4), responsible for reproducing thesupreme white race. Representatives of the WCTU as well as most members ofgroups active in various campaigns adopted an Euro-American approach (Said1978, 1993) and differentiated between mothers from the middle-classes andmothers from inferior races.In particular, immigrant women who came to Canada from Asia and EasternEurope during the first and second decades of the 20th century wereconsidered by elite groups in the province and in Canada in general asimmoral, sick, primitive and barbaric and thus unfit to be mothers to theCanadian race. A representative of the BC branch of the WCTU claimed at areception organized in Vancouver in February 1913 by the Political EqualityLeague (PEL) that “thousands of foreigners would come to the province. It wastime the government strengthened the hand of the Anglo-Saxon race.” (cited inGough 1988:149)Temperance leaders warned that members of these “inferior races” would notbe able to resist the temptations of alcohol, would fall prey to the saloons, andin turn, would spread physical and mental abnormality among the citizens ofthe province. (Western Women’s Weekly 1918:10) The state was depicted asrequired to supervise these immigrant mothers in order to “Canadianize” (cf.110


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender RoleWestern Woman’s Weekly 1921:2) them by instructing them to adopt suchChristian values as thrift, industry, sobriety and certain principles of hygiene.(Sheehan 1986) Various courses aimed to teach new immigrants moral,mainly Christian, values required for a modern society. (Mitchinson 1987)The British Columbia WCTU, for example, encouraged its members toput before ... [immigrant mothers] the ideal of an educated, loyal,Canadian citizenship, and what is most important, to bring them intovital connection with the only kingdom which is eternal, theKingdom of Christ. In this way, these foreign peoples may become anasset to our country, instead of the menace they will be if left inignorance to become a prey to the schemes of the liquor party orpolitical avarice. (Western Woman’s Weekly 1921:2)These pedagogical initiatives originated in the creation of classificationschemes distinguishing between pure and educated Canadian Christianwomen and barbaric, primitive and uneducated immigrant women. TheWCTU’s Eugenic explanations were interwoven with European ideologies ofrace identifying Orientals, Africans and East Europeans as members of a dark,barbaric and immoral culture in contrast to the identification of the Christian,white community as part of the lightened and moral world. (Anderson 1991,McLaren 1990, Valverde 1991, 1992) Both poles of stereotyping ledreformers to initiate various programs for educating and “civilizing” newimmigrants, to turn women into good mothers for the white race.A combination between racial approach, gender and class was manifested inthe attitudes of various reformers towards the birth rate in Canada. During thesecond decade of the 20th century, the birth rate among members of racialminorities and the working-classes boomed while that of the Anglo-Saxonmiddle-class steadily declined. (McLaren & McLaren 1986) Interpreting thisphenomenon as a danger to the white race, reforms urged the state to initiateprograms encouraging middle-class women to give birth to children in order tofulfil their role to the nation, contributing to “an increase in the numbers oftheir own kind and a decrease in those of the working class.” (McLaren andMcLaren 1986:141)Reformers and professionals attempted to educate and enlighten the lowerorders by teaching them middle-class ideology and values. (Valverde1992:19) This period was characterized by an unprecedented degree of stateintervention in the family, mainly in the working-class family, regulatingmothers’ experiences. (Chunn 1992:193, Ursel 1986) Such instruction servedto imbue members of the marginalized groups with middle-class values and atthe same time helped to reinforce the value system for the reformersthemselves. (Valverde 1991:29)The classification scheme was further extended to include prostitutes whowere considered carriers of venereal diseases. This classification processdifferentiated between moral, healthy mothers and immoral, sick prostituteswho mainly came from the lower classes. (Boritch 1992, McLaren andLowman 1990) This classification extended the stigmatization of certainwomen as immoral prostitutes threatening the morality of the communityduring the 19th century. Now, prostitutes were represented to endanger the111


IJCS / RIÉCphysical well-being of the modern state. (Cassel 1987) Promulgating ascientific discourse, physicians and moral reformers announced that venerealdisease, which was transmitted by sick prostitutes to the entire community, hadreached epidemic proportions in Canada. Wives were depicted as victims ofthe sickness which infected their husbands who had been tempted by sickprostitutes. Moral reformers and physicians identified venereal disease as asource of feeblemindedness, immorality and “lack of self criticism and ofsound judgement.” (The Public Health Journal 1919:335) They usedhereditarian notions to explain that venereal disease was transmitted infamilies from one generation to another. (Yarros 1920:607)Alcoholism was described by social reformers, doctors and police officers asthe consequence of venereal disease as well as one source of its infection. Inparticular, they claimed that innocent, respected people fell prey to the disease.Since it was believed that drinkers could not be held responsible for theirbehaviour, temperance advocates argued that, under the influence of alcohol,men were tempted by prostitutes suffering from venereal disease to engage insexual relations. The attribution of responsibility for infection with venerealdisease was gender specific. Males visiting saloons were described as innocentvictims of alcohol and licentious prostitutes. Prostitutes were portrayed asresponsible for their own pathology as well as for the male’s infection.The notion that alcohol use can lead innocent people to become infected withvenereal disease was widely publicized by moral reformers and physiciansduring World War I. (Buckley and McGinnis 1982:338) Claiming thatvenereal disease was a threat and an obstacle to the “progress of the race”(Cavers 1918:532), social and moral reformers motivated the state to controlits spread. Strategies to achieve this aim once again varied according to thegender they targeted. Males, especially soldiers, were exposed to educationalprograms instructing them that the best preventive method was “sexualcontinence.” (Yarros 1920:608) The WCTU claimed that in order to protectsoldiers from the immoral behaviour of prostitutes, the men should not beallowed to consume alcohol.Prostitutes were exposed to a strict regime of legal and medical control whichforced them to undergo examination and treatment when found suffering fromthe disease. These demands translated into legislation during World War Iunder the Venereal Disease Suppression Act. (S.B.C., c.88) This Actintroduced compulsory examination and treatment of people suspected ofhaving the disease. Moral reformers demanded that prostitutes infected withvenereal disease be “segregated during the child-bearing period.” (Murphy1920:1) These new classifications and their actual implementation constructeda model of an “ideal” mother following certain principles of hygiene andmorality upheld by elite groups in the province. This construction confirmedand elaborated the state’s role in the lives of women by exposing theirreproduction practices to the intervention of legal and medical stateinstitutions.While the new programs focused on immigrants and segments of the workingclasses, perceptions about the relations between mothers and the stategradually expanded and depicted the state as an agency required to monitor the112


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender Rolebehaviours of all members of the community. This interventionist position visà-viswomen and family life was expressed in various ways by different socialgroups. Members of the WCTU, for example, instructed women to be selectivewhen choosing their husbands and to avoid marrying a male who drankalcoholic beverages: “never marry a man whose life has not always been aspure as your own ... Many lives have been disrupted by suffering and sorrowbecause of the early life of the father.” (Barber 1922:7) Health officers calledupon the state to prohibit a “drunkard or a drug-fiend, or an idiot or adegenerate of any kind” from marrying. (Arthur 1917:G140)During the second decade of the 20th century, educators, psychiatrists, publichealth officers and medical practitioners considered the state responsible forsupervising mothers in order to teach them child rearing practices and othertechniques for raising healthy families which would be the cornerstone ofmodern society. A health officer, for example, demanded that “the averagemother should have a certificate that she has the education to fit her for herposition.” (B.C. Sessional Papers 1918:G145) Emphasizing experts’ ability toteach mothers how to raise their families, members of professional groups andmoral reform movements claimed that the state had a “parental authority.”(Ernest, circa 1919) They mobilized the government to organize variouseducational programs, teaching mothers techniques required for raising afamily. Medical health workers devised educational pamphlets whichsupplied parents with details regarding daily child-rearing practices anddistributed them to mothers in Canada. (B.C. Sessional Papers 1918:G145)Not only mothers were instructed in principles of “motherhood”; young girlswere exposed to scientific domestic classes teaching future mothers how tobuild moral homes. At the same time, a compulsory system of physical andmental examinations was established in the province to detect early signs ofsickness, such as feeblemindedness and alcoholism. While mothers and wivesin the 1870s were able to identify “drunkenness” among their family members,in the second decade of the 20th century, this task was the exclusive domain ofexperts.Members of the WCTU combined medical/biological instruction regardingthe healthy family with moral supervision of mothers and future mothers. Theyclaimed that mothers should adopt Christian values in order to safeguard themoral stability of the family and the nation. Expressing this idea, arepresentative of the British Columbia WCTU said, for example: “If God isexalted, if we teach and live high ideals of purity, temperance, patriotism andbrotherhood, tomorrow will be a brighter day than today.” (Armstrong 1921:3)In order to achieve this goal, the WCTU called for mandatory temperanceteaching and other educational settings, instructing family members instrategies of self-control over appetite for alcohol. Moral reformers designedtemperance courses emphasizing temperance principles and “principles ofChristianity as related to the human body and morality.” (Barnes 1968:18)These courses mainly targeted school children to guide their moraldevelopment and prepare them to resist the temptations awaiting them insaloons, clubs or any other alcohol outlets.113


IJCS / RIÉCThe various programs, initiatives and ideas concerning relations betweenwomen and society fit within a totalizing tendency wherein the state was seenas promoting the health and morality of its citizens. This new approachdepicted the state as playing an active and positive role in supporting themorality, health and well-being of individuals, connecting women to variouscontrol mechanisms. These controls transformed the family unit as a socialinstitution. They weaken the family’s structure by exposing it to a set ofmediatory agencies and state regulation. Furthermore, public healthregulations, domestic- science programs in the schools, and various adviceliterature circulating “scientific” child-rearing techniques aimed to reproducethe Anglo-Saxon, middle-class family model across social classes. (McLaren1990, Chunn 1992, McLaren and McLaren 1986, Stong-Boag 1982)In this disciplining and “normalization” process, mothers were defined as bothagents of change and as the main subject for change according to the specificvision of society. The moral-scientific discourse and the welfare, educationaland medical programs reproduced the purity and health model of women,granting them a central role in creating the social order bases on theirreproductive characteristics. This emphasis reinforced the genderedcategories of femininity in the gendered social order of this time.ConclusionThis article has analyzed changes in the relations between women and theprivate and public spheres between 1870 and 1925 in British Columbia. Itdemonstrates that these transitions were closely related to changes inperceptions about womanhood, statehood and the relations between state andsociety. The relations between family and the state changed over the years. Inthe 19th century, the behaviour of women members of the dominant groupswas considered to belong within the private sphere, beyond state control andregulation. Toward the end of the 19th century, these perceptions werechallenged, among other things, by the enactment of a law empoweringwomen to report to the authorities their husbands’ failure to fulfil their socialduties. While granting a limited power to wives, this alliance between the stateand women did not empower women because the state did not assume thehusbands’ responsibilities for their families.The perception of separate spheres was further challenged by the activities andcampaigns of social groups such as the WCTU which attempted to expand thethin thread woven by the enactment of the 1887 Habitual Drunkards Actlinking women to the state. These groups called upon the state to assume someof the husbands’ responsibilities by engineering the conditions which wouldenable women to fulfil their familial role as the guardians of their familymorality. This new perception was transferred into regulation only twentyyears later, during the second decade of the 20th century, when the health andmoral behaviour of women were redefined as matters of public concern. Thisdefinition led to the enactment of a range of regulations and policies exposingwomen to ever-growing state controls.In this way, women became connected to various state institutions andexposed to diverse control mechanisms. Because these policies and their114


Alcohol Regulation and the Construction of Gender Rolejustification were grounded within the family, these initiatives reinforcedwomen’s role within the private sphere leading to the institutionalization ofthis marginalized arena — an arena which was now exposed to newregulations and control over women’s behaviour and their biologicalreproduction traits. While this period witnessed a transformation in relationsbetween the private and the public spheres, women remained tied to theirchildren and husbands, but in a new way which resulted in new constraints.Females were separated in some ways from their husbands and gained moreautonomy but less in terms of their “rights” than their obligations.The study demonstrates that the formulation of gender role and the complexrelations between the public and private domains and the state werehistorically and politically constructed. They were part of the process of stateformation which generated new perceptions about the community’s moralframework. This construction was an outcome of dynamic social processes inwhich moral reformers, politicians and various groups of professionalsdiscussed the role of the state in the regulation of private behaviour. Theirattitudes were grounded in their wider world views about the “appropriate”social and moral order which should prevail in Canada and British Columbia.Their perceptions about morality as well as the relations between women,families and the state reflected their responses to economic, political anddemographic events changing the demographic landscape of Canada and theprovince of British Columbia.The construction of women’s role was inextricably linked to the establishmentof the Canada’s industrialized, urban society, its structure, tactics andprocedures. In particular, this process was key to the creation of a genderedsocial order embodied within the dynamic that created modern industrialcapitalism. Alcohol regulations and the discourses promulgated around themconstituted an arena for discussing and establishing various controls overwomen’s behaviour. Alcohol-related controls should be understood within thewider context of the historical, specific realities of racial, class, and genderdifferences within the various hierarchies of power in Canada and BritishColumbia between 1870 and 1925.The impact of these regulations differed according to the population targetedalong social, gender and class lines. They reproduced a specific moral andsocial order and defined the multiple links connecting state and society alongthese lines of race, gender and class. While the new controls reinforcedwomen’s marginalized social and political position, they neverthelessdifferentiated among women, creating systems of classifications between raceand gender associations.The establishment of legal, educational and welfare controls regulating the useof alcohol was part of a wider, totalizing process to regulate the lives of womenand other marginalized groups in the province of British Columbia inparticular and in Canada in general. These regulations however, did notoriginate in a monolithic, “omnipresent, omniscient `total’ state that has nolimits and no vulnerability to reform or change” (Lowman, Menzies, and Palys1987:6), but were triggered by a complex process and negotiations between115


IJCS / RIÉCvarious groups debating the state, its framework and its legitimation tointerfere.While the state is the “central institutionalization of power [and] ... has aconsiderable capacity to regulate gender relations in the society as a whole”(Connell 1990:527), this power extends to other state-related socialinstitutions. The establishment of controls was an outcome of struggles byvarious groups to discipline the population according to white, Christian,middle-class values. Moreover, while the main focus of the various programsand regulations subjected women, mainly from working-classes and racialminorities, to an ever-increasing set of controls designed to enforce middleclassstandards of femininity, these programs gradually expanded to bring theentire female population within the scope of control.The construction of gender and the establishment of social controls overwomen cannot be explained as solely or even partly an effort to preserve malesupremacy by reinforcing the males’ powerful social position. Asdemonstrated in this article, women themselves played an active role incampaigns and public initiatives which reinforced their economic and socialmarginality and confined them to the domestic sphere.Gender construction was historically and politically grounded in a complexprocess combining race, class and gender dimensions and conditioned by theinterplay of structure and human agency.NoteI would like to thank the Editorial Board of the IJCS/RIEC, two anonymous reviewers, andShlomo Ketko for their suggestions and comments.BibliographyAjzenstadt, M. (1994) “State Formation and Modes of Classification: Alcohol Regulations inBritish Columbia, 1871-1925.” The Canadian Journal of Sociology. Vol. 19. No. 3:441-460.Ajzenstadt M. and B. Burtch (1995) “The Idea of Alcoholism: Changing Perceptions ofAlcoholism and Treatment in British Columbia, 1870-1988.” Health and Canadian SocietyJournal. (in press)Anderson, K.J. (1991) “Vancouver’s Chinatown: Racial Discourse” in Canada, 1875-1980.Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press.Armstrong, B. (1921) “Scientific Temperance” Western Woman’s Weekly. September, 3:3.Arthur, I. (1917) “Child Welfare” in The Reports of the Provincial Board of Health, B.C. SessionalPapers. Victoria, British Columbia. Bacchi, C.L. (1985) Liberation Deferred?: The Ideas ofthe English-Canadian Suffragists, 1877-1918. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Barber, H.G. (1922) “Provincial WCTU News” in Western Woman’s Weekly. January, 21:7.Barman, J. (1991) The West beyond the West: A History of British Columbia. Toronto: Universityof Toronto Press.Barnes, F.L. (1968) Beams from a Lighthouse: Women’s Christian Temperance Union of B.C.British Columbia: Barnes.Barrett, M. and A. Phillips (1992) “Introduction” in M. Barrett and A. Phillips (eds.) DestabilizingTheory: Contemporary Feminist Debates. Oxford: Polity Press. Pp. 1-9.Birrell, A.J. (1977) “D.I.K. Rine and the Gospel Temperance Movement in Canada” in CanadianHistorical Review. Vol. LVII. No. 1: 23-42.Boritch, H. (1992) “Gender and Criminal Court Outcomes: An Historical Analysis” inCriminology. Vol. 30. No. 3: 293-327.British Columbia (1918) “The Report of the Provincial Board of Health” in British Columbia,Sessional Papers. Victoria: British Columbia.116


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Helen RalstonOrganizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Women in Canada*AbstractWomen’s empowerment implies a change from a state of powerlessness to onein which women are self-consciously aware of their identity, have control overtheir lives and resources and are self-reliant participants in processes ofdevelopment and change. It involves changes not only in individuals, but alsoin institutions, structures and relations that perpetuate patriarchal relationsand oppression at all levels, from the family to religion and other institutions,to the community and the larger society. The paper explores from a feministtheoretical perspective the lived experience of South Asian immigrant women.It operationalizes empowerment in terms of community organization. Itexamines the various organizational activities which unite and empowerwomen. The data are drawn from original research among women of diverseSouth Asian ethnoreligious and ethnocultural affiliations in specific regions ofCanada: Atlantic Canada, British Columbia and Alberta. The paper thereforehas a comparative component. The methodology used in all projects consistsof interviews and participant observation in organizational activities.Theresearch has suggested that South Asian immigrant women’s powerlessness isexperienced in family, community and society, where race, class and genderintertwine to construct experiential differences which are not only “sites ofdifference” but also “sites of the operations of power.” Women’s interests andgoals are different from those of men. Patriarchal relations of ruling in familyand other institutions and structures of society are a major factor in SouthAsian women’s lived experience of subordination, powerlessness, violenceand other forms of oppression. Familial and religious values, practices andracist ideologies serve to maintain, reproduce and reinforce theirpowerlessness. Insofar as women recognize shared experiences ofpowerlessness, exploitation and oppression, mobilize and organizecollectively to speak, act and advocate for change in their status andexperience, then they are moving towards empowerment, equity and justice.RésuméL’habilitation des femmes requiert que l’on passe d’un état d’impuissance àun autre état où les femmes ont accédé à une pleine conscience de leur identité,où elles ont assumé le contrôle de leurs vies et de leurs ressources et sontdevenues des participantes indépendantes à des processus d’évolution et dechangement. Ce passage exige que l’on procède à des changements nonseulement sur le plan individuel, mais aussi sur le plan des institutions et desstructures qui perpétuent les relations patriarcales et l’oppression à tous lesniveaux, de celui de la famille à celui de la religion et des autres institutions, lacommunauté et la collectivité dans son ensemble. L’article étudie le vécud’immigrantes originaires du sud de l’Asie dans une perspective théoriqueInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCféministe. Il « opérationnalise » l’habilitation au plan de l’organisationcommunautaire. Il se penche sur les diverses activités organisationnelles quiunissent et habilitent les femmes. Les données ont été recueillies dans le cadred’une recherche originale menée auprès de Sud-Asiatiques dont lesaffiliations ethnoreligieuses et ethnoculturelles sont très diverses et qui viventdans des régions spécifiques du pays : les provinces de l’Atlantique, laColombie-Britannique et l’Alberta. L’article a donc une composantecomparative. Tous les projets utilisent la même méthodologie : entrevues etobservations menées auprès des participantes dans le cadre de leurs activitésorganisationnelles. Les résultats de la recherche suggèrent que lesimmigrantes sud-asiatiques font l’expérience de leur impuissance dans leursfamilles, leur communauté et la société, partout où la race, la classe et le sexeconspirent pour construire des différences expérientielles qui ne sont passeulement des « lieux de différence », mais aussi des « lieux du fonctionnementdu pouvoir. » Les intérêts et les objectifs des femmes sont différents de ceux deshommes. Les relations patriarcales de pouvoir que l’on retrouve au sein de lafamille et dans les autres structures et institutions de la société constituent unfacteur important dans l’expérience de subordination, d’impuissance, deviolence et d’autres formes d’oppressions vécues par ces Sud-Asiatiques. Lesvaleurs religieuses et familiales, les pratiques et les idéologies racistes serventà maintenir, reproduire et renforcer leur impuissance. Dans la mesure où lesfemmes reconnaissent les expériences d’impuissance, d’exploitation etd’oppression qu’elles ont en commun, qu’elles se mobilisent et s’organisentcollectivement pour prendre la parole, agir et lutter pour changer leur statut etleurs expériences, alors elles font un pas en avant dans la direction del’habilitation, de l’équité et de la justice.IntroductionWomen’s empowerment implies a change from a state of relativepowerlessness to one in which women are self-consciously aware of theiridentity, have control over their lives and resources and are self-reliantparticipants in processes of development, decision-making and change. Itinvolves changes not only in individuals, but also in family, religion and otherinstitutions as well as community, societal, economic and political structuresand practices that produce and perpetuate patriarchal relations of ruling.The paper explores from a feminist theoretical perspective the livedexperience of South Asian immigrant women. It operationalizesempowerment in terms of raised gender and race consciousness andcommunity organization. It argues that through the experience oforganizational activities women can become empowered personally,familially and socially. They can speak on their own behalf, increase their selfesteemand self-confidence and learn skills which give them greater social,economic and political power. The paper examines the various organizationalactivities which unite and empower women. The data are drawn from originalresearch among immigrant women of diverse South Asian ethnoreligious andethnocultural affiliations in specific regions of Canada: Atlantic Canada,British Columbia and Alberta.122


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant WomenSocio-demographic contextAccording to the 1991 census data, 1 there were 420,295 self-identified peopleof South Asian origin in Canada, representing 1.6% of a total Canadianpopulation of 26,994,045. They were unevenly distributed throughoutCanada: Ontario, 55%; British Columbia, 25%; Alberta, 10%; Quebec, 7%;Manitoba, 2%; Atlantic provinces, 1%; with minuscule numbers inSaskatchewan and the Yukon and North West territories. Although,numerically, South Asians were settled predominantly in Ontario, theyrepresented only 1.6% of the Ontario population (the national average) ascompared to 3.2% of the British Columbia population.For the purposes of this study, it is important to note that the Western provincesof British Columbia and Alberta are very different from Atlantic Canada andthat the metropolitan centres of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are verydifferent from metropolitan Halifax — demographically, historically andsocially. In the 1991 census of Canada, the total population of the four Atlanticprovinces was just over two and a quarter million, with 4,175 of South Asianorigin; the province of Alberta had a total population of approximately two anda half million, with 40,030 of South Asian origin; British Columbia, on theother hand, has a rapidly growing population of over 3 million, with 103,545 ofSouth Asian origin. 2 The census metropolitan area (CMA) 3 Vancouver had apopulation of almost one and a half million with approximately 80,000 ofSouth Asian ethnic origin (including Indo-Fijians); CMA Halifax had apopulation of 317,630, with 1,825 of South Asian origin. Whereas 74 % of theSouth Asians of British Columbia were concentrated in the large metropolitancentre of Vancouver, and 93 % of the South Asians in Alberta were in theCMAs Calgary and Edmonton, only 44 % of the South Asians in the Atlanticregion resided in the major metropolitan centre of Halifax. In other words, notonly was the total South Asian population twenty times greater in BritishColumbia and ten times greater in Alberta than in the whole Atlantic region,but South Asians were more scattered in the Atlantic region than in BritishColumbia or Alberta. Furthermore, in the past decade, Halifax has receivedrelatively few internal or international migrants. Vancouver, on the other hand,has become a principal city of destination for internal and internationalmigrants. Moreover, Vancouver was the port of entry for the initial SouthAsian immigrants at the turn of this century. South Asians migrated to AtlanticCanada only after World War II. Today, British Columbia has a largepopulation of diverse Asian ethnic origin; Atlantic Canada has relatively fewpeople of Asian origin.From the demographic data, it is evident that women of South Asian origin inWestern Canada are not only much more concentrated in actual numbers thanthey are in Atlantic Canada, but they are also largely settled in denselypopulated highly industrialized metropolitan centres. South Asian immigrantwomen in Atlantic Canada tend to be scattered geographically, residentiallyand socially. In consequence, they have a different experience from women inwestern Canada.123


IJCS / RIÉCConceptual considerationsThe term “South Asian” is sociologically problematic. It encompassesdistinctly different ethnocultural groups. Being South Asian refers not somuch to the personal qualities of individuals who come directly to Canadafrom the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh), or elseindirectly from East Africa, the Caribbean or Fiji through their ancestors, butrather to social characteristics which have been constructed and reconstructedin historical and ongoing social relations in specific social, economic andpolitical contexts. In the Census of Canada, “ethnic origin” is self-identifiedand refers to the cultural origin of oneself or one’s ancestors in matrilineal andpatrilineal lineage (Statistics Canada 1993). 4 South Asian is a relatively newsocial construct in Canadian society, 5 which has been shaped and reshaped bythe immigrants themselves and by other Canadians in their day-to-dayactivities. 6 Moreover, how women construct their identity and representthemselves tends to vary in terms of whom they are addressing. Inconversations, few “South Asians” identify themselves as such. Some women,particularly older women, have adopted the European designation of “EastIndian.” More commonly, particularly in British Columbia where there arelarge concentrations of regional cultural groups, women will identifythemselves as Pakistani, Punjabi, Bengali, Indo-Canadian, and so on. Indo-Fijians call themselves “Fijian.” When an interviewer such as myself iscognizant of regional and linguistic distinctions among people of the Indiansub-continent and the diaspora, then South Asian women will be extremelyspecific about representing their identity.Similarly, the term “immigrant woman” refers not so much to legal status as toprocesses of social construction in everyday life which describe some women,who are visibly and audibly different in characteristics such as skin colour,language or accent, religion, dress, food customs and so on, as immigrants. AsPettman (1992:43) has observed “some overseas-born groups are presumed tobe more migrant than others.” In legal terms, the women may be Canadiancitizens who have been permanent Canadian residents for many years.Community agencies often acknowledge distinctions between long-termresidents and recent immigrants by socially designating the latter as“newcomers to Canada.”I have drawn on Dorothy Smith’s (1987) insights for my conceptualframework, methodology and analysis. She has pointed out (p. 2-4) that“(e)stablished sociology has objectified a consciousness of society and socialrelations that ‘knows’ them from the standpoint of their ruling and from thestandpoint of men who do that ruling.” When society and social relations wereknown and understood solely from the perspective of men, then the “gendersubtext” of relations of ruling was largely invisible. For example, for a verylong time, “domestic violence” was known, understood and sociallyconstructed from the standpoint of men. It was indeed largely invisible andinaudible. Wife abuse was not a socially acceptable part of feminine discourseeither in public or within the family.The social construction of “difference” is crucial to understanding howcontinent or country of origin represents and places immigrants in general, and124


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Womenimmigrant women, in particular, in Canadian society. Visible differences, likeskin colour, head dress and clothing, style of eating and food preferences, haveled to the social constitution of “visible minorities” by the dominant groups todescribe Aboriginal people and some immigrants. Belonging to an ethniccategory with specific “differences” implies being a certain kind of person.Furthermore, “difference” in gender relations is significant within and amongethnic categories. The meaning of “difference” has been much discussed infeminist debates. 7 In my study, the notion of “difference” emphasizesexperiential diversity in terms of the intersections of ethnicity, race, genderand class, national and regional origin, region of settlement, religion, and soon. It explores these experiential diversities not only as “sites of difference”but also as “sites of the operation of power.” (Barrett 1989:42) Ethnic, genderand class relations canalize social life and imply, on the one hand, a complexityof shared understandings of social relations in various domains of a group’sactivities; and, on the other hand, a recognition of boundaries, of limitations inshared understandings and of “differences” in social relations and in relationsof ruling with members of other groups.Where ethnic categories of people are residentially dispersed, ethnic referencegroups can be constituted, maintained and activated by communication inwhat Etzioni (1959:258) has called “limited social situations” and in theactivities of core institutions, such as temples, churches and synagogues andethnocultural groups. “Ethnicity” is a dynamic social construction not a staticentity. Through communication, activities and experienced differences in the“limited social situations” of ethnocultural and ethnoreligious organizations,South Asian immigrant women and men reconstruct and reproduce personaland social identity consciousness. They reconstitute and reinforceethnocultural boundaries. Yancey, Ericksen and Juliani (1976), in theirdiscussion of the phenomenon of “emergent ethnicity,” have argued that thedevelopment and persistence of ethnicity are dependent upon the structuralconditions of society and the position and relationships of groups withinsociety, rather than on the transplantation of a cultural heritage. They havenoted (p. 392) several structural conditions which tend to foster the emergenceand persistence of ethnicity. Among these were common occupationalpositions, residential stability and concentration, and dependence on commoninstitutions, such as ethnic, cultural and religious organizations.In his seminal research on interpersonal relations among immigrant men inMontreal, Breton (1964) noted that ethnic communities can vary enormouslyin their social organization and their degree of institutional completeness. Heidentified a number of factors which contributed to the formation andinstitutional completeness of ethnic community organization — prominentamong them being differentiating social and cultural attributes like language,colour and religion “which can set it apart from the native community.” (p.204) Breton found that “religious institutions had the greatest effect in keepingthe individual’s associations within the ethnic community.” (p. 200) He alsofound that, where a large proportion of the members of an ethnic group had fewresources of their own, there was a tendency for other members to act as socialentrepreneurs and try to organize something for the other immigrants in need.(p. 204)125


IJCS / RIÉCLike other immigrant groups, many people of South Asian origin in Canadahave formed organizations. Through ethnic organizational activities theypursue their collective interests and goals and move towards empowerment.Their organizational goals can be loosely categorized as service-oriented andadvocacy-oriented. (Agnew 1993) Service-oriented community organizationscan provide a forum for recreational, social, cultural and religious exchangesand celebrations among members of a specific category of people of the samenational or ethnic origin. They may have the explicit purpose of education andsocialization of youth in the language, culture and religion of their parents.Such organizational activities promote intra-group cohesion among themembers and integration within the host society, especially for newcomers.They empower people by creating a self-conscious awareness of ethnicidentity and solidarity. Other service organizations provide information andskills training which empower people by enhancing social and economicopportunities. Advocacy is an important agent in bringing about change inexisting relations of ruling and in transforming structures that supportinequity. Advocacy-oriented organizations actively propound and lobby forthe interests of a particular group or of several cultural groups with a commoninterest. Protest groups, such as anti-racist organizations, raise consciousnessand organize against the group’s position in and treatment by the receivingsociety. Some protest groups struggle against discrimination within theethnocultural group. Advocacy organizations may be gender specific groupswhich are organized to raise consciousness and address interests of womenwithin the ethnocultural group itself as well as within society as a whole.Feminist immigrants organizing to combat the many forms of violence againstwomen and children constitute such advocacy-oriented groups. Advocacyorientedorganizations aim to translate awareness and articulation of concernsinto legislation, policies, programs and actions that transform unequal andunjust structures and relations of ruling in family and society.Following Dorothy Smith (1987) and Roxana Ng (1981, 1984, 1986, 1989), inmy projects the concept “lived experience” of women is to be understood interms of practical activities of everyday life (such as visitingtemples/mosques/gurdwaras/churches/synagogues, working inside andoutside the home, participating in activities of ethnocultural, religious,women’s and other organizations) rather than in the more conventionalconnotation of people’s perceptions of and attitudes toward the situations inwhich they find themselves. By exploring these activities, women’s livedexperience is made visible. Women are empowered when they are sensitizedto the gendered organization of relations of ruling in their lived experience andwhen they become active subjects in transforming their lived world.It is my argument that South Asian immigrant women’s collective activities inorganizations can raise gender and race consciousness, provide them withneeded services, and bring about change in their everyday lives in family,community and society. Such effects are indicators of movement towardsempowerment.126


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant WomenMethodology and samplingThe methodology used in all projects has been a case study approach with indepthinterviews and participant observation. Contacts previously made andmembership lists of various ethnic, religious and women’s organizations, aswell as workers at immigrant settlement and multicultural organizations havebeen the starting-point for personal interviews with women of South Asianorigin. In the interviews, questions have addressed what the women actuallydo rather than their perceptions and attitudes. For example, when a woman hasdescribed a typical day, she has been asked who actually prepares the morningcup of tea, cuts the lunches, drives the children to school, pays the bills, doesthe accounts, washes the dishes, shovels the snow, phones organizationalmembers and so on.My initial research with South Asian immigrant women was conductedbetween 1988 and 1990 in the four Atlantic Canada provinces ofNewfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. 8The non-probability sample for that study comprised 126 first-generationSouth Asian immigrant women over the age of 15 years, one-tenth of theestimated total population of South Asian women of that age in the Atlanticregion at the time. 9 The sample was drawn from a directory in proportion to thedistribution in the four provinces. It comprised women of diverse national,regional, cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds. 10The research with South Asian women in British Columbia and Alberta beganin December 1993. There, it has not been possible to draw a non-probabilitysample. Rather, a snowballing method has been used, with a deliberate attemptto select women of diverse ages, community backgrounds, countries of origin,dates of entry to Canada, class. Again, the total sample of 100 women in BritishColumbia has been drawn from first-generation immigrant women over theage of 15 years in proportion to the distribution of South Asians in thatprovince. 11 To date, 6 women in Alberta have been interviewed. 12 The studyin Western Canada has also included Indo-Fijian women. Fijians in Canadanumbered 6,675 in the 1991 census. 13 Of these, 4,945 (74 %) resided in BritishColumbia and 1,300 (19 %) in Alberta — virtually all of them in the CMAsVancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, respectively.FindingsOrganizational activities in Atlantic CanadaIn Atlantic Canada, South Asian organizational activities were predominantlyservice-oriented. At the time of my field work in Atlantic Canada, I identifiedno South Asian women’s organizations which were specifically advocacyoriented.Nor did I find in my interviews any women who were activelyworking with other women’s advocacy-oriented organizations. Immigrants ofSouth Asian origin, though diverse in linguistic, cultural, religious andregional origins, for the most part shared a middle-class background. Many ofthem came to Atlantic Canada as a result of changes in the CanadianImmigration Act in the 1960s and the 1970s which encouraged the flow ofhighly educated and highly skilled South Asian professionals, especially127


IJCS / RIÉCSouth Asian men. South Asian immigrant middle-class men have provided anarticulate leadership for various ethnic community organizations. South Asianwomen have become family members of these organizations with theirhusbands. Occasionally women have become leaders of organizations. Somealso belonged to women’s groups which were a branch of the mainorganization. In rare instances, South Asian women in Atlantic Canada havecollectively organized as autonomous, service-oriented women’s groups.My findings supported Etzioni’s (1959:258) contention that, under conditionsof dispersion and relative isolation, ethnic and religious organizationsprovided a social context where people could meet and reconstitute theircommon identity, language, tradition, values and consciousness of ethnicity.They served to establish boundaries not only between themselves, otherimmigrants and other Canadians, but also among South Asian immigrants ofspecific regional, cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds.Where the Atlantic Canada women lived in settlements that are remote frommetropolitan centres of the region and where they were few in number andisolated, they formed an informal network of interpersonal relations withextended kin and friends who communicated largely by telephone. In Breton’s(1964) conceptualization, they were the least socially organized type of ethniccommunity. In their everyday life they had interpersonal relations withmembers of the wider residential and work community through educationaland other social institutions of mainstream society. They came together as aninformal ethnocultural group on rare social occasions throughout the year orjoined a formal ethnic organization in a larger urban centre for the celebrationof a religious or cultural festival. In the three metropolitan centres of the region(Halifax, St. John’s and Saint John), the ethnic community was large enough innumbers to establish formal organizations with the primary purpose ofestablishing a religious temple, gurdwara or mosque. Difference in religionunited them and set them apart from other Canadians; language and homecountry regional differences created boundaries among themselves whichfostered the formation of specific religious groupings. In non-religious areasof everyday life, their interpersonal relations and organizational activitieswere much less culturally specific.In the Atlantic Canada sample, 104 women (83 %) belonged to at least oneethnic organization. Over half of the women (59) who belonged to an ethnicorganization were affiliated with the secular, service-oriented and overarchingIndo-Canadian Association of Nova Scotia (INCA), which has members in thethree other Atlantic Provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island andNewfoundland besides Nova Scotia. Moreover, when a woman belonged toseveral ethnic organizations, in almost every case, the Indo-CanadianAssociation was the first one named. INCA’s directory, which was readilyavailable in Indian grocery stores, listed both members and non-members ofIndian origin and thus provided a useful means for extended networking withinthe region. The Yearbook and Directory (INCA 1988) outlines the aims andobjectives of INCA. Most of the activities of the organization’s committeeswere concerned with providing services like social, cultural and entertainmentevents, public relations, orientation and settlement of newcomers, goodwill128


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Womenand multiculturalism, the establishment of a crematorium, and responding tohumanitarian causes. In addition, the Indo-Canadian Association raised fundsfor various social needs in India. The elected leaders of INCA werepredominantly middle-class business and professional men. At the time of myfield work, only one woman served on the executive of INCA. Women workedon some of the numerous committees of the association. A human rightscommittee addressed advocacy-related issues. Human rights was conceived interms of possible cases of discrimination against individual members on thebasis of ethnicity and race. Women’s rights in family and society and violenceagainst women or “domestic violence” were not issues of concern for INCA.General INCA celebrations were usually scheduled around the dates of Indiansecular holidays, such as Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day(August 15), and Gandhi’s birth date (October 2). For these events, the womenwere involved in organizing and participating in cultural activities like musicand dance of specific South Asian regions, in supervising children’sperformance of plays, in preparing meals of various regions for a commonsupper. In other words, their activities involved women’s stereotypicalproductive and reproductive work.Some women of my study belonged to exclusively women’s organizations. Inmetropolitan Halifax, four women belonged to a Women of India AuxiliaryAssociation, an organization which comprised about thirty-five members. Thesole purpose of the organization was to provide social services for needypeople. The group was actively engaged in raising large sums of money forsuch projects as education of needy children in India and cancer-care facilitiesin Halifax. The women thus worked for people of their original home countryas well as their new home in Canada.In the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, I encountered the sole autonomouswomen’s organization. The Asian Women’s Association was formed at theend of the 1970s with the express purpose of transmitting South Asian culturein its many varieties to their children. 14 By the end of the 1980s, the groupcomprised fifteen members, all South Asian women, principally of Indianorigin, but some of Pakistani and East African origin. The members metmonthly and paid a monthly fee of two dollars which financed their activities.Although the association was a secular organization, religious festivals of thevarious members were celebrated. Over the years, the service-orientation ofthe association expanded beyond cultural education of the children to includefinancial donations to meet needs in Nova Scotia, such as a battered women’ssociety or educational toys for children in hospital, and in India for suchpurposes as education of poor children or Mother Teresa’s care of the destitute.In addition, the group organized a pot-luck supper about five times a year forwhich South Asian meals were sometimes prepared by the husbands. Thewomen described their husbands as being “leaders in their professions” at aprovincial and national level. Being middle-class members of Canadiansociety was a salient aspect of their social identity.In Newfoundland, the Ethno-Cultural Association comprised in itsmembership seventeen associations, including the Hindu, Muslim and Sikhreligious organizations and an overarching secular ethnocultural organization,129


IJCS / RIÉCthe Friends of India Association. At the time of my field work, the Friends ofIndia Association had two women out of ten persons as office-bearers. As amember of the Ethno-Cultural Association, it cooperated with other culturalgroups but there was no evidence of any advocacy-related activities — forexample, on behalf of abused women.Overarching secular organizations, like the Indo-Canadian Association ofNova Scotia and the Friends of India Association in Newfoundland, served notonly to unite South Asians of diverse cultural origins and to integratenewcomers but also to link the ethnic community to interested Canadians ofother ethnic origins. The membership of the these organizations comprisedpredominantly middle-class educated professional and business people.The women in Atlantic Canada described religious institutions, like temples,gurdwaras, mosques and churches, and the organizations associated with theirincorporation and ongoing life, as key elements in transmission to the nextgeneration of cultural symbols, activities and value-systems. In fact, one mightargue that such organizations are produced and reproduced precisely for thepurpose of reaffirming and transmitting a shared symbolic universe, a systemof counter-values and standards of behaviour which are “different” from thoseof the dominant Canadian culture, especially in important areas like premaritalrelations between boys and girls and in religiously prescribed dress codes.Many women took their children to temple or mosque to communicate basicvalue-orientations through instruction in beliefs, rituals and behavioural codesand to promote their children’s interaction with other families and youth oftheir own ethnoreligious background.Metropolitan Halifax has the largest residential concentration of Sikh families(reportedly, approximately fifty families). Participants in the study claimedthat there was a total of about one hundred and ten Sikh families in AtlanticCanada. The only Sikh gurdwara in the region is located in metropolitanHalifax. It was described as a social gathering-place as much as a place ofworship, where people not only shared in the traditional meal (langa) after thereligious ceremony, but where, above all, they met other Punjabi-speakingpeople and taught their children about their religion and culture. Personal andsocial ethnoreligious identity was reconstructed and reproduced throughmembership in the ethnoreligious Maritime Sikh Society.In the majority of ethnoreligious organizations, patriarchal gender roles andstructures prevailed. Men, not women, held the leadership roles in worship.For example, although children and youths (both girls and boys) conducted therituals in the St. John’s Krishna Temple, men supervised their performance.Women were responsible for preparing the meal which followed worship. TheMaritime Sikh Society is exceptional. Since the interviews were completed, ithas elected an all-woman executive, which is responsible for all temple-relatedactivities. These activities include managing society money, recruiting Indiansingers for special ceremonies, as well as organizing the meal (langa) after thereligious ceremonies. Among Hindu families, on the other hand, where aregional style of temple worship was not available, it was the woman’s role toprovide it in the home.130


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant WomenInsofar as women participated in organizational activities in other areas oftheir life — like their children’s education and recreation, their own workoutside the home — their participation and interpersonal relations were withmainstream Canadian organizations such as a Parents and Friends Associationof the school or a professional or work association, respectively.In sum, in Atlantic Canada, ethnocultural and ethnoreligious organizationalmembership and activities reconstituted and reinforced ethnic identity amongthese middle-class women of South Asian origin. In so doing, they contributedto social cohesion and empowerment while providing needed social, cultural,recreational and spiritual services. Advocacy and change in structures andrelations were not the goal. Critical gender issues were not the matter ofdiscourse or action. Two women whom I interviewed reported independentlythat a South Asian woman who experienced sexual abuse would not discuss iteven with a close friend. There was no open discussion of violence againstwomen in ethnoreligious and ethnocultural groups and no advocacy-orientedorganizational activity to protest and combat violence against women.Women’s experience of violence, if and when it existed, was invisible andvirtually inaudible. Only one woman, a Muslim, spoke with me of personalexperience of wife abuse. She lived in an isolated settlement of AtlanticCanada. Although she maintained affiliation with a geographically remotereligious organization, practically speaking she was completely isolated. Shehad no ethnic community networks. She had no mainstream supportorganization in her area. At the time of the interview, the level of proactiveawareness of domestic violence was low in the region. A highly qualified,articulate woman, she self-consciously criticized herself for remaining in anabusive situation. To that extent, she might be considered as empowered.Organizational activities in British ColumbiaIn British Columbia, by contrast, particularly in metropolitan Vancouver, acity with a large population of ethnically and racially diverse immigrantpeople, as well as a high concentration of women of South Asian origin, thereis a high level of gender and racial awareness. Many middle-class South Asianimmigrant women are actively organized in advocacy-oriented groups topromote consciousness-raising, education, and change among men and amongworking-class grass roots women in areas of specific concern: violence againstwomen, reproductive technology and amniocentesis clinics, racism, andrecognition of foreign credentials and experience. At the same time, there is alarge number of organizations which provide a vast array of services forimmigrant women. Such organizations also contributed to empowerment bycreating a self-conscious awareness of ethnic identity and solidarity and ofrace difference among visible minority women.Among the one hundred women who were interviewed, 82 % belonged to anethnocultural or ethnoreligious organization. Moreover, 40 % belonged to awomen’s organization. Whereas in Atlantic Canada I encountered only oneautonomous South Asian women’s organization, namely, the AnnapolisValley Asian Women’s Association, in metropolitan Vancouver, sixassociations had been organized by and for Canadian women of South Asian131


IJCS / RIÉCorigin. Some women were actively involved in five or six South Asian,multicultural and visible minority women’s organizations. The members ofmany of these organizations tended to form a collective rather than create ahierarchical organizational structure. The founders and most active membersof the organization collective were predominantly highly educated and middleclass.For more than twenty years, some women of South Asian origin inmetropolitan Vancouver have been conscious of interacting gender, race andclass discrimination and have been actively organizing and strategizingtowards equity and empowerment. The founding members of groups such asthe India Mahila Association became aware that service organizations weremerely “a band-aid approach” to pressing problems and were doing littlepreventative to improve the lived experience of women. 15 Moreover, someSikh ethnoreligious organizations were highly politicized and therebyconstructed divisions and boundaries within the Sikh communities. Inparticular, the male dominance of these organizations constructed genderboundaries and contributed in part to the creation of feminist, advocacyorientedorganizations. A variety of women’s organizations have been formed,some explicitly for women of South Asian origins, some for immigrant andvisible minority women of diverse cultural origins. Many women’sorganizations have been working actively for a long time to educate, support,network and strategize with other women to bring about legal and socialchange.The area of most acute concern, education and action for the past ten years hasbeen violence against women. 16 In the British Columbia sample, thirty-sixwomen made some reference to violence and of these, five women (twoMuslim, two Hindu, one Christian) had personally experienced abuse. Thewomen spoke of physical and verbal abuse, of violence exacerbated by thehusband’s alcohol abuse, of a husband taking all the woman’s pay out of a jointaccount, of taking other women out, and even of remarrying in another countrybefore divorce proceedings had been completed in Canada. Some womenexperienced abuse as much from their in-laws as from their husbands. In theextended family living situation, a mother-in-law expected one woman “towork, to cook for five people... to do all the housework. I was treated like aservant... Mothers-in-law are key to family. Women should not let themselvesbe oppressed.” Women of Muslim affiliation experienced additional forms ofabuse; for example, “A divorced Muslim woman has no future in (my homecountry), and here (in Canada), (Muslims) treat a divorced woman as very low.Men treat me as so easy.” 17 For this Muslim woman, at least, patriarchalrelations and ideologies, reinforced by religious ideologies, have constructedspecific representations and roles of what it means to be wife, mother, and,above all, housewife. She is defined as property of the husband, and asdivorcee she becomes damaged property. The thirty-one other women whospoke of violence against women raised similar concerns.A little-recognized form of violence to which women have also addressed theiractivities has been that against senior women which has occurred when adult“children” do not respect their personal, social and emotional needs, use them132


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Womenas nannies for their own children, and sometimes subject them to physicalabuse. 18 Some senior women have become empowered through participationin collectives organized explicitly among and for seniors.In recent years, abuse of women and female foetuses through amniocentesistesting in sex-selection clinics has become a particularly controversial issue.An American doctor operates a clinic within short driving distance from theU.S. border where he offers the dubious service (for the considerable sum ofUS $1,000) of allegedly guaranteeing 100 percent accuracy as to whether themother is carrying “a healthy boy or a healthy girl.” Local South Asiannewspapers carry his advertisements. 19 In response, a coalition ofrepresentatives of South Asian women’s groups united against sex-selectionclinics and female foeticide and actively sought support from mainstreamwomen’s organizations. They have organized protest marches in South Asianmarkets, criticized South Asian newspapers for publishing advertisements forsex-selection clinics and gender-discriminatory articles, produced dramas andinformation programs on television and radio, lobbied provincial and federalmembers of parliament, and sought active support from mainstream women’sorganizations. In addition, South Asian women’s organizations have usedsocial situations like banquets, festival celebrations and temple gatherings forweddings and birthdays to enlist the support of gender-conscious husbands inthe presentation of skits and dramas which raise consciousness to specificaspects of violence against women. In these contexts, whole families areeducated to awareness that such abuses against women are reprehensible. Forthese women of South Asian origin, at least, sex-selection clinics wereprimarily an urgent women’s concern within the ethnocultural group itself.Their strategizing was based on the premise that the root of the problem in theuse of such clinics lay in the reproduction of patriarchal ideologies andrelations of ruling within family and community.The India Mahila Association (IMA), founded in 1973, is the oldest of theSouth Asian women’s organizations. 20 The women of IMA reflect a widediversity of South Asian religious, cultural, linguistic and national origins. It isan autonomous collective of women with funding only from membership anddonations and no state funding. It has some twenty-five core members andapproximately 100 to 200 members who fluctuate in their participation inactivities. While most of the members are residents of Greater Vancouver,some reside in Lower Mainland British Columbia and some on VancouverIsland — regions close enough to Vancouver for networking. In terms ofissues and needs of a particular time, it has engaged in both service-orientedand advocacy-oriented activities over its twenty-year history. It has organizedsocial and cultural events which provide a forum for dialogue, exchange andcelebration among women who share common origins and interests. It has alsoconducted educational and advocacy work which raises consciousness andaddresses the rights of South Asian Canadian women. In addition, it hasproduced and participated in proactive radio and television programs dealingwith issues of particular concern in the lived experience of South AsianCanadian women — issues such as arranged marriages, dowry, sex selection,violence against women, and challenges faced by young women of SouthAsian origin. (IMA 1993:2)133


IJCS / RIÉCThe IMA also conducts research. A recent activity over a three-year period hasbeen a major study of South Asian women’s needs and an assessment ofcommunity agencies which attempt to address those needs. The results of thestudy were released and presented to South Asian women at a two-dayworkshop which was organized to plan future strategies, February 5-6, 1994. 21The participants included not only “the converted” — that is, women who havebecome sensitized — but also grassroots working-class women who never goto conferences. At the conference banquet, ten senior women of South Asianorigin were honoured for their consistent active contribution to the communityover a long period of residence in Vancouver.The February conference included panels and workshops to address twoidentified areas of major concern; namely, “Violence against Women:Protection and Prevention” and “Education and Employment: Barriers andBiases.” The expressed concern about “Violence against Women” led to an indepth,follow-up qualitative study by three IMA members during the summerof 1994. 22 One can expect and hope that the IMA research project will result inproactive responses to violence and greater empowerment of women of SouthAsian origin.Women in CMA Vancouver have used various forms of communicationmedia as agents of empowerment. A key person in the promotion of gender andrace awareness among women has been Shushma Sardana, the owner of atelevision production company and the producer of a radio talk-show inPunjabi and Hindi languages. 23 A Punjabi immigrant twenty-two years ago,Shushma Sardana quickly became actively involved in activities to empowerwomen. She gives time on her programs to members of various ethnoculturalorganizations to be interviewed about women’s issues of current concern. Herleading questions allow them to give information about what a woman can doto meet her needs for practical help with such things as language training,health care for herself or her children, teenage drinking, as well as to addressmore sensitive issues such as foetal sex selection, male child preference andwife abuse. She has hosted programs where medical scientists and otherexperts provided basic education on such matters as sex-determination by themale’s and not the female’s gene. These programs have provoked tremendousfeedback and have provided impetus to women’s organization andempowerment.Other South Asian women’s organizations in metropolitan Vancouver includeSamantha and the South Asian Women’s Network. Samantha developed as anoffshoot of the IMA about ten years ago to deal explicitly with education ofmen to awareness of violence against women. 24 It was founded at a publicmeeting of over four hundred people who gathered to protest the murder ofseveral women of South Asian origin. Initially, half the membership was men,with some IMA members enlisting their own husbands’ cooperation inconscientizing men to gender awareness and violence against women.Samantha has now become an autonomous organization of about fifteen activewomen members and has shifted its focus towards education and counsellingof abused women through periodic social gatherings and cultural programs.134


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant WomenThe South Asian Women’s Action Network (SAWAN) is a feminist advocacygroup of young women who began meeting as a collective in 1991. 25 Itcomprises ten very active members and six to ten women who come and go. Itsmajor focus of attention from 1993 to 1994 was to initiate and plan a SouthAsian women’s centre in Vancouver. The members met regularly every twoweeks to achieve their goal in April 1994, with funding assistance from thegovernment of British Columbia. The centre, located on Main Street,Vancouver, the major South Asian commercial and residential area of the city,serves as a drop-in place for women with the objective of being a place ofoutreach and advocacy as needs arise. 26Some women in British Columbia were also actively involved as principaloffice-bearers and workers for two important anti-racist women’sorganizations whose membership comprises a broad spectrum of immigrantgroups: the Vancouver Society of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women,and the Association of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of BritishColumbia, respectively. 27 Their activities were both service-oriented andadvocacy-oriented. The Vancouver society started about ten years ago as anadvocacy group seeking recognition and equality for women. The groupfound, however, the term “advocacy” did not help them to get governmentfunding; after eight years, they dropped the word from the constitution. Sincethen they have focused on activities and programs directed towards obtainingrecognition of foreign credentials for both women and men. They havetargeted specific professions such as teaching, accountancy and social work —with the cooperation of professional associations like the Teachers Federation— provided workshops and produced booklets which help to overcome theseemingly insurmountable hurdles immigrants meet in trying to get a job inline with their qualifications and experience. Some women who wereinterviewed reported of their experience applying for jobs in terms such as thefollowing: “As soon as they see the colour of your skin…you are looked uponas if you don’t know anything, have a language problem or will not do the jobproperly.” 28 The Association of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women ofBritish Columbia has as its explicit mandate to work for a more accessible andequitable society for immigrant and visible minority women througheducation, networking, and advocacy. Its activities include lobbying toimprove the status of immigrant and visible minority women and providingworkshops that communicate knowledge and skills for employment training,for dealing with violence against women in the family, for language training. Italso produces a newsletter, conducts research and has initiated theestablishment of a Family Support Services Association. The Board hasrepresentatives from the five major regions of British Columbia: Vancouver,Lower Mainland British Columbia, Northern British Columbia, CentralBritish Columbia and Vancouver Island.On Vancouver Island and in interior British Columbia, women tended toassociate actively with various intercultural, multicultural and immigrantservice and advocacy organizations which worked with and on behalf ofimmigrants — men, women and youth — of diverse cultural origins. InVancouver Island, four years ago, three intercultural associations (theIntercultural Association of Greater Victoria; 29 the Cowichan Valley135


IJCS / RIÉCIntercultural and Immigrant Aid Society, located at Duncan, a small town tothe north of Victoria; 30 and the Central Vancouver Island MulticulturalSociety, located at the larger, more northerly town of Nanaimo 31 ) formed aVancouver Island Immigrant Women’s Committee (called NA-DU-VIC) witha paid coordinator. 32 Its express purpose is outreach across cultural boundariesto isolated immigrant women in remote and smaller settlements (Port Alberni,Courtenay, Campbell River, Port Hardy). Intercultural groups are graduallybeing formed throughout Vancouver Island. The coalition of associationsprovides a structure for networking, dialogue and collective action amongwidely-dispersed women of diverse cultural identities. The groups focus onissues such as cross-cultural parenting, concerns of children of mixedmarriages or Canadian-born children of immigrants, as well as various culturaland practical skills which enhance women’s opportunities and thus empowerthem socially and economically. At the time of my visit to the women’s groupin Victoria on 27 May 1994, final plans were under discussion for free bustransportation to an employment conference, scheduled one week later.Nanaimo, a relatively remote centre, had been selected as the conference site inan explicit attempt to reach outlying people on the island.Immigrant women in interior British Columbia also experienced isolation.Prince George, the largest city in interior British Columbia, had a population ofalmost 70,000 in 1991, its rapid growth having occurred largely as a result ofexpansion in the forest industry. It is located some 800 kilometres from each ofthe large metropolitan centres of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.Migrants to Prince George experience isolation because travel outside thecommunity is always expensive, and, in winter, very difficult. Kamloops, thesecond largest city in interior British Columbia, is situated some 400kilometres east of Vancouver, at the junction of two large rivers and the majortransportation routes which cross the Rocky Mountains to link Canada fromwest to east. With a 1991 population of 67,000, it is somewhat smaller thanPrince George, but an older settlement. According to the women I interviewed,it is a more conservative and racist community than Prince George. BothPrince George and Kamloops have South Asian populations between 1,500and 2,000.The Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society (IMMS) at Prince Georgeoffers a very wide range of programs and services to immigrants and refugeesin northern communities. 33 A multicultural women’s program organizesworkshops, seminars and programs, both educational and cultural, aroundissues of concern to women, such as violence against women, selfemployment,employment training and employment equity. In addition,women train as volunteers with other community social agencies and learnleadership skills through participation in conferences and workshops in largercentres. IMSS adopts a proactive stance towards violence against women andcollaborates closely with the Elizabeth Fry Society, which provides a fullrange of shelter, support, counselling, education and awareness and referralservices. IMMS also promotes anti-racist education and activities. While theexecutive director and many of the volunteers and participants in the activitiesof the society are of South Asian ethnic origin, 34 the emphasis is on mutual136


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Womenunderstanding and full participation and contribution of all members of theculturally and religiously diverse community of the Prince George area.Like the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society at Prince George,Kamloops Immigrant Services 35 is an organization with the dual objective ofproviding assistance necessary for immigrants of all ethnic origins to becomefully participating members of Canadian society and of promoting communityawareness, attitudes and behaviour which ensure that the multicultural andmultiracial character of Canadian society is acknowledged in discourse andaction. With a director, twelve full-time staff, and many volunteers, itsactivities and services include interpretation and translation of forty-sevenlanguages, English-language classes at six levels, counselling and supportservices, women’s support groups, advocacy, a work program, careerguidance, educational and race relations programs, a volunteer program, andseveral others. Kamloops Immigrant Services designs programs, informationsessions, literature and activities to address spousal and child abuse and toimprove the quality of life of immigrant women. The organization alsocollaborates with various other community agencies, institutions andorganizations which address specific concerns like racism, sexism andviolence against women.One can speculate about the reasons why some women in British Columbiatended to affiliate and organize themselves predominantly with women andmen of diverse cultural origins rather than with members of their own specificgroup. In the first place, as I have observed above, women who are categorizedand socially constructed as being of South Asian origin may in fact be ofdiverse ethnoreligious, ethnocultural, linguistic, national and regional origins.The “differences” among them may be just as great as those among otherimmigrant women. Being an “immigrant woman” with visible and audibledifferences from those of native-born Canadian women, being “women ofcolour” gives rise to common interests and goals which unite them in serviceorientedand advocacy-oriented organizations. For many immigrant women,learning to speak Canadian English and getting the first job without Canadianqualifications and experience were the primary goals. Some womenarticulated the experience that being a woman of colour made it twice as hard.Race and gender discrimination intertwined with “not being Canadian” todisempower them. Organizational activities of intercultural associationsaddressed these specific common needs in a practical and efficient manner. Atthe same time, such organizations provided a context for interpersonalrelations across cultural boundaries as well as among the members of a specificethnocultural group. In Breton’s terms, the linguistically and culturallyspecific ethnic community group was relatively low in its institutionalcompleteness. The intercultural group united and empowered them to addressissues of discrimination, inequality and inequity based on gender, race andnational origin.Organizational activities in AlbertaPreliminary interviews in Alberta have indicated that there are relatively fewspecifically South Asian women’s organizations. 36 In Edmonton, a very active137


IJCS / RIÉCorganization, the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association, is geographicallysituated in a neighbourhood where immigrant women are de facto Indo-Canadians. 37 Founded in 1984 as a women’s organization, men have alwaysbeen encouraged to join the Indo-Canadian Women’s Association as associatemembers. The group is an articulate advocate of women’s issues and women’srights. The founder and executive director regularly acts as a workshopinstructor on issues such as employment equity and sexual abuse, deliverskeynote remarks at conferences on racial and gender issues and rebuts onpublic television gender and racially discriminatory statements by publicfigures. In addition, the association has produced two videos through a privatetelevision company, 38 “Crossing the Line,” which deals with girls abused bytheir parents because they want to be like every other Canadian-born girl; and“The Bold Step,” in which one woman tells her own story of wife abuse and her“success story” of empowerment and enrollment in a social work program.The Indo-Canadian Women’s Association organized a conference, 26February 1994, on “Effects of Fundamentalism on Women.” 39 The conferencewas directed towards the formation of a new coalition which would lobbyinternational organizations, like the United Nations and the World Council ofChurches, to start working for justice and equality of women and to repudiatethe misuse of religion to keep women in a subservient and oppressed conditionin family and society.In Calgary, the India-Canada Association, a secular umbrella organization, hasindividual, family and association members. It coordinates nine associationswhich serve the interests and goals of specific regional and cultural groups. 40In the fall of 1993, it hosted the National Indo-Canadian Council conference,which, through several workshops, addressed the common problems ofimmigrants. One workshop focused on “women’s issues” and dealt with“problems outside the family and within the family.” The former includeddifficulties of adjustment to Canadian society; the latter, family violence andwife abuse. The workshop revealed that women have a heightened awarenessof abuse and violence in the family and are able to talk about it. Nevertheless, aSouth Asian Women’s Counselling Service, which had existed between 1986and 1989 and drew five or six new cases each month, had to discontinue itsservices because government funding ended.As in British Columbia, women of South Asian origin in Alberta work activelyas members and provincial representatives of advocacy- oriented,multicultural women’s organizations, such as the Alberta Network ofImmigrant Women, the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Society, a Calgaryfamily crisis centre called SEWA, and the National Organization of Immigrantand Visible Minority Women. 41 Again, similar sets of factors to those inoperation in British Columbia were probably at work to account for theseintercultural organizational activities.ConclusionThe research has indicated some similarities as well as some markeddifferences in the patterns of organizational activities among women of SouthAsian origin in Atlantic Canada and in Western Canada, respectively. In both138


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Womenregions, women participated in organizations which constructed their identityas immigrant women different from mainstream, native-born Canadianwomen. In Atlantic Canada, the women tended to be involved in ethnospecificservice organizations; in Western Canada, they tended to associate themselveswith immigrant women of diverse cultural origins. Such organizationscontributed to social cohesion and empowerment by providing needed social,cultural, recreational and spiritual services. One can suggest some factors thatmight account for these similarities and differences and draw some tentativeconclusions as to why South Asian women in Western Canada, particularly inmetropolitan Vancouver, engaged themselves in advocacy organizations tocombat race and gender discrimination, especially violence against women,whereas advocacy goals were not a basis for organization in Atlantic Canada.As I noted at the outset of this paper, the total population of South Asians inAtlantic Canada is relatively small compared to that in Western Canada, andSouth Asians represent a much smaller proportion of the total Atlantic Canadapopulation than they do in the Western provinces. Furthermore, virtually allSouth Asian settlement in the Atlantic region has occurred as a result ofchanges in immigration policies and regulations of the late 1960s and 1970swhich favoured the entrance to Canada of men who could successfullypromote and integrate into its economic development. Such men wereparticularly attractive in rural and remote regions of the country — such asAtlantic Canada — where native-born Canadians did not wish to work. Mostof the women in the Atlantic Canada sample were solidly middle-class in termsof their family background, their own and their husbands’ educational andoccupational levels, and the family income. In fact, South Asians had higherlevels of education, occupation and income than the population of AtlanticCanadians of all ethnic origins. 42 Although an effort was made to ferret outworking-class women in Atlantic Canada, only a very few were found. Thus,although class was one of the variables of interest, the range of classrepresented in Atlantic Canada was narrow. Middle-class South Asian womenengaged in ethnoreligious and ethnocultural organizational activities toreconstruct their own identity in the Canadian context, to foster the formationof an ethnic group identity among their children, to share facets of that identitywith Canadians of other ethnic and racial origins but of a similar professionalor business class, and, in some instances, to provide services for those in needin the home country or in mainstream Atlantic Canada society.While South Asians also settled in large numbers in Western Canada as a resultof the post-1960s immigration policies, one difference was that there had beena South Asian community in British Columbia since the early part of thecentury with long-established religious and cultural institutions — dominatedby South Asian men — and a long history of experiencing racial and genderdiscrimination on the part of white settlers. As Breton (1964:202) observed,once a formal organization has developed within an ethnic community “it hasthe effect of reinforcing the cohesiveness of already existing networks (ofinformal relations) and of expanding these networks.” A vast array of SouthAsian ethnocultural organizations has developed, and of interculturalorganizations as the flow of other visible minority migrants has increased. InBritish Columbia, in contrast to Atlantic Canada, the range of class among139


IJCS / RIÉCSouth Asians is broader. There is a significant proportion of women (such asnon-English speaking grape pickers) with few resources. Middle-class womenhave organized themselves as advocates to raise consciousness and struggleagainst gender oppression within the community itself and gender, race andclass oppression from the larger society.The migration and settlement experience of women has been affected byimmigrant recruitment patterns. While immigrant men as well as womenmight experience powerlessness in the loss of educational and work status,immigrant women have a different experience than that of immigrant men.Most immigrant women are legally and socially constructed as dependants.They usually enter Canada as dependent wives, daughters or mothers of men.They experience dislocation and displacement in the migration process itselfand, upon settlement in Canada, lack a kin network and support system. Somewomen lack knowledge of the English language. They experiencecontradictions in gender and ethnic identity roles and in the sexual division oflabour in household and paid work world. For the majority of the women in mystudy, migration to Canada was the result of an arranged marriage, a religiouslegalcontract in which the woman theoretically and practically agreed to theman’s control over gender relations in family and community. Culturally andreligiously defined relations of ruling which held sway in the home countryreproduced women’s gender status in Canada. Their place of settlement wasdetermined by the husband’s job opportunities and desires. As one intervieweeexpressed it:Live where your husband is. Give up your profession, yourjob.…Men migrate either for professional or financial reasons.Women may migrate for these reasons, but Indian women usuallymigrate for marriage. And sometimes coming abroad isromanticized. 43Where the women settled determined what job opportunities were available tothem and whether, indeed, any job was available. In remote rural settlements,while the husband might have a well-paid, highly specialized professionaloccupation with numerous professional colleagues, the woman might have nowomen at all of her own cultural background for interpersonal relations,networking, support or proactive response to her situation; her relations werewith immigrant women of other ethnic origins or with native-born Canadians.Service and advocacy organizational activities addressed issues of commonconcern to these categories. Her informal and formal networking with otherSouth Asian women was through long-distance communication either bytelephone or a journey by car or plane for specifically ethnoreligious andethnocultural organizational purposes. Such was the case for women livingoutside the metropolitan centres of the Atlantic region and to a lesser extent forthose settled on Vancouver Island and in interior British Columbia. In themetropolitan centre of Vancouver, with a high level of proactive awareness ofviolence against women and of racial conflict in the larger society and a highconcentration of South Asians of diverse cultural and class identities,networking and formal advocacy organizations became a reality. In the largercentres of Atlantic Canada, on the other hand, where the level of proactiveawareness is lower than in the West and where South Asians are relatively few140


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Womenin numbers and experience an affluent, middle-class lifestyle, there is little orno support for advocacy goals.The research has suggested that South Asian immigrant women’spowerlessness is experienced in family, community and society, where race,class and gender intertwine to construct experiential differences which are notonly “sites of difference” but also “sites of the operations of power.” Women’sinterests and goals are different from those of men. Patriarchal relations ofruling in family and other institutions and structures of society are a majorfactor in South Asian women’s lived experience of subordination,powerlessness, violence and other forms of oppression. Familial and religiousvalues, practices and racist ideologies serve to maintain, reproduce andreinforce their powerlessness. Insofar as women recognize shared experiencesof powerlessness, exploitation and oppression, mobilize and organizecollectively to speak, act and advocate for change in their status andexperience, then they are moving towards empowerment, equity and justice.Notes* This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the 7th Biennial Conference of theAssociation for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand, La Trobe University,Bundoora (Melbourne), Australia, February 16 to 18, 1995. I appreciate the comments andsuggestions of two anonymous reviewers. I gratefully acknowledge funding for the researchfrom three sources: grants #410-88-1347 and #410-93-1285 from the Social Sciences andHumanities Research Council of Canada and a Senate Research Grant from Saint Mary’sUniversity, Halifax. I also thank Emily Burton, who conducted 45 interviews of the sampleof 100 British Columbia women; Catherine Chandler, who was responsible for data inputand overall project management; Raminder Dosanjh, who gave me hours of her time as aninvaluable British Columbia informant.1. The source of the following data is Statistics Canada (1993). Ethnic Origin: the Nation. 1991Census of Canada. Catalogue number 93-315, Tables 1A and 1B, and Appendix 2. Ottawa:Industry, Science and Technology Canada.2. In proportion to the total population, South Asians numbered 0.2 % in Atlantic Canada, 3.2% in British Columbia, and 1.6 % in Alberta, respectively.3. “Census Metropolitan Area” (CMA) is a Statistics Canada term for a metropolitan regionwith a population of 100,000 or more. A CMA comprises a large central city surrounded byseveral smaller independent cities and towns. According to the 1991 Census, there are 25CMAs in Canada. There are three CMAs in Atlantic Canada: Halifax, Nova Scotia, 317,630;St. John’s, Newfoundland, 169,810; and Saint John, New Brunswick, 123,605. There aretwo CMAs in British Columbia: Vancouver, 1,584,115; Victoria, the provincial capital,located on Vancouver Island, with a much smaller population of 283,630. There are twoCMAs in Alberta: Calgary, 748,215; Edmonton, the capital, 832,155.4. The source for the definition of ethnic origin and the data is Statistics Canada (1993)EthnicOrigin: the Nation 1991 Census of Canada, Catalogue 93-315, Table 1A Ottawa: Industry,Science and Technology Canada. Respondents can write in more than one ethnic origin.5. The more familiar term “East Indian” is also a social construct of a colonial era and aEurocentric world view.6. In much the same way, when I visit India I am socially defined as “European” along withAmerican, West German, Australian, English and other people whose ancestors originatedin the European continent. After all, “we all look the same.”7. See, for example, Barrett (1989) and Spivak (1989) who have articulated this debate.8. See Ralston (1991, 1992a, 1992b, 1993, 1994 and forthcoming).141


IJCS / RIÉC9. In the 1986 census there were approximately 3,800 South Asians scattered throughout thefour Atlantic provinces. About half the South Asian population resided in Nova Scotia, withnearly 40% in the Halifax census metropolitan area.10. The 126 women who participated in the Atlantic Canada study had been in Canada anaverage of 17 years, the longest resident having immigrated in 1956, the most recent havingarrived in 1988, with the mode being 27 women between 1967 and 1969. The youngestperson interviewed was aged 20 years; the oldest, 74 years, with the mode being in the earlyforties. They were born in India (82), present-day Pakistan (20), Bangladesh (6), Sri Lanka(4), Burma (2), the Caribbean (2), Uganda/Kenya (7), Singapore (1), Indonesia (1), England(1). Their religious affiliation was as follows: 69 Hindu (55 %), 19 Christian (15 %), 17 Sikh(13.5 %), 17 Muslim (13.5 %), 3 Zoroastrian (2 %) and 1 Jewish (1 %).11. In the 1991 census, the South Asian population in British Columbia had grown to 103,545(from 69,250 in the 1986 census). Of these, 75,430 (73 %) resided in CMA Vancouver.Because the present study has included Indo-Fijians, who numbered 4,945 in BritishColumbia (with 4,640 of these in CMA Vancouver), 74 of the sample of 100 women havebeen interviewed in CMA Vancouver; 26 proportionately drawn from other places in BC —14 in Vancouver Island; 12 in interior BC). A research assistant, Emily Burton, hasinterviewed 45 women in CMA Vancouver. I have conducted the remaining interviewsmyself. The women were born in India (60), Fiji (21), Pakistan (8), Sri Lanka (2), Kenya (4),Uganda (3), Tanzania (1), Malaysia (1). They ranged in age from 24 years to 73 years, withthe mode being in the mid- to late- forties. Their religious affiliation was as follows: Sikh(40), Hindu (39), Muslim (9), Christian (8), Zoroastrian (3), and None (1). The earliestimmigrant to Canada came in 1949; the most recent, in 1994.12. In the 1991 census, the total population of Alberta was 2,519,180, with 40,030 of SouthAsian ethnic origin. South Asians in CMA Edmonton numbered 18,930 and in CMACalgary 18,350 (i.e., 93 % of the total South Asian population of Alberta). The religiousaffiliation of the 6 Alberta women was: 4 Hindu, 1 Christian, 1 None.13. Virtually all Fijians who enter Canada are Indo-Fijians, according to a personalcommunication with Tom Ryan, the officer of Immigration Canada who processed all Fijianapplicants for entry to Canada, Sydney, Australia, January 6, 1993.14. Information about the history, membership and activities of the association was obtainedfrom anonymous participants in my study.15. Interviews with several members of IMA and other organizations, December 1993, Apriland May, 1994.16. In April 1994, thanks to Raminder Dosanjh, I viewed a series of films and home videos oftaped national, provincial and local television programs, dating back to the early 1980s,which dealt with violence against women.17. Interviews, April 15, 1994.18. Interview, June 20, 1994.19. A good summary report of the issue of sex selection, the clinic operated by Dr. John Stephensat Blaine, Washington State, U.S.A., and proactive responses by South Asian women, ispresented by Sunera Thobani (1991).20. Information about the activities of the India Mahila Association was obtained from thefollowing sources: (1) 3 face-to-face interviews and several telephone conversations withRaminder Dosanjh, one of the founding members; (2) case interviews with members of theassociation; (3) participation in a South Asian Women’s Conference, February 5-6, 1994;(4) an interview, April 19, 1994, with Shushma Sardana, I.T. Productions, producer of aradio talk show and a Multicultural Television program; (5) viewing taped records ofactivities and events; (6) a Report by the India Mahila Association, Assessment of Needs andServices to South Asian Women in the Lower Mainland Area, dated March 1993, but releasedonly at the February 1994 South Asian Women’s Conference.21. The conference was called Mahila Milan, meaning “Meeting of Women.” I was invited toparticipate in some of the workshops and planning sessions and at the banquet.22. My informant about the study is Raminder Dosanjh, one of the interviewers and a foundingmember of IMA. A random sample of 15 women was drawn for an interview of more thantwo hours in which they told their story.142


Organizational Empowerment Among South AsianImmigrant Women23. Information about I.T. Productions, Vancouver, was obtained from interviews withRaminder Dosanjh, especially April 12, 1994, and with Shushma Sardana, April 19, 1994, aswell as from viewing several home videotapes of Raminder Dosanjh’s.24. Information about Samantha obtained from the president, Surjeet Kalsey, December 10,1993, and Raminder Dosanjh, April 12, 1994.25. Information about SAWAN obtained from a founding member, December 5, 1993. SuneraThobani, now president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC)was a founding member of this group.26. My research assistant, Emily Burton, visited the centre, June 22 and 23, 1994. She describedthe centre as attractively and comfortably furnished. She spoke with a full-time staffmember, employed as a contract worker, and observed her counselling drop-ins. Anotherwoman is employed as a part-time book-keeper.27. Information obtained in 9 interviews —3inCMAVancouver, 6 elsewhere in BC —December 8-9, 1993, April 17-18, 1994; and May 12 and June 20-22, 1994, respectively.28. Interviews July 1994.29. The Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) is staffed by at least four women ofSouth Asian origin who have paid work on a full- or part-time basis. Information about ICAwas obtained from interviewees, May 12, 16 and 27, 1994, and from various publications ofthe association, including pamphlets, issues of the ICA Newsletter, and the magazine of ICA,Tapestry, 3, 2(Summer 1993).30. Information obtained from executive director, Hortensia Houle, and anonymousinterviewees, May 16-17, 1994.31. Telephone interview with executive director, JoAnne Blackman, May 16, 1994.32. Interviews with staff of all three associations, May 16, 17 and 27, 1994; visit with women’sgroup, Victoria, May 27, 1994.33. Information regarding Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society from executivedirector, Baljit Sethi, June 20-22, 1994, from various publications of the society, from itsAnnual Report, June 1994, and from anonymous interviewees during those same dates.34. In 1993-1994, of the 252 new clients (214 new immigrants and 38 newcomers from otherplaces) who participated in its programs and activities, 78 % were of South Asian origin. Inall, IMSS had 2042 contacts during the year. (Annual Report, June 1994)35. Information from executive director, Trudy Dirk, community support worker, RajinderLotay, and anonymous interviewees, June 24-25, 1994.36. I interviewed key informants, both men and women, and 6 individual women in Calgary andAlberta, November 25-26, 1993, and June 12-16, 1994. As indicated above, by design thefieldwork was limited to the CMAs, Calgary and Edmonton, where most women of SouthAsian origin reside. A key informant made a distinction between the two cities. Shedescribed Edmonton as a more diverse, open city, as compared to Calgary, where people are“red-necked and very American big business people” (Interview, June 16, 1994). Herobservation was supported by a recent clip on national television regarding Calgaryautomobile stickers: “Redneck and proud of it!”37. Information obtained from the founder and executive director, Jayanti Negi, June 15, 1994. Ivisited the offices of the association, which is housed in premises of the Millwoods Centrefor Immigrants.38. SHAW Cable.39. The conference was well publicized by the media. For example, an article in the EdmontonJournal, B-2, February 27, 1994, reported that “Vancouver lawyer and women’s activistMobina Jaffer lauded Edmonton’s Indo-Canadian Women’s Association for showing that ithad `the guts’ to take on such intimidating forces (as religious fundamentalists).”40. Information obtained in interview with former president, Calgary, June 12, 1994.41. Information obtained from key informants and interviewees, November 26, 1993, and June12 to 16, 1994.42. Source: Statistics Canada. Special tabulations for population, age 15+, Census Canada 198643. South Asian Canadian woman interviewed in Atlantic Canada in 1988.Bibliography143


IJCS / RIÉCAgnew, Vijay. 1993. “Community Groups: an Overview.” Paper presented at a session on “SouthAsian Women’s Community Organizations” at the Biennial Conference of the CanadianEthnic Studies Association, Vancouver, November 27-30.Barrett, Michele. 1989. “Some different meanings of the concept of `difference’: feminist theoryand the concept of ideology.” Pp. 37-48 in Elizabeth Meese and Alice Parker, (eds.), TheDifference Within: Feminism and Critical Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Breton, Raymond. 1964. “Institutional completeness of ethnic communities and the personalrelations of immigrants.” American Journal of Sociology 70:193-205.Desai, Neera and Maithreyi Krishnaraj. 1990. Women and Society in India. 2nd Rev. Edn. NewDelhi: Ajanta.Etzioni, Amitai. 1959. “The ghetto — a re-evaluation.” Social Forces 39:255-62.India Mahila Association (IMA). 1993. A Report. Assessment of Needs and Services to SouthAsian Women in the Lower Mainland Area. Vancouver, B.C.: India Mahila Association,Indo-Canadian Association of Nova Scotia (INCA). 1988. Yearbook and Directory 1988. Halifax:Indo-Canadian Association of Nova Scotia.Ng, Roxana. 1981. “Constituting ethnic phenomenon: an account from the perspective ofimmigrant women.” Canadian Ethnic Studies. 13 1:97-108.Ng, Roxana. 1984. “Sex, ethnicity or class? Some methodological considerations.” Studies inSexual Politics 1:14-45.Ng, Roxana. 1986. “The social construction of `immigrant women’ in Canada.” Pp. 269-86 inRoberta Hamilton and Michelle Barrett, (eds.), The Politics of Diversity: Feminism,Marxism and Nationalism. Montreal: The Book Centre Inc.Ng, Roxana. 1989. “Sexism, racism and Canadian nationalism.” Pp. 10-25 in Jesse Vorst et al.,(eds.), Race, Class, Gender: Bonds and Barriers. Socialist Studies/Études Socialistes ACanadian Annual 5. Toronto: Between the Lines.Pettman, Jan. 1992. Living in the Margins: Racism, Sexism and Feminism in Australia. NorthSydney: Allen & Unwin.Ralston, Helen. 1991. “Religious Movements and the Status of Women in India.” Social Compass38(1):43-53.Ralston, Helen. 1992a. “Issues of concern in the lived experience of South Asian immigrantwomen in Atlantic Canada.” Pp. 91-104 in Ratna Ghosh and Rabindra Kanungo, (eds.),South Asian Canadians: Current Issues in the Politics of Culture. India: Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.Ralston, Helen. 1992b. “Religion in the life of South Asian immigrant women in AtlanticCanada.” Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion 4:245-60.Ralston, Helen. 1993. “The work experience of educated women in India and educated Indianimmigrant women in Atlantic Canada: some comparisons.” Pp. 228-244 in Hugh Johnston,(ed.), East and West: Perspectives on Canada and India. From the 1991 Shimla Conferenceon Canada-India Relations. New Delhi: Sage.Ralston, Helen. 1994. “Immigration policies and practices: their impact on South Asian women inCanada and Australia.” Australian-Canadian Studies 12 (1):1-47.Ralston, Helen. (forthcoming). South Asian Immigrant Women in Atlantic Canada. The EdwinMellen Press.Smith, Dorothy E. 1987. The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology. Toronto:The University of Toronto Press.Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1989. “A response to `the difference within: feminism and criticaltheory,’” Pp. 207-20 in Elizabeth Meese and Alice Parker, (eds.), The Difference Within:Feminism and Critical Theory. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Statistics Canada. 1993. Ethnic Origin: the Nation 1991 Census of Canada. Catalogue 93-315.Ottawa: Industry, Science and Technology Canada.Thobani, Sunera. 1991. “More than sexist....” Health Sharing 12:110-13.Yancey, William L., Eugene P. Ericksen and Richard N. Juliani. 1976. “Emergent ethnicity: areview and reformulation.” American Sociological Review 41:391-403.144


Verónica Vázquez García 1Gender and Land Rights in Mexico andCanada: A Comparative StudyAbstractThis paper examines the impact of colonialism on Native women in Mexicoand Canada. Two pieces of legislation are analyzed for this purpose: theAgrarian Code of Mexico and the Indian Act of Canada. Both pieces wereinfluenced by a liberal tradition which defines civil rights as individualproperty rights, where individuals are male. The paper shows that by relyingon the model of the nuclear, monogamous and male-headed family to legislate,both pieces have limited Native women’s access to land in their owncommunities and have placed them in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis theirmale counterparts.RésuméCet article examine l’impact du colonialisme sur les femmes autochtones duMexique et du Canada en analysant le Code agraire du Mexique et la Loicanadienne sur les indiens. Ces deux lois ont été influencées par une traditionlibérale qui définissait les droits civils comme des droits individuels à lapropriété. Dans cette définition, les individus sont des hommes. L’articledémontre que ces deux lois, en se basant sur le modèle familial nucléaire,monogame et patriarcal, limitent l’accès des femmes autochtones à lapropriété dans leurs propres communautés et les placent dans une position devulnérabilité face à leurs homologues mâles.The impact of colonialism on women’s work and status in traditionalsubsistence economies has been well documented. Scholars like Leacock(1972; 1978), Brown (1970) and Bell (1983) have suggested that although menand women in these societies have separate spheres of activities, they areautonomous individuals with positions of equal power and prestige. Womenmake a substantial contribution to the domestic economy and control theaccess to resources and the conditions of their work. These authors postulatethat colonial structures have undermined women’s autonomy and decisionmakingpower in their own communities.Other scholars believe that women’s independence in pre-colonial societiesshould not be overestimated. (Huntingdon, 1975; Afonja, 1981) As pointedout by Moore (1988:32), ethnographies contain “many references to malefemalerelations which are hard to fit in with this picture of autonomouscomplementarity, especially accounts of male violence towards women.”Sacks (1979:110) has suggested that kinship rules also play a role indetermining women’s control of resources in pre-colonial societies. Inpatrilineal communities, women’s access to resources is derived throughInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCmarriage into another kin group rather than through women’s relationship withtheir natal kin group. In other words, women cut themselves off from theiroriginal kin group at marriage and have access to resources only through theirhusbands’ kin group.This paper will examine the impact of colonialism on Native women inMexico and Canada. Emphasis will be placed on the role of the Mexican andthe Canadian states in limiting women’s access to land in their owncommunities. Two pieces of legislation will be analyzed for this purpose: theAgrarian Code of Mexico and the Indian Act of Canada. Both pieces wereinfluenced by a liberal tradition which defines civil rights as individualproperty rights, where individuals are male. This paper will show that by usingthe model of the nuclear, monogamous and male-headed family, both pieces oflegislation have limited Native women’s access to land in their owncommunities and have placed them in a vulnerable position vis-à-vis theirmale counterparts.The paper is divided into two sections. The first focuses on the ways in whichNative women’s access to land has changed historically in Mexico. Emphasisis placed on changes in Native inheritance patterns and the emergence of statelegislation which regulates individual rights to property. This sectionconcludes with an examination of Native women’s land rights under theAgrarian Code in contemporary Mexico.The second section discusses Native women’s access to resources in Canada.Emphasis is placed on Native women’s economic role and social status beforethe arrival of Europeans and on the ways in which the Indian Act hasundermined this status. This section concludes with an analysis of women’sproperty and civil rights under the Indian Act in contemporary Canada.Gender and Land Rights in MexicoThe Land Tenure System of TenochtitlanBefore the arrival of the Spaniards, what is now Mexico was inhabited byvarious ethnic groups. Most of them were under the military rule of the AztecEmpire. The Spaniards had to defeat militarily Tenochtitlan in order to foundNew Spain in 1521. Most of the information on pre-hispanic land tenuresystems focuses on Tenochtitlan, the core of the Aztec Empire and what laterbecame Mexico City.The unit of the land tenure system in Tenochtitlan was the calpulli, which wasassociated with kinship groups and professions that were passed on fromparents to children. Members of households within each calpulli cultivatedcollectively a common area and had rights to specific tillable plots which werecultivated individually. At the time of the Spanish invasion, however, theequivalence between kinship groups and calpullis was no longerstraightforward. (de Rojas, 1986:101) McBride (quoted in Chevalier andBuckles, in press:12) suggests that by that time modifications were graduallydestroying “whatever equality had formerly existed in the distribution of theland and in the social organization that was based upon it.” Evidence of this is148


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadathe existence of estates owned by the Aztec nobility where tenants cultivatedboth subsistence plots and the fields of the nobility and provided personalservice at their households.We know little about women’s involvement in agricultural work in calpullis.According to Hellbom (1967:235-236), only women belonging to theprofessional group of agricultural workers or female slaves performed allagricultural tasks. Similarly, Cline (1986:112) concludes from her study ofearly colonial Tenochtitlan that “generally in central Mexico, agriculturalwork seems to have been in the hands of men, although there is some evidencethat women were involved in planting and harvesting.” Rodríguez (1991:99)also notes that women who did not belong to the nobility occasionally helpedout in agricultural work.Early colonial evidence shows that residence groups in late Tenochtitlan wereformed by units larger than the nuclear family groupings. They were based on aparent-child or, more often, a sibling tie. Usually, more than one person,typically siblings, received rights to residential sites, as well as other parentalproperty. Brothers and sisters inherited equivalent rights in parental estates.However, there was a certain bias toward men in some contexts, especiallyland inheritance. This reflects males’ overall higher status in society and theirtendency to manage estates, especially landed estates. (Kellogg, 1986:105)Gender and Land Rights During the Colonial Period (1521-1821)After the invasion, the ownership and management of land became vested inthe Spanish Crown, which could in turn grant land rights to private persons.Two forms of land ownership were created: corregimientos and encomiendas.The first were territories and tribute obligations on the Aboriginal populationcontrolled by the Spanish Crown, while encomiendas were designations toSpanish soldiers who had aided in the invasion.Hardship inflicted by excessive tributes and epidemic diseases devastated theAboriginal population in the decades following the invasion. The SpanishCrown sought to “protect” its new subjects from abuse and replaced theencomiendas by mercedes, or permanent land grants to Spanish soldiers thatdid not involve tribute from the resident population. The Crown also called forthe concentration of Aboriginals into pueblos. The pueblo was composed of atown site and an ejido comprised of individual agricultural plots and a commonuntilled area of forest and pastures. (Chevalier and Buckles, in press:12-14)In Culhuacan (Central Mexico), the decline of Native populations coupledwith a temporary abundance of resources increased Nahua women’s ability toinherit and bequeath property. In her analysis of wills, Cline (1986) shows thatalthough patrimonial land (inherited land, “land that comes by right”) wasowned more frequently by men, women could receive all types of property,land, houses, and movable goods from male and female donors, and likewisepass it on to heirs of their choice. Similarly, in early colonial Mexico City(1540-1600), Nahua men bequeathed much more rural, agricultural land thantheir female counterparts, but Nahua women left a much higher proportion ofmovable property — almost three times as much as men did. While women left149


IJCS / RIÉCland, houses and movable property primarily to their daughters andgranddaughters, men left land, houses and movable property to wives, siblingsand children in a more balanced manner. The pattern of preference fordaughters and granddaughters by women is not gratuitous; a careful reading ofwomen’s wills suggests that women consciously tried to protect theirdaughters’ and granddaughters’ property rights. (Kellogg, 1986)The sibling group continued to be a major unit of inheritance in other regionsinhabited by Nahua populations (i.e. Cuernavaca). Rights to residential sites inMexico City during the early colonial period “were rarely inherited by onlyone person; instead, siblings, cousins, and sometimes other relatives weregiven such rights to share.” (Kellogg, 1986:117)However, monogamy and the nuclear family were gradually enforced amongthe Aboriginal population through religious indoctrination and legalsanctions. Tribute had to be paid by each (nuclear) family and Spanish officialsstarted to identify and name one male as head per household, despite the factthat often more than one couple shared a household. Spanish inheritancestressed lineal ties from parents to children rather than lateral ones to brothersand sisters. Spanish inheritance rules also showed a far greater tendency tochoose one person, or a very small group, particularly the nuclear family, toinherit. These changes resulted in the distinction between legitimate andillegitimate children for inheritance purposes in communities where polygynywas practised. Also, ties between siblings gradually weakened, making itharder for Native women to inherit as someone’s sister.Spanish laws are also responsible for the introduction of a legal system wherewomen could inherit land only as custodial heirs, that is, only if they hadchildren to support. Unlike the Indian Act of Canada, this system did not createspecial categories of people based on their ethnic origin; in other words, thenew laws applied not only to Native women, but to all women living in NewSpain. However, the new laws shaped Native women’s relation to property.Their access to land became increasingly limited to their roles as mothers andgrandmothers taking care of young children. Colonial courts particularlybenefited women who asserted land claims by making it clear that they hadchildren to support. Native women learned that they could maximize theirchances to receive land by emphasizing their roles as guardians of youngchildren. 2In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, population pressures reassertedthemselves and the hacienda-latifundio 3 became the predominant productiveunit in rural Mexico. In this context, it became more difficult for women toassert land rights. In Calimaya and Tepemaxalco (state of Mexico), the numberof houses and the amount and extension of land bequeathed in wills diminishedfrom 1672 to 1821. According to Kanter (personal communication), 4 Nativemen (Nahua, Othomí and Mazahua) of the Toluca region held a much greatershare of land than Native women. Although women (both married andwidowed) tended to choose female descendants as heirs (daughters, sisters,nieces and granddaughters), they had to fend off usurpations by male relatives,the village or (if widows) in-laws. Widows inherited land in their capacity as150


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadacustodial heirs 5 and were not considered owners in their own right, butproperty mediators between a man and his children.Gender and Land Rights During the Liberal Reform and the Porfiriato(1821-1910)The Mexican Independence and the liberal governments that followed broughtabout a further commoditization and privatization of land in all parts of thecountry. Legislation against collective ownership of land was introduced byliberals inspired by laissez-faire and private property ideals. They believedthat private property and the integration of Aboriginal populations into thewider society would result in economic development and “elevate the Indiansinto useful citizens.” (Florescano Mayet quoted in Chevalier and Buckles, inpress:17) Like the Indian Act of Canada, the legislation of independentMexico equated civil rights with rights to private property, and attempted toassimilate Native populations into the dominant society.In this context, land became more and more attached to families rather thancommunities. This was legalized in order to collect taxes and eliminatecorporate ownership. Once personal allotments were legally owned, landacquired a commercial value and could be sold without regard to kin groups ofthe community. Land and house sites were mostly acquired by inheritance, butthey could also be purchased or rented. This resulted in an erosion oftraditional patterns of property acquisition and residence (Olivera, 1976:72).The laws that allowed land privatization of communal land by individual titlecontributed to strengthen men’s position of dominance in the family and madetheir right to inherit and bequeath land almost unquestionable. (Mallon, 1990)The colonial judicial system through which women’s land rights as guardiansof young children were protected in courts also expired with Independence.After 1821, women simply did not have the same defense (a sympatheticjudge) when they were challenged for their land holdings. As a result, femaleland holding among the Nahua, Othomí and Mazahua populations of theToluca region declined. (Kanter, personal communication) During thePorfiriato regime, widows in one district of the region continued to be entitledto land, but they had to arm themselves and keep watch over it. (GonzálezMontes and Iracheta, 1987:123) Women unwilling to go to such extremeswould stand to lose their land.Gender and Land Rights after the Mexican RevolutionThe Mexican Revolution joined the discontent of a rising class of professionalsand capitalists with the misery of the rural and urban poor. Francisco I.Madero’s call for elections in 1910 forced dictator Porfirio Díaz to flee thecountry and initiated ten years of social upheaval. In spite of women’s activeinvolvement in the Revolution, 6 the new agrarian law did not increase theirchances to obtain land.The New Agrarian LawArticle 27 of the Constitution of 1917 states that ownership of land and waterswithin the national territory is vested in the nation. Like the Spanish Crown151


IJCS / RIÉCduring colonial times, the state can transfer rights to private persons orcorporations. Ownership of property is subject to the requirements of publicinterests.This principle gave way to varied forms of land property. These are the ejido,the agrarian community and private property. The first two are collectiveforms of property. They represent close to 50 percent of the national territory.However, 74 percent of these collective lands consist of natural pasture orforest unsuitable for crop cultivation. (Chevalier and Buckles, in press:29)The ejido is the most important form of collective land tenure. It is both aspecific territory and an association of independent producers with rights toland. When the ejido is parcelled, these members have exclusive rights tospecific parcels of land and to common untilled lands (usually forests). About92 percent of the 28,958 collective landholdings of Mexico (totalling95,108,066 hectares) are ejidos. Virtually all have been divided into individualparcels. Recent reforms to Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution also permitthe conversion of ejido land into private property and facilitate privateinvestment in ejido lands. (Chevalier and Buckles, in press:29-30)By contrast, the agrarian community is a regimen of communal land titlewithout any specified method of distribution or use. This system appliesmostly to Native communities that were not displaced from their land prior tothe Revolution and that had to apply to state authorities to obtain recognition oftheir communal lands. Unlike ejidatarios, comuneros may use lands in anypart of their territory. The Mexican government has tended to favour thegranting of ejidos because they are subject to greater administrative controlthan agrarian communities. (Chevalier and Buckles, in press:29-30)Procedures regarding women’s land rights within ejidos and agrariancommunities have changed throughout the years. The first agrarian lawpromulgated in 1915 made no reference to “individual land rights or to the sizeof landholdings beneficiaries were to receive: land was either given orreturned, with legal title, to communities. The land right clauses in the 1917constitution also made no reference to gender.” (Arizpe and Botey, 1987:70)The Ejido Law of 1920 was the first to establish that land should be distributedequitably among heads of households. Article 9 of the By-Laws, ratified in1922, states that “wherever land is granted to ejidos, the heads of households orindividuals over the age of eighteen shall receive from three to five hectares ofirrigated or rainfed lands.” Article 97 of the 1927 law establishes that “ejidomembers shall be Mexican nationals, males over the age of eighteen, or singlewomen or widows supporting a family.” (Arizpe and Botey, 1987:70) In otherwords, men over the age of eighteen, regardless of their marital status, areeligible for land rights, while women had to be responsible for young childrento receive land. As in colonial times, women in post-revolutionary Mexicoqualified for land rights only in their role as guardians of young children.Women’s organizations asked for amendments to the law in the 1920s and1930s, prior to and during the Cárdenas administration. At the first congress ofwomen workers and peasants organized in 1931 by the Partido FeministaRevolucionario 7 (which belonged to the Partido Nacional Revolucionario, 8152


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadathe ruling party) and the Bloque Nacional de Mujeres Revolucionarias, 9activist Cuca García pointed out the male bias of the Agrarian Code:Thousands of women work the land like peons for a small salary, orwork the miserable parcel of their husband, father, or brother,because they are almost completely limited in their right to land. TheAgrarian Law states that they can obtain land [ejidos] only as thefemale head of the family, [or] as adult campesinas who have suitableneeds. The young campesinas don’t have a right to the land; that is,the agrarian legislation condemns them to always live at the pooreconomic level of their father, their husband [or] their brother, and aswe have already said, economic independence is the base of politicalindependence among women. (Cuca García quoted in Soto,1990:109)The issue was raised again during a second congress held in 1933. JuanaGutiérrez de Mendoza, a veteran of the Revolution, collaborator of the PartidoLiberal Mexicano, 10 the Maderistas and the Zapatistas 11 spoke of the need forwomen peasants to have the same opportunities as men to receive land underthe Agrarian Reform program. (Soto, 1990:110) Women’s organizations firstasked for amendments to the Agrarian Code so that women could be eligible toreceive land in 1935 and again in 1937. (Tuñón, 1992)During the 1940s the ruling party developed corporative control of women’sorganizations. Avila Camacho’s administration signals the beginning ofcharity-like activities encouraged by the wives of consecutive Presidents. Hisown wife promoted the idea that women’s role in society was to “love and helpthose in need” and emphasized women’s caring responsibilities in public life.The Agrarian Code was not modified until 1971, when Mexico City wasgetting ready to host the first International Women’s Conference (held in1975). President Echeverría wanted to take an active stand in defendingwomen’s rights in order to promote his image as a Third World leader andreestablish his credibility after the Tlatelolco massacre.The code was modified to give women equal rights to receive land. Article 200states that Mexicans by birth, “male or female over sixteen years of age, or ofany age if with dependants” are eligible for land rights. Article 45 stipulatesthat “women shall enjoy all the rights pertaining to ejido members, shall havevoice and vote in the General Assemblies, and shall be eligible for all positionsin the Committees and Vigilance Counsels.” (Arizpe and Botey, 1987:70-71)Article 78 was also designed to favour ejidatarias. It states that women cankeep their individual rights to ejido lands if they marry. In any othercircumstances, only one right can be granted per household, and parents canpass their right only to one child.Equal Land Rights for Men and Women: Gender Equality?Although changes to the Agrarian Law were necessary and welcomed, thenumber of female land holders in rural Mexico did not increase significantlyafter the amendments. In 1984, they accounted for only 15 percent of the totalejido or community members. (Arizpe and Botey, 1987:71) This can beattributed to two major elements. First, the monetarization of subsistence153


IJCS / RIÉCeconomies has displaced women from land. Many have been pushed to theinformal sector, mainly domestic work and petty trade, or are employed inagro-industries. When land distribution processes occur, women are absentfrom their communities or are not engaged in subsistence agriculture. This iscase of Pajapan, a Nahua community of southern Veracruz, where the landdistribution took place in 1981. Female land holders in this agrariancommunity account for only 41 of the total number (905) of land holders. In theland distribution process of 1981, many women were absent from thecommunity and did not receive land rights. Those who attempted to obtainland were challenged on the grounds that they were not working the land butrather were engaged in other kinds of income-generating activities and did notneed the land (i.e., petty trade or domestic work). 12Second, the male bias of the Agrarian Code persists. Although the Code waschanged in 1971 to grant equal rights to women and men, women continue toreceive land rights only in their roles as guardians of young children. In thecase of Pajapan, these children must include at least one son, in order toguarantee the reproduction of local patrilineal inheritance patterns. In otherwords, women continue to be considered eligible for land rights only asproperty mediators between a father and his sons.This situation is perpetrated both by the male government officials who visitthe communities to carry out land distribution processes and by maledominatedlocal organizations. The government officials that visited Pajapanto register eligible land holders only allowed widows with young sons to signup in the land census. Other female heads (women separated from theirhusbands, wives of polygamous men, widows with sons above 16 or with nosons) and other women were refused. Women were not informed about thepurpose of the census and local assemblies supported land claims by meninstead of women, unless these women were widows, had at least one youngson and were not living with another man.Thus, Native women in contemporary Mexico still face numerous obstacles toland rights. This is due to two elements. First, the monetarization ofsubsistence economies has displaced women from the land. Many work in theinformal sector (i.e., domestic work, petty trade) or as seasonal labourers orworkers in the agro-industrial and export manufacturing sectors, where theyare always paid less than men. 13 (Deere and León, 1987) Second, although theAgrarian Code was modified to grant equal rights to women and men, malebias persists. Government officials and male-dominated local organizationsonly allow women to receive land rights when they are widows, have at leastone young son, and are not living with another man. Women in othercircumstances are not considered eligible.Gender and Land Rights in CanadaLand Tenure Systems at the Time of European ContactTwo major linguistic groups occupied what later became Canada: the Iroquoisand the Algonkian. Iroquois society was matrifocal, matrilineal andmatrilocal. This means that “descent was traced through women and after154


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadamarriage, the husband went to live with his wife’s family. Each dwelling wasowned by a senior woman.” (Jamieson, 1978:113) An Iroquois household“consisted of a woman, her female relations, their spouses and dependants.”(Miller, 1989:9)The economy of the Iroquois relied on corn and fish. The people stayed in oneplace from ten to twelve years, until soil exhaustion forced them to move on.Women were responsible for agricultural operations (except for clearing thefields, which was men’s responsibility) and played a prominent social andpolitical role. Senior matrons had the power to elect and depose elders of thehighest political rank, and hereditary eligibility to this council descendedthrough the female. The matrons also had veto powers in questions of war andpeace, since the men were absent for long periods on military or huntingexpeditions. (Jamieson, 1986:113; Miller, 1989:8; Dickason, 1993:71)The other major linguistic group in Canada, the Algonkians, were migratorypeoples that subsisted on hunting and gathering. An Algonkian band was agroup of male kin who hunted together, their spouses and their dependentfamilies. (Miller, 1989:6-9) Among the Montagnais-Naskapi, an Algonkianspeaking group, men and women filled complementary functions. Men huntedand women brought home the game slain by their husbands, prepared the food,tanned the skins and made them into clothing. They also fetched wood andwater, caught fish and gathered shellfish. Women controlled theapportionment and distribution of meat as well as the assignment of livingspace and the selection of campsites. The Montagnais-Naskapi practisedpolygyny and sexual freedom for both men and women even after marriage.They could also dissolve marriages at the desire of either partner. (Devens,1986:464; Leacock, 1991:11-27)Given their migratory condition, the notion of private property was foreign tothe Native people of Canada. The Kaianerakowa, the ancient constitution ofthe Haudenosaunee Nations Iroquois Confederacy, states that land was and isinvested in the power of the women: “The lineal descent of the people of theFive Nations shall run in the female line. Women shall be considered theprogenitors of the Nation. They shall own the land and the soil. Men andWomen shall follow the status of their mother.” (Quoted in KahenrakGoodleaf, 1993:227)Native Land in the First Centuries of European Colonization(1600-1867)As opposed to Mexico, where the Aztecs were militarily defeated by theSpaniards, the first centuries of European colonization in Canada weredistinguished by cooperation in expeditions, trade and war between Europeanpowers (mainly French and British) and Aboriginal people. Natives wereinterested in European technology, and exchanged fur for iron items.During the seventeenth century, Europeans were few in number and NewFrance remained a commercial colony rather than an agricultural settlement.As such, it did not represent a serious threat to the Aboriginal people. (Miller,1989:41-58) However, women’s social status was undermined by their155


IJCS / RIÉCincreasing involvement in fur trade transactions. This was particularly trueamong nomadic, hunting-gathering groups which settled in villages nearFrench missions for protection from enemy groups or to recuperate from thedevastation of epidemics. In these groups, the significance of women’scontribution to the economy declined. French merchants were mainlyinterested in the furs obtained by Native men, and they gave European clothingin exchange. As Devens (1986:472) points out, “the orientation of manyfemale tasks began to shift from the creation of an useful end product, such asclothing or tools, to assistance in the preparation of furs.”The eighteenth century was distinguished by military alliances betweenNative people and European powers where Aboriginals were the dominantpartner. During the war between France and Britain for control of NorthAmerica, Native alliances with the French were vital. (Miller, 1989:59-80) Asa result, the British Crown tried to maintain peace and “protect” Aboriginalpeople. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 establishes that Native people aresubject to the “paternal care” of the British Crown. Native land is under royal“sovereignty, protection and dominion, for the use of the said Indians,” andcannot be granted to new settlers. Like the Spanish Crown in Mexico, theBritish Crown usurped the power to regulate land grants and to “protect” itsNative subjects from white settlers.Aboriginal land was gradually colonized through the signing of treaties inmost parts of Canada, with the exception of Quebec. Since the sixteenthcentury, the idea developed that Native people had no rights over the land.Treaties were viewed as a “moral,” not a legal obligation, and as a means toavoid conflict. In these treaties, land was surrendered to the Crown inexchange for lump-sum payments or annuities. Native people retained huntingand fishing privileges. (Miller, 1989:92; Dickason, 1992:254;273) Accordingto Wotherspoon and Satzewich (1993:21-28), these treaties signal thebeginning of primitive accumulation in Canada. As a transfer of land fromgovernment and then to settler control, the treaties cleared away the politicallegalobstacles to the development of capitalism in Canada.Moreover, fur trade was gradually replaced by agriculture in eastern Canada.Once Native peoples were not needed as economic or military allies, the civilgovernment attempted to concentrate them in settled areas and to subject themto agriculture and Christian education in residential schools. Reserves werefirst established during the 1830s and residential schools during the 1840s.(Jamieson, 1986:115; Miller, 1989:99-108)As for western Canada, the fur trade remained an important activity in whichAboriginal people were major players for nearly 200 years, from the foundingof the Hudson Bay Company in 1670 until the transfer of Rupert’s Land to thenewly created Dominion of Canada in 1870. Europeans relied heavily onAboriginals for fur pelts. Native populations also provided a good market forEuropean goods. (Van Kirk, 1991:74)Women played a pivotal role in expeditions and fur trade. They wereinvaluable interpreters, diplomats and peacemakers during expeditions, andactively promoted the fur trade. Intermarriage between incoming traders and156


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and CanadaNative women contributed to the success of fur trade operations and became anaccepted practice in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. However,in the 1830s and 1840s the fur-trade order gave way to agrarian settlements andnewly arrived British women became models for morality and wifely virtues.(Van Kirk, 1972:21; 1991:74-77; Brown, 1976a:68; 1976b:96) As in easternCanada, Native peoples in the western part of the country became immersed ina process of territorial confinement.Gender and Land Rights after Confederation: The Indian Act of 1876Section 91.24 of the British North America Act of 1867 states that the federalgovernment has exclusive legislative authority for “Indians and lands reservedfor the Indians.” (quoted in Jamieson, 1986:117) In this sense, Confederationdid not mean the birth of a new nation for Aboriginal people. Rather, it meantthe extension of the paternalistic policy of the British Crown. Like the Crown,the federal government of the new nation granted itself the right over Nativepeople and land, the authority to set up borders and to define people’sidentities.At the time of Confederation, legislation concerning Native people had threemajor functions: 1) “civilizing” the Aboriginal populations — assimilatingthem (and their lands) into Euro-Canadian citizenry; 2) achieving a “bettermanagement” of Natives and their lands — controlling expenditures andresources; 3) to accomplish these goals, it became important to define who wasan “Indian” and who was not. (Jamieson, 1986:117) This legislation triggereda process of differentiation within communities which disadvantaged womenvis-à-vis their male counterparts.Legislation promulgated in 1850 attempted to determine who was entitled tolive on Native land in Lower Canada. This Act included the first definition ofan “Indian.” Significantly, all persons, both male and female, who wereintermarried with individuals otherwise qualifying as “Indians” and livingwith them were entitled to Indian status, as were their descendants. Thislegislation did not make distinctions between male and female Natives.(Jamieson, 1986:116)Attitudes towards Native peoples hardened with the increasing pressures ofEuropean settlement. The problems with Aboriginals were viewed not as aresult of their territorial confinement, but of their inability to “progress.” Oneyear later, the Act was amended to restrict the membership provisions further.The provision granting Indian status to all persons intermarried with Nativeswas withdrawn and a new section was added permitting only women (and theirdescendants but not the women’s spouses) who married non-Natives to beconsidered “Indian.” (Jamieson, 1986:116)In 1857, the Gradual Civilization Act was applied to both Upper and LowerCanada. Its purpose was to remove all legal distinctions between Aboriginalsand other Canadians by forcing Native people to assimilate within thedominant society. As Richardson puts it, “the 1857 Act spelled out in detailhow Aboriginal people could be detached from their community ... andbecome honourary whites.” (1993:61) As in the case of Mexico, civil rights157


IJCS / RIÉCwere equated with rights to property, and enfranchisement was seen as amechanism to facilitate the acquisition of property and the attendant rights forNative people.The requirements to become enfranchised included “the ability to speak, readand write English or French, good moral character, and freedom from debt.”(Richardson, 1993:61) The law offered fifty acres on reserve land and a sum ofmoney to encourage enfranchisement. Only males could be enfranchised, andtheir dependants were enfranchised with the male automatically. (Jamieson,1986:116)In a similar vein, the Act of 1869 provided that on the death of a Native man,his goods and land rights were to be passed on to his children. His wife was notconsidered an eligible heir because she was considered her children’sdependent. Section 6 provided that any Native woman marrying “any otherthan an Indian shall cease to be an Indian within the meaning of this Act.” Herchildren in such a marriage would also lose their status, and a Native womanmarrying a Native man from another band would become (along with theirchildren) a member of the husband’s band and lose her band membership.The first Act to bear the name of “Indian Act” was passed in 1876. It elaboratedon the definition of an Indian by emphasizing descent through the male line:Indian was “any male person of Indian blood reputed to belong to a particularband.” It restated that any woman who marries a non-Native loses her statusbut may retain her right to annuities. Yet, the Act also gave the Superintendent-General the power “to stop the payment of the annuity and interest money ofany woman having no children who deserts her husband and lives immorallywith another man.”As in the case of Mexico, this legislation failed to account for the greatdiversity in the social and political organization of Native peoples. Thelegislation emphasized private property, a notion alien to Aboriginal peoples.It made the nuclear, monogamous, male-headed family the model by whichprivate property was acquired and civil rights granted. In doing so, thelegislation placed Native women in a no-win situation. Those who marriednon-Natives lost their Indian status and became totally dependent on theirhusbands. Indeed, the Indian Act of 1876 states that these women did not haveto be educated or “civilized” to prove that they could survive in the whiteworld, since the responsibility for them was transferred from the governmentto their husband. If a woman deserted her husband or was deserted by him andstarted to live with another man, she would lose her right to an annuity and becondemned for her “immoral” behaviour.On the other hand, women who married Native men also became dependent onthem, because they had no access to their husbands’ property even after hisdeath. They also had to leave the reserve if their husbands so wanted. Women’sprevious economic role and political influence, which were determined bytheir control of resources and the products of their labour, were drasticallyundermined. Native women in Canada, like Native women in Mexico, becamesubject to patriarchal controls over resources, marriage and reproduction.158


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and CanadaModifications to the Indian Act (1951)The first three decades of the twentieth century signal the beginning ofpolitical activism among the Native peoples of Canada. Aboriginalorganizations asserted land claims and demanded respect for treaties, a betterschool system, agricultural assistance as well as the right to perform traditionalrituals. The 1930s were characterized by inactivity on the side of the federalgovernment, but World War II made Canadians question their country’s policyon Native peoples. A joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commonswas appointed in 1946 to investigate Indian Affairs and the Indian Act.Representatives from Native associations (the North American IndianBrotherhood and other Native associations from British Columbia, Alberta,Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec) submitted briefs and testified before thecommittee. Some called for the abolition of the Act, while others stated thatwomen who had lost their status through marriage and were deserted orwidowed should be allowed to rejoin their communities. However, thecommittee ignored Aboriginal people’s recommendations, and the Indian Actdid not change substantially. While the most obnoxious features such ascompulsory enfranchisement, bans on the potlatch and the Sun Dance, andprohibitions against the consumption of alcohol were deleted, the generaloutlines of the policy remained unchanged after the consultations. (Miller,1989:220-222)Furthermore, new clauses affecting Native women who married non-Nativeswere inserted. Prior to 1951, these women had to some extent a dual status asIndian and ordinary Canadian citizens in that they could retain the right toannuities and band moneys, stay on the band list and enjoy some benefits aswell as treaty rights (if their band had entered a treaty) even though they weredeprived of their legal rights to hold land on the reserve. As of 1951, however,they were automatically deprived of any band rights from the date of marriageand deleted from the band list. Any property that they held on the reserve had tobe sold or otherwise disposed of within thirty days. In exchange they would begiven twenty years of treaty money (if the band took treaty) plus one per capitashare of the capital and revenue moneys held by Her Majesty on behalf of theband. In short, these women were subject to involuntary enfranchisement. 14(Jamieson, 1978:60-62).The Lavell-Bedard CaseThe post-war decolonization movement throughout the world raised questionsabout how long Canada could go on treating Native peoples as internalcolonies. During the sixties, surveys of the conditions in which Aboriginalpeople lived provided proof that the implemented policies did not work. TheLiberal government committed itself to revise the Indian Act and carried outseveral consultations with Native organizations. The result was the Statementof the Government of Canada on Indian Policy of 1969, which proposed theextinction of Native people’s separate legal status as a step towards theireconomic and social recovery. The statement reflected Trudeau’s views of a“just society” where it was inappropriate to recognize ethnic and racial groupsas collectivities. The statement was overwhelmingly rejected by Nativeleaders who argued that Native peoples were not mere citizens, as Trudeau159


IJCS / RIÉCregarded them, “but a distinct category of people within Canada who hadspecial rights.” (Miller, 1989:230) The proposal ignored the issues raised byAboriginal leaders during the consultation process and embittered Nativegovernmentrelations during the 1970s.In this context, Native women attempted to change the Indian Act to endgender discrimination. In 1970, Jeanette Lavell, an Ojibwa woman who hadmarried a non-Native, contested the deletion of her name from the band list byarguing that such deletion constituted discrimination on the basis of race andsex and, as such, contradicted the Canadian Bill of Rights. Lavell was joined inher case by Yvonne Bedard, a Native woman who had married out and thenseparated from her husband. She was fighting the Six Nations band council’sattempts to evict her from the house on the reserve willed to her by her mother.The Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Lavell and Bedard in acontroversial five-to-four decision. It was decided that the Bill of Rights couldnot take precedence over the Indian Act. (Jamieson, 1986:126)The National Indian Brotherhood took a stand against Lavell and Bedard. Thefederal Liberal government and the NIB agreed that a process of fullconsultation was required before any modifications to the Indian Act.However, the NIB withdrew from the joint committee in April 1978 and theissue of gender discrimination in the Act remained unresolved. While maleNative leaders phrased the issue as one of individual rights versus collectiverights, the government had defined the Native women’s problem as a Nativeproblem and had locked its resolution into the policy commitments vis-à-visNative people. Moreover, Native women were not yet participants in thepolitical process. This was a time “when the status of Indian women is beingdecided by everyone but Indian women — including the courts, the politicians,the lawyers and Indian men.” (Anonymous journalist quoted in Weaver,1993:100)Modifications of the Indian Act (1985)In 1981, Canada’s human rights reputation was questioned when the UnitedNations Human Rights Committee announced that Canadian law had violatedthe human rights of Sandra Lovelace, a Maliseet woman from the TobiqueReserve in New Brunswick, who had been denied the right to live in her natalreserve. The Canadian government agreed to make a commitment to the UN tointroduce legislative changes. As a result, a special parliamentary committeerecommended in 1982 that discriminatory sections be eliminated from the Actand that women who had lost status, and their first-generation children, bereinstated. In mid-1984, during the last days of the short-lived government ofJohn Turner, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-47, which passedquickly through the House of Commons but was defeated in the Senate.The implementation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibiteddiscrimination on the basis of sex, obliged the new federal Conservativegovernment to change to the Act accordingly. In February 1985, thegovernment introduced Bill C-31, which was passed four months later.(Jamieson, 1986:130; Miller, 1989:241-242) Under the amended Act, no onewould lose status through marriage. Women who had lost their Indian status160


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadabefore these changes were eligible for reinstatement to band membership andfor re-registration as Indians under the Act. Their first-generation children andall people enfranchised for any reason, and their children, could also apply forregistered Indian status, but were not entitled to band membership. Secondgenerationchildren of restored persons were not granted legal status or bandmembership. In the future, Indian status would be granted to those with at leastone parent having status. (Jamieson, 1978:131; Weaver, 1993:116)As can be seen, the bill formally and legally separated Indian status from bandmembership. While the federal government reserved the right to determineIndian status, both band membership and reserve residency were to bedetermined by bands. The bill was considered by its proponent, Minister ofIndian Affairs David Crombie, a compromise between women’s rights toequality and the interest of male-dominated Native organizations in selfgovernment.Two broad categories of Indians were created with the changes tothe Indian Act:1) a group of those who had band membership on April 17, 1985,their children, and the reinstated women (minus their children); 2) agroup who have registered Indian status but not band membershipand thus, unlike those in the first category, do not have the right to liveon an Indian reserve, share in resources, or take part in band politics.(Jamieson, 1986:131)As a compromise between two strong positions, the new law pleased fewNative groups. While the Native Women’s Association liked the bill’sreinstatement of women, the abolition of enfranchisement and the bill’sexplicit recognition of band control over band membership, the organizationalso believed that the bill failed to restore the rights of all persons of Nativeancestry, in a full and equal manner. Faults of the bill include:discriminatory treatment of women and children under the secondgenerationcut-off rule and other provisions, its divisiveness increating new categories of First Nations people due to its separationof status and membership, its long-range effect of limiting the size ofthe status population through the “half-descent rule,” and its failure toensure a role for reinstated women in developing band membershipcodes. (Weaver, 1993:121)On the other hand, the Assembly of First Nations (the new name for the NIB)welcomed the bill’s recognition of band control, but remained hostile to thenotion of automatic reinstatement of women to band membership. The officialexplanation was that compulsory reinstatement violated the selfdeterminationof citizenship. (Weaver, 1993:121)Bill C-31: A Change Towards Gender Equality?According to the Department of Indian Affairs, about 16,000 women and20,000 other individuals would be entitled to membership in Canada’s almost600 bands after the changes. The Department calculated that the total numberof those eligible to regain status, though not necessarily band membership,ranged from 76,000 to 86,000. (Jamieson, 1986:132)161


IJCS / RIÉCIndian Affairs underestimated the number of applicants. Since theamendment, 95,153 of 153,903 Natives who applied for status have beenreinstated. By December 1991, the population with Indian status had increasedby nearly 16 percent. Unprepared for such an influx of applicants, theDepartment was ineffective in implementing the new policy. Critics pointedout new forms of inequality resulting from this implementation. (Weaver,1993:122-123)The starting point for examining these new forms is the separation of legalstatus from band membership. For example, if a woman is reinstated to legalstatus, she has no guarantee of access to the benefits of band membershipbecause she may still be denied residence on the reserve. She has, however,access to the benefits of programs for off-reserve Indians, like post-secondaryeducation grants, uninsured health benefits and certain economic programs.For most women, band membership without reserve residence satisfied theirpersonal aims because they had established themselves in the cities. Themajority of Native women reinstated since 1985 fell into this category.(Weaver, 1993:125)But women who wanted the full benefits of membership had to live on thereserve to obtain them. The “on-reserve package” 15 was extremely costly tothe federal government and to bands. By not providing appropriate funds, thepolicy forced women into hostile political climates with the local reserve.(Weaver, 1993:126)Attitudes towards returning women and their children varied regionally, fromliberal postures in British Columbia and southern Ontario to the moreintolerant Prairies. (Weaver, 1993) In Alberta, where 10,026 of 21,137applicants have won back status, male Native leaders have challenged theamendment, claiming that bands and not Ottawa have the right to determinetheir own membership. Many of the bands, such as the Tsuu T’ina Nation onCalgary’s southwest limits, claim they have insufficient funds toaccommodate new members. Band councils passed strict membership codesexcluding Bill C-31, while others have accepted the women and their childrenback with restrictions, like being placed on probation, paying a fee or not beingallowed to open a business. (Dudley, 1993) The National Aboriginal Inquiryon Bill C-31 reported in 1990 several charges of blatant discrimination againstwomen by bands. According to the report, a new category of persons withdiminished social status, the returning “C-31,” had been created. They hadbecome scapegoats for the wider ills which characterize some communities.(Weaver, 1993:127)Activist Susan Huskey believes that wealthy bands have resisted taking thereinstated people back because they “don’t want to split the pie into smallpieces,” and fear new voters could upset those in power. Such is the case of theSawridge band, Canada’s wealthiest reserve per capita. The oil-rich tribe ofless than 100 members has assets in excess of $30 million. (Dudley, 1993)However, other reserves, even if they do want to take the people back, simplylack enough resources to accommodate them. As pointed out by Fiske, the landbase of some reserves is either inadequate or impoverished in naturalresources, so “the majority of Native communities suffer chronic162


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadaunemployment, impoverishment, and dependency on state-controlledwelfare.” (1990:131) Although Crombie assured at the time of the changes that“no band would be worse off” because of the revised Indian Act, the fundscommitted by the federal government to cover the needs of reinstated peoplehave proven insufficient. (Dudley, 1993) Thus, the Canadian government hasgranted Native women equality within its own structure of internalcolonialism, while leaving the bands to cope with the financial and land-baseproblems brought about by the reinstatement of those who had previously losttheir status. The result is that “while the Canadian government has sought tocorrect its past sins of patriarchal control of Native women, the government ismaking the First Nations pay the cost of expiating those sins.” (Green quoted inEmberley, 1993:90)Women’s reinstatement has not been easy. In wealthy reserves, they face manyrestrictions or may not even be admitted; others lack resources toaccommodate them. The result is the reproduction of women’s poverty. Nativewomen are often single mothers who lack the benefits of appropriate child careprograms. A disproportionately large number of them live on social assistancewith the constant and well-founded fear that their children will be apprehendedby child-care authorities and put into permanent foster care. They and theirchildren are often the subjects of sexual abuse and domestic violence. They aredisproportionately overrepresented in correctional institutions and still do nothave matrimonial property rights on reserves if their marriages break down.Native women still live ten years less than other Canadian women. (Jamieson,1986:134; Weaver, 1993:128)ConclusionsVarious state formations throughout Mexican history have played an activerole in the distribution of resources between the wealthy and the poor andbetween women and men. The colonial state is responsible for the introductionof a new legal system which shaped Native women’s relationships to land.This system established the model of the nuclear, monogamous and maleheadedfamily as the only valid pattern for land distribution. In doing so, thesystem undermined the preference of siblings over children as heirs and theequivalence of male and female siblings of the pre-hispanic period. The newlaws also reduced women’s ability to own land by restricting their rights toland to their roles as guardians of children or grandchildren.Women’s rights to land have not increased significantly despite radicalchanges in the country — a war of Independence, liberal programs in thenineteenth century, and a social Revolution in the first half of the twentiethcentury. The colonial judicial system, in which women’s land rights asguardians of children were protected, expired with the Independence fromSpain in 1821. Liberal programs implemented during the nineteenth centuryattached land to families rather than communities, in order to make taxcollection and land transactions effective. These new policies contributed tostrengthen men’s position of dominance within the family. Finally, theAgrarian Code introduced after the Revolution of 1910 acknowledged variousforms of communal ownership of land, but did not ensure women’s equality.163


IJCS / RIÉCChanges to ensure gender equality under the Agrarian Code were not madeuntil 1971. However, female land holders still account for a minority in bothejidos and agrarian communities. This is mainly due to two factors: 1) themonetarization of subsistence economies has resulted in the displacement ofwomen from land; 2) the prevalence (in practice) of the male bias in theAgrarian Code. Even though women have the same legal opportunities as mento become land holders, government officials and male-dominated Nativeorganizations only support women’s land claims if they are widows, haveyoung children and are not living with another man. Women’s roles asguardians of young children, established by the colonial legal system, stilldetermine Native women’s access to land in contemporary Mexico.In Canada, something similar has occurred. Prior to the arrival of theEuropeans, Aboriginals had no sense of private property. Women in thesesocieties played a major economic role and retained control over the product oftheir labour, which translated into social and political influence. In the firstcenturies of European colonization Native women continued to play a pivotalrole in expeditions and fur trade activities, although their political influencewas undermined by the emphasis on fur trade activities and the deterioration ofpre-contact subsistence economies. Aboriginal people were graduallyconfined within a particular territory and subject to segregational practices.These practices were legitimized through the Indian Act, which triggered aprocess of legal differentiation within communities and disadvantaged womenvis-à-vis their male counterparts.In the Indian Act, Native women were denied the legal opportunity to holdproperty and enjoy civil rights. They were also denied the rights of statusIndians. As Krosenbrink-Gelissen puts it, Native women have been“marginalized in their own country and in their own community.” (1993:335)Women who married men without Indian status became legally dependent ontheir husbands and had to leave the reserve; those who married men withIndian status and stayed on the reserve were also denied the right to ownproperty and whether or not they stayed on the reserve depended on theirhusbands’ will. Property and civil rights were modelled on the male-headed,nuclear and monogamous family in which women and children are consideredthe male’s property.The changes of 1985 to end gender discrimination left many unsolvedproblems. While some wealthy reserves do not want to share their riches withthe reinstated women, others lack resources to accommodate them. Althoughwomen are allowed back, their living conditions are often inadequate.Both the Agrarian Code and the Indian Act were influenced by a liberaltradition that defines civil rights as individual and property rights. Within thistradition, the individual is male and has as his dependents a wife and children.This notion conflicted with the diverse forms of social organization in bothpre-hispanic Mexico and pre-contact Canada. While in pre-hispanic Mexicosiblings were an important grouping for inheritance purposes and womencould inherit in their own right, women in pre-contact societies in Canadacontrolled their access to resources and enjoyed social status and politicalpower. Even today, people living in extended families and women living in164


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canadapolygamous relations do not fit the model of the male-headed, nuclear andmonogamous family on which land rights have been based and civil rightsgranted.Both pieces of legislation were created in the period of nation-state building ofeach country. The Spanish and British Crowns launched a policy ofpaternalism which the independent nation-states pursued. In both countries,these nation-states assumed the right to rule over Aboriginal territory, set upborders and define people’s identities.Although they claimed to “protect” Native peoples and land, both pieces oflegislation were state mechanisms aimed at controlling Native land andresources and policing Aboriginal populations. In Canada, “Indians” had to bedefined in order to manage their lands and turn them into citizens and privateproperty owners. In Mexico, communal forms of land ownership wereincorporated into the legislation due to the communal tradition of theTenochtitlan land tenure system, the semi-feudal heritage of incomingSpaniards and the social character of the Revolution. However, both theAgrarian Code and the Indian Act worked against women when membershipcodes in Canada and forms of land tenure in Mexico were established. Bothreproduced the model of the male-headed, monogamous and nuclear family toregulate access to land. In doing so, the legislation made women legallydependent on men and limited their access to land in their own communities.Notes1. PhD Candidate in Sociology, Carleton University. This paper was produced during a oneyearcontract with the Centre for Research on North America, National University ofMexico, Mexico City.2. See Kellogg (1984) for examples on Nahua women’s land claims in colonial courts.3. The hacienda-latifundios were large estates owned by one family (typically of Spanishorigin) where landless peasants had access to a small plot of land to cultivate for selfconsumptionin exchange of free labour. Native populations living in isolated areas claimedby hacienda owners were forced to pay exorbitant rents to farm the land, or face deportation.Native populations were also forced to buy products not grown by themselves at the localstore. Those who could not pay with money had to pay with agricultural produce or labour.Since they were constantly in debt with the owners of the hacienda, they had to continueworking for free and were unable to leave.4. Deborah Kanter, PhD Candidate in History, University of Virginia. Thesis title: “Hijos delPueblo: Family, Gender and Community in Rural Mexico, the Toluca Region, 1733-1840.”5. A widow’s rights were usually specified as “use rights” during the course of her lifetime.Wills stated that she should use the inherited property to fulfil her obligations as a parent visà-visher children and that the property should be transferred to them at the time of her deathor when children reached adulthood. (Loera y Chávez, 1977)6. See Soto (1990) for a discussion of the participation of women of different social classes andethnic backgrounds in the Mexican Revolution.7. Revolutionary Feminist Party.8. National Revolutionary Party.9. National Bloc of Revolutionary Women.10. Mexican Liberal Party.11. Different factions in the Mexican Revolution.165


IJCS / RIÉC12. The data on this community was gathered in 1993 and 1994 while doing fieldwork for mydoctoral dissertation. The tentative title is “Gender, Cattle and Land: Women’s Responses toCapitalist Development in the Gulf Nahua.”13. According to the census of 1990, one in ten economically active women in Mexico is adomestic worker. By the late 1970s, one-third of the 5.4 million people working in agroindustrieswere women. (González Montes, 1994) Although the figures do not indicateethnic origin, it can be assumed that many of these are Native women.14. These compensations have proved inadequate in most cases. For example, between 1966and 1977, payments averaged $261.80 per person enfranchised. Other benefits lost by thesewomen include access to educational services and allowances, off-reserve and on-reservefinancial assistance for housing, loans to start businesses and free medicines, plus thoseenjoyed by people living on the reserve (i.e., hunting, fishing, animal grazing and trappingrights; exemption from taxation; cash distributions derived from the sale of band assets ormoneys surplus to band needs). (Jamieson, 1986:125)15. This package consists of tax exemptions, a share in the band’s assets and revenues, right tovote, inherit and own property on the reserve, access to education, housing and economicdevelopment programs and the right to be buried on the reserve.BibliographyGeneralAfonja, Simi. 1981. “Changing Modes of Production and the Sexual Division of Labour amongthe Yoruba.” Signs 7(2).Bell, Diane. 1983. Daughters of the Dreaming. Melbourne: McPhee Gribble.Brown, Judith. 1970. “A Note on the Division of Labour by Sex.” American Anthropologist 72(5).Huntingdon, Suellen. 1975. “Issues in women’s role in economic development: critique andalternatives.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 37.Leacock, Eleanor. 1972. Introduction to F. Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property andthe State. New York: International Publishers._____. 1978. “Women’s Status in Egalitarian Society: Implications for Social Evolution,”Current Anthropology (19)2.Moore, Henrietta L. 1988. Feminism and Anthropology. Minneapolis: University of MinneapolisPress.Sacks, Karen. 1979. Sisters and Wives: The Past and Future of Sexual Equality. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press.MexicoArizpe, Lourdes and Carlota Botey. 1987. “Mexican Agricultural Development Policy and ItsImpact on Rural Womenin C.D. Deere and M. León (eds.) Rural Women and State Policyin Latin America. Colorado: Westview Press.Chevalier, Jacques and D. Buckles. In press. Power and Destruction in the Mexican Tropics: TheGulf Nahua. London: Zed Books.Cline, S.L. 1986. Colonial Culhuacan, 1580-1600. A Social History of an Aztec Town.Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Deere, C. and M. León de Leal (eds.). 1987. Rural Women and State Policy. Colorado: West ViewPress.De Rojas, José Luis. 1986. México Tenochtitlan: Economía y Sociedad en el Siglo XVI. MexicoCity: Fondo de Cultura Económica.González Montes, S. and P. Iracheta. 1987. “La violencia en la vida de las mujeres campesinas: elDistrito de Tenango, 1880-1910” in Presencia y Transparencia: la mujer en la historia deMéxico. Mexico City: Colegio de México.González Montes, Soledad. 1994. “Mujeres, trabajo y pobreza en el campo mexicano: unarevisión crítica de la bibliografía reciente” in J. Alatorre et. al (eds.) Las mujeres en lapobreza. Mexico City: Colegio de México.Hellbom, Anna-Britta. 1967. La participación cultural de las mujeres Indias y Mestizas en elMéxico precortesiano y postrevolucionario. Stockholm: The Ethnographical Museum.Kanter, Deborah. Personal letter dated May 17, 1992.Kellogg, Susan M. 1984. “Aztec Women in Early Colonial Courts: Structure and Strategy in aLegal Context” in R. Spores and R. Hassig (eds.), Five Centuries of Law and Politics inCentral Mexico. Nashville: Vanderbilt Publications. Publications in Anthropology #30.166


Gender and Land Rights in Mexico and Canada_____. 1986. “Kinship and Social Organization in Early Colonial Tenochtitlan” in R. Spores andP. Andrews (eds.) Handbook of Middle American Indians Volume 4. Austin: University ofTexas Press.Loera y Chávez, Margarita. 1977. Calimaya y Tepamaxalco. Tenencia y trasmisión hereditaria dela tierra en dos comunidades indígenas. Epoca colonial. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional deAntropología e Historia.Mallon, Florencia. 1990. The Conflictual Construction of Community: Gender, Ethnicity andHegemony in the Sierra Norte de Puebla. Unpublished manuscript.Olivera, Mercedes. 1976. “The Barrios of San Andrés Cholulain H. Nutini, P. Carrasco and J.Taggart (eds.) Essays on Mexican Kinship. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Rodríguez, Ma. de Jesús. 1991. La mujer azteca. Toluca: Universidad Autónoma del Estado deMéxico.Soto, Shirlene. 1990. Emergence of the Modern Mexican Woman. Her Participation in Revolutionand Struggle for Equality. Denver: Arden Press.Tuñón Pablos, Esperanza. 1992. Mujeres que se organizan. El FUPDM, 1935-1938. Mexico City:Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – Porrúa.CanadaDocumentsThe Royal Proclamation. London, 1763.Indian Acts and Amendments, 1868-1950. Treaties and Historical Research Centre & Departmentof Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. 2nd Edition, 1981.Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy, 1969. Presented by the Honourable JeanChrétien, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.Secondary SourcesBrown, Jennifer. 1976a. “A Demographic Transition in the Fur Trade Country: Family Sizes andFertility of Company Officers and Country Wives, Ca. 1759-1850” in The WesternCanadian Journal of Anthropology 6(1)._____. 1976b. “Changing Views of Fur Trade Marriage and Domesticity: James Hargrave, HisColleagues, and `The Sex’” in The Western Canadian Journal of Anthropology 6(3).Devens, Carol. 1986. “Separate Confrontations: Gender as a factor in Indian Adaptation toEuropean Colonization in New France,” American Quarterly 38(3).Dickason, Olive P. 1992. Canada’s First Nations. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.Dudley, Wendy. 1993. “Native Rights: Bill C-31 has Indians battling each other” in CalgaryHerald, August 17, 1993.Emberley, Julia V. 1993. Thresholds of Difference: Feminist Critique, Native Women’s Writings,Postcolonial Theory. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Fiske, Jo-Anne. 1990. “Native Women in Reserve Politics: Strategies and Struggles” in RoxanaNg, J. Mueller and G. Walker (eds.) Community Organization and the Canadian State.Toronto: Garmond Press.Jamieson, Kathleen. 1978. Indian Women and the Law in Canada: Citizen Minus. Ottawa:Minister of Supply Services._____. 1986. “Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act” in J.R. Ponting (ed.) Arduous Journey.Canadian Indians and Decolonization. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.Kahenrakwas Goodleaf, Donna. 1993. “Under Military Occupation. Indigenous Women, StateViolence and Community Resistance,” in L. Carty (ed.) And Still We Rise: Feminist PoliticalMobilizing in Contemporary Canada. Canada: Women’s Press.Krosenbrink-Gelissen, Lillian E. and J.S. Friederes. 1993. Native Peoples in Canada.Scarborough: Prentice-Hall.Leacock, Eleonor. 1991. “Montagnais Women and the Jesuit Program for Colonization” in V.Strong-Boag and A.C. Fellman (eds.) Rethinking Canada. The Promise of Women’s History.Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman.Miller, J.R. 1989. Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens. A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada.Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Richardson, Boyce. 1993. People of Terra Nullius. Betrayal and Rebirth in Aboriginal Canada.Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre.Van Kirk, Sylvia. 1972. “Women and the Fur Trade” in The Beaver (Winter).______. 1991. “The Role of Native Women in the Fur Trade Society of Western Canada, 1670-1830” in V. Strong-Boag and A.C. Fellman (eds.) Rethinking Canada. The Promise ofWomen’s History. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman.Weaver, Sally. 1993. “First Nations Women and Government Policy, 1970-1972: Discriminationand Conflict” in S. Burt, L. Code and L. Dorney (eds.) Changing Patterns. Women inCanada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.Wotherspoon, T. and V. Satzewich. 1993. First Nations: Race, Class and Gender Relations.Scarborough: Nelson Canada.167


Ruth Panofsky“Don’t let me do it!”: Mazo de la Roche andHer Publishers *AbstractThis paper considers the writing and publishing career of Mazo de la Roche,with a focus on her relationships with her three publishers: Hugh Eayrs,president of the Macmillan Company of Canada; Edward Weeks, editor withthe Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown of Boston; and Daniel Macmillan ofthe Macmillan Company of London. Primary evidence is cited to support theargument that de la Roche was initially marginalized by these three men whoprofited by her work but hoped to deny her authorial power as creator of theJalna series. As de la Roche’s own letters show, however, she became a shrewdnegotiator with a keen understanding of the author-publisher relationship,and she soon secured her place as a professional among her male colleagues.RésuméCet article examine la carrière de l’écrivaine Mazo de la Roche et, plusparticulièrement, sa relation avec ses trois éditeurs : Hugh Eayrs, président dela Macmillan Company of Canada; Edward Weeks, éditeur au AtlanticMonthly Press/Little, Brown of Boston; et Daniel Macmillan de la MacmillanCompany of London. Il présente des preuves démontrant que ces trois hommesont au début marginalisé de la Roche et ont tiré profit de ses écrits tout enessayant de lui usurper son pouvoir de créatrice de la série des Jalna. Or,comme l’indique sa correspondance, de la Roche est devenue une négociatricehabile, dotée d’une compréhension aiguë de la relation auteur-éditeur et a surapidement prendre rang parmi ses homologues mâles.The name Mazo de la Roche is synonymous with Jalna, a series of sixteennovels that spanned 1927 to 1960 and chronicled the lives of the irrepressibleWhiteoak family members. To date, de la Roche’s achievement as a popularauthor and her writing and publishing career have been largely overlooked byliterary scholars. 1 In fact, her success was exceptional, indisputable and dueprimarily to her own ingenuity as a professional who understood fully thenature of her connections with readers and publishers alike. Throughout hercareer, for example, she retained her audience by writing precisely those booksit wanted to read. De la Roche’s literary success is best understood, however,in terms of her relationships with her publishers with whom she negotiated andmaintained important friendships throughout her writing life.This paper is concerned with three of the most influential men in the novelist’slife: Hugh Eayrs, president of the Macmillan Company of Canada; EdwardWeeks, editor with the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown of Boston; andInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS/RIÉCDaniel Macmillan of the Macmillan Company of London. Each of these menshaped the life of the writer and her books, while their own lives were greatlyaffected by her. Her achievement as a popular author must be considered interms of her connections with these men, which this paper attempts to chart.The years 1927 and 1940 form the perimeters of this study, dates whichmarked monumental changes in the writer’s life. In 1927, Jalna won theAtlantic Monthly’s novel contest which brought immediate fame for theauthor, publication of her manuscript, and a prize of $10,000 US, while 1940saw the untimely death of Hugh Eayrs and an irrevocable change in de laRoche’s professional relationships.In the early years of de la Roche’s writing career, Canada lacked an indigenouspublishing industry. The majority of Canadian publishing houses had beenestablished as agents for either British or American firms. In exchange foraccess to an underdeveloped market, foreign publishers had agreed not to selltheir books in Canada, except through their exclusive agents. Initially, thisarrangement suited British, American and Canadian houses alike. Canadianagents promoted the books of foreign publishers, which saved the lattersignificant costs. At the same time, Canadian firms gained access to the vastnumber of books available in English, without having to publish themthemselves. Moreover, Canadian books — relatively few titles were issuedduring the first half of this century — could be promoted alongside foreignbooks at no additional cost. Faulty as the agency system later proved to be, 2 itfostered a sense of legitimacy among Canadian publishing houses as theysought to establish a book trade in this country.The links between foreign and Canadian publishing firms necessitated theclose ties that soon developed among key individuals. Hugh Eayrs, presidentof the Macmillan Company of Canada, for example, was in regular contactwith Daniel Macmillan of the Macmillan Company of London. Since Eayrsconducted business in Toronto under the aegis of the British firm, his ownsuccess was dependent largely on the agency system. Despite the distance thatseparated them, Eayrs and Macmillan always maintained a close workingrelationship. Macmillan of Canada, however, was not an agent for the AtlanticMonthly Press/Little, Brown of Boston, which published de la Roche’s worksin the United States. Regardless, Hugh Eayrs and Edward Weeks were closelyconnected through their mutual association with de la Roche. For the mostpart, this publishing triad served the interests of publishers and author alike.Problems arose only when the publishers dealt unprofessionally with de laRoche, as this paper will show.When Jalna first appeared, de la Roche was already an accomplished authorwith a growing list of published works including Explorers of the Dawn, acollection of linked short stories; two novels, Possession and Delight; and twoone-act plays, Low Life: A Comedy in One Act and Come True. 3 With theexception of the short stories, de la Roche’s first works were marketed by theMacmillan Company; its New York and London houses published the novelsand its Toronto branch issued the plays. Although her work had produced littlerevenue, she nonetheless enjoyed a congenial connection with the three housesof Macmillan, each of which showed a respect for her writing and a willingness172


Mazo de la Roche and Her Publishersto continue as her publisher. De la Roche also had a past affiliation with theAtlantic Monthly which had published two of her early stories, 4 and whoseeditor, Ellery Sedgwick, had become a particular friend and mentor, offeringadvice and encouragement in letters that dated from 1914.When the Atlantic Monthly Press and its joint publisher, Little, Brown ofBoston, decided to issue Jalna, they allowed de la Roche to remain withMacmillan of Toronto for Canadian publication, but they granted British rightsto Hodder & Stoughton rather than Macmillan. Having expressed an earlierwish to place Jalna with Macmillan of London, de la Roche felt obliged tooffer Daniel Macmillan the following explanation in a letter dated 20 May1927:It was one of the conditions of the Award that the novel should behandled in the States by Little Brown & Co. of Boston. I made astrong effort to retain Jalna for the Macmillan Co. in Canada andEngland. It was agreed that I should remain with my Canadianpublisher but Hodder & Stoughton are to bring it out in England.I cannot tell you how sorry I am to be obliged to leave you with thisbook. Perhaps some future time will find me under your imprintagain. 5In May 1927, de la Roche could not have known how soon she would againbecome a Macmillan author. Two years later, Hodder & Stoughton gave theirrights in Jalna to Macmillan on the understanding that the latter take over theirremaining stock of the novel and reimburse them £140 in royalties paid toLittle, Brown. Except for this brief interlude, throughout her long career de laRoche remained loyal to the Macmillan Company in Britain and Canada, andto the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown in the United States.This is not to suggest, however, that she never wavered in her fidelity to herpublishers. In fact, the opposite is true. A shrewd negotiator, de la Rochealways sought the best possible arrangements for herself and her family, andshe was not loath to adopt manipulative tactics to serve her purpose. Moreover,she understood that, as a woman, she was positioned outside the patriarchalworld of publishing which nonetheless afforded her and her publisherscomfortable livings. With the exception of Daniel Macmillan, for example, theextant letters between publishers and author revealed a warm and amiableexchange but also a reluctance to trust in the other’s good faith. Furthermore,various letters between Hugh Eayrs and Edward Weeks unveiled theirorchestrated efforts to undermine the author’s autonomy and their deliberateexclusion of her from their male coterie. De la Roche’s grasp of her ownpotentially fragile situation and her ability to mitigate it through astutenegotiations forms a significant subtext in this consideration of herprofessional relationships.De la Roche had not always been self-assured and independent, however. Priorto the publication of her award-winning novel, the author had looked to herpublishers as mentors and friends, placing her trust in their experience andknowledge. As a woman and a little-known writer, she had felt vulnerable andfrustrated but she had never been passive. Rather than submit to defeat whenher short stories were rejected repeatedly, for instance, she remained173


IJCS/RIÉCcommitted to her craft and often sought the advice of Hugh Eayrs and EllerySedgwick. When her books earned her scant critical attention and even lessincome, she did not consider giving up writing; instead, she gave herself overto her work with impressive vigour, always remaining faithful to the visionthat finally produced Jalna and brought her much deserved happiness at thelate age of forty-eight.Following the publication of Jalna — the terms of which satisfied de la Roche 6— the author was comfortable in her new role as literary celebrity and with herpublishers, who shared the joy and profit of her triumph. Little more than twoyears after Jalna appeared in book form, however, de la Roche deliberatelyinitiated a period of disquiet during which her Boston publishers grew fearfulthat she would leave them for a rival house. In fact, of her three publishers, theAtlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown received the largest share of de laRoche’s provocations during their many years of association, perhaps inresponse to Edward Weeks’ committed and careful editing of her novels,which she found particularly irksome.In a letter dated 30 January 1930, one of several similar instances, the authorwrote the following to Weeks:Well, it was about time you wrote! A little longer, and I should haveinevitably succumbed to the wiles of the New York gentleman whoso far as I can make out, crossed the Atlantic with no other purpose inview but my seduction. That is, to his new publishing house. 7Whenever she felt neglected by her publishers, de la Roche grew peevish. Sherelied on their letters, as well as the countless letters from readers which shereceived throughout her career, to foster her sense of professionalconnectedness. This casual, apparently lighthearted reference to a publishingscout probably sounded a cautionary note in Weeks’ reading of her letter,exactly the effect de la Roche would have sought. Moreover, this briefcomment implied the superior position of the writer in the author-publisherhierarchy and constituted de la Roche’s first strategic move toward true powerwith her publishers.Impressed by the significant sales of the first Jalna novels, several otherpublishers attempted to woo de la Roche to their respective firms. One suchcompany, the Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, made an offer that the authorconsidered seriously. Although she used the rival firm’s offer as leverage insubsequent contract negotiations with the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little,Brown, her letters at this time revealed that she had changed significantly fromthe cautious, self-effacing author of pre-Jalna days. On 24 June 1930, shewrote to Edward Weeks, by now a friend whom she addressed as Ted:If only other publishers would let me alone! So far I have refused toconsider a change. But yesterday I had a letter from ElizabethMarbury with quite a dazzling offer. The Cosmopolitan BookCorporation is the publisher in this case. She gives pages of details ofa tremendous advertising campaign. They offer me $3000. as apresent. I am simply to “forget about it.”...174


Mazo de la Roche and Her PublishersI can’t tell you how repellant the thought of changing my publisher isto me. But I want to make all the money I can. I have relatives I like tohelp.... Please write to me as a friend. 8Despite her protestation of loyalty to Weeks, this letter showed de la Roche’spreoccupation with the Cosmopolitan offer. Her growing self-confidence, aswell as her determination to establish economic security for her family, wasevident in this and subsequent letters. With the success of Jalna, de la Rochehad become a professional. She soon acknowledged her ability to write novelsthat would please millions of readers, and she did not hesitate to point out thisfact to her publishers when the need arose.De la Roche’s letter of 24 June sent the offices of the Atlantic Monthly Pressand Little, Brown into a flurry. When he learned of the possible defection of hisprize author, Alfred McIntyre, president of Little, Brown, respondedimmediately to Edward Weeks in a letter that reiterated the terms of theirpublishing arrangements. As early as 20 September 1928, prior to thepublication of the second novel in the series, Whiteoaks of Jalna (1929),McIntyre had countered a similar problem in a letter to de la Roche when hewas “rather disturbed” 9 to hear that she had been approached by a New Yorkpublishing company. It was decided that the current situation, however,required a more aggressive response than the pen, and Weeks preparedpersonally to meet de la Roche’s ship upon her return from a trip to England.“[D]etermined to have an early and friendly word with” the author, he cabledher care of the London Bank: “Will meet your ship’s arrival Quebec orMontreal. Cable time and place. Imperative you reserve decision. Cabling asfriend.” 10The meeting between Weeks and de la Roche never took place and the authordeclined her editor’s offer to visit Toronto where they could discuss businessmatters. Instead, she urged Weeks to write and gave the following informationas incentive:[Hugh Eayrs] came to Southampton to see us off looking well andvery happy. We talked over the Cosmopolitan offer. He would likeme to stay with the Little Brown’s but thinks I should have a 20%royalty. Do you think Mr. McIntyre would give me this? All mydesire is to remain with you but, as Miss Marbury points out,serialization in one of their magazines would mean a great deal. Thedifference between $5000 and $25000....It would be a sad day for me when I should leave the House of whichyou are a member. Don’t let me do it! 11Since he had great respect and fellow feeling for the president of Macmillan ofCanada, de la Roche understood that having Eayrs as an ally would strengthenher position in Weeks’ mind. From early in her career, she could adopt thestrategy of playing the two men off one another — perhaps the only recourseavailable to the author who was regularly excluded from her publishers’private communications, a vital point which shall be examined shortly.Moreover, her final beseeching words, however coyly written and playful intone, underscored the gravity of her purpose and her increasing authorityamong her publishers.175


IJCS/RIÉCDe la Roche’s letter evoked a four-page response from Weeks, in which hedetailed the reasons why she ought not to accept Cosmopolitan’s offer andremain with the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown. He urged her to considerher reputation as a serious novelist, which would be tarnished if her work wereassociated with the popular publications issued by Cosmopolitan. Today, theirony in Weeks’ argument is evident, given de la Roche’s lasting reputation asa purely popular writer. As to royalties, he agreed “to the 20% which you feeland I feel has come to be your due,” 12 although he qualified the offer byexplaining that fewer funds may be allocated to the future advertising of herbooks.In concluding his letter, however, Weeks appealed to the psychologicalconnection between de la Roche and his firm, hoping to convince the authorthat to remain with the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown was proper andmoral:In all of this I have not touched on the spirit of loyalty which I thinkhas been mutually derived from our association. I believe that youappreciate the efforts which we have made in your behalf, and for ourpart, I hardly need tell you that we regard you as one of our best andmost valued authors. We have dealt with you with explicit honesty inthe past;... I sincerely hope that nothing will arise to disturb thefriendly and mutally [sic] beneficial association which has existedbetween us in the past. 13As this letter indicated, Weeks could not afford to alienate de la Roche, whosework generated a vast revenue. Writing in 1930, during the Depression, heunderstood that to lose the novelist to a rival firm would have dire financialconsequences for the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown. He wrote inearnest to prevent such a disaster from taking place.Although de la Roche was convinced and relieved by the tone of Weeks’ letterand his decision to agree to the 20% royalty she had requested, on 25 August1930, when the contract for Finch’s Fortune (1931), the third Jalna novel, hadyet to be signed, she reiterated to Alfred McIntyre that “the agent whoapproached me, still continues to write urging me to reconsider mydecision.” 14 This incident marked the first real struggle for power betweenauthor and publisher and it altered their future relationship. Never again couldeither Weeks or McIntyre assume that de la Roche was a naive and acquiescentwriter. Intelligently, she had manipulated the outcome of this particularconflict so that her best interests were served and, in the process, she haddisrupted the hierarchy of writer and publisher. From 1930 onward, theAtlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown had only to provoke de la Roche and herresponse — the threat to leave them for another firm — would silence theminto submission.This did not prevent Eayrs and Weeks, who by 1931 shared a fast friendship,from discussing de la Roche among themselves. As their letters revealed,during their association with the author, they attempted to influence her and toshape the course of her career to suit their requirements. Moreover, they wereaware that often de la Roche did not favour their counsel — which called intoquestion their respective claims that they always acted in her best interests.176


Mazo de la Roche and Her PublishersToday we understand from their correspondence that the two men aimed toretain as much control as possible over Jalna’s destiny by undermining de laRoche’s position as the creator of the series. If they treated the author as “agood girl” 15 — Eayrs and Weeks’ term — in need of guidance, perhaps shewould remain their subordinate. This would not prove to be the case, however.The issue of whether or not the Jalna series ought to continue became apressing one early in 1931 when Eayrs wrote the following to Weeks, in aprivate letter dated 30 January:... I know that I can write confidentially to you, I am not sure that she[i.e. de la Roche] should go on with a fourth volume in the JALNAseries, but if she does — and she seems to be bent on it — I think itreally ought to be the last.... You and I are both fond of her and arealways anxious to see that she makes a precisely right move eachtime, and not a wrong one.... If you would like me to write to her, andsay so I will be glad to do so and send you a carbon-copy of myletter. 16Eayrs and Weeks regularly consolidated their efforts in their communicationswith de la Roche. She was as much a commodity as an individual to these menwhose livelihood she partly ensured. As a result, they were uneasy lest shepursue her own desires — which she eventually did — and they used theirprofessional skills to guide her toward the course of action they hoped shewould adopt. Significantly, she was not party to their private discussions;rather they coaxed her along deftly, with their inimitable paternalistic flair, toconvince her of their united position. More often that not, however, shemaintained the upper hand either by remaining intolerably silent or bysuggesting that they part company.Although Eayrs later complained to Weeks, “I always feel between the threewaypublishing that if I make a suggestion it is likely to be misconstrued,” 17 itwas more usual for the two men to share similar views. In fact, as the previousletter indicated, they were allies in the publishing triad. Ironically, DanielMacmillan played a relatively small part in this alliance. Macmillan publishedde la Roche’s work, with little editorial intervention, to an enormous audiencethat anxiously awaited each Jalna volume and willingly ignored its flaws. As aresult, his relations with the author were always cordial. Further, situatedacross the Atlantic and serving a separate market, Macmillan of London had arelatively minor connection with de la Roche’s North American publishers,who communicated regularly with one another and co-arranged thepublication dates of the Jalna series in the United States and Canada.One letter in particular showed the duplicity of Eayrs and Weeks in theirtreatment of de la Roche. The most striking features of the following letterwere Eayrs’ tone of resentment and his hostility toward the author upon herreturn to Canada from an extended stay in England. On 5 September 1933, hewrote to Weeks:... I think they [i.e. de la Roche and her cousin, Caroline Clement]expected a much warmer welcome and a great deal of shouting abouttheir returning, and they have not improved the situation themselvesby being rather high hat as Canadians see it since their stay in177


IJCS/RIÉCEngland.... Relations are a little strained simply because of thisextraordinary Queen Victoria attitude, and you know Ted, there ismore than one novelist extant. I am fond of the girls as ever but I thinkit a great mistake for them, in their own interests, to high hateverybody in the immediate vicinity.I write very confidentially to you as an old friend, of course. 18Ironically, in public both men pandered to what Eayrs described above as de laRoche’s “Queen Victoria attitude.” Unwilling, however, to provoke an authorwhose writing provided a large portion of his income, he felt obliged to keephis resentment private and expressed it in a confidential letter to Weeks. Infact, Lovat Dickson, who succeeded Daniel Macmillan as de la Roche’sBritish editor and long-time friend, noted “[t]he fun H. S. E. [i.e. HughSmithfield Eayrs] privately made to me about Mazo and her snobbisms.” 19 Inthis case, Eayrs would not consider that de la Roche genuinely may have feltslighted by the Canadian media which, throughout her career, reviewed herbooks poorly, diminished her international success, and celebrated her as anative-born author only when she was lauded in the United States. Thedisingenuous treatment of de la Roche by her publishers, of which this is alesser instance, became pronounced in 1934 during the writing of YoungRenny (1935), a crucial period in this history of the author’s professionalrelationships, to be considered presently.In the interim, de la Roche successfully maintained her authorialindependence. A misunderstanding which took place early in 1934 could nothave failed to convince Weeks — if, in fact, he required further convincing —that de la Roche was a self-assured author who would not tolerate attempts todeny her autonomy. When she was asked by Queen Mary’s secretary toprovide Her Majesty with a signed copy of The Master of Jalna (1933), thefourth novel in the series, the author was flattered and only too pleased tooblige. De la Roche was a great admirer of the royal family and she regarded itas a rare privilege to count its members among her fans. As a gift to QueenMary, she commissioned a tooled-leather binding for the novel. In a tribute tothe novelist in the Atlantic Monthly, 20 however, Weeks implied thatMacmillan of Canada were responsible for the presentation volume.In a rousing letter, dated 15 March 1934, de la Roche reprimanded hereditor:[W]hat the hell do you mean by giving the Macmillan Co. of Canadathe credit for the book? I have been so furious about that that I haverefrained from writing. The Macmillan Co. had absolutely nothing todo with it beyond suggesting the name of the man who did the work. Iinterviewed him, chose the design and paid forty dollars for the book.What annoys me is that to the readers of The Atlantic the incidentshould be presented as a commercial one whereas it was a purelypersonal one between her Majesty and myself. If Hugh saw the proofof the page how could he let it pass? Only by design — I swear! Well— the more I think of it, the more I... 21The veiled threat to depart the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown whichconcluded this letter brought home to Weeks the seriousness of his offense.178


Mazo de la Roche and Her PublishersFortunately for Weeks, de la Roche’s anger was assuaged by his elegantapology which soon followed in the mail and which also blamed Eayrs for theentire misunderstanding. This apparent lack of loyalty to one’s friend andcolleague should not come as a surprise: the two men regularly shifted theblame to one another in difficult situations, particularly when they were facedwith de la Roche’s rage. Their mutual desire to foster the author’s good willallowed for fleeting personal betrayals that pacified the novelist but had littlelasting effect on their own relationship.Greater diplomatic efforts were required of Weeks, however, in the disputewhich arose subsequently over Young Renny, initially titled “CousinMalahide.” In fact, this conflict proved to be the turning point in de la Roche’srelationship with her Boston publishers. At Weeks’ own earlier suggestion,“Cousin Malahide” was set back in time in the Jalna saga and featured a distantrelative from Ireland. On 9 April 1934, however, in a letter to Eayrs, Weeksnoted his concern over the novel’s time frame. Although Eayrs felt a similarapprehension, he counselled his friend to use caution in his correspondencewith de la Roche and not to provoke her ire.In late May 1934, the author sent several early chapters of “Cousin Malahide”to the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown and was obliged to wait threemonths for her editor’s response to the fifth novel in the Jalna series. WhenWeeks’ letter finally arrived on 27 August — having been delayed by much inhousediscussion of the manuscript — it infuriated the author:We all realized from the first, of course, that it was audacious, evenrisky to turn the clock back in Jalna... new danger has manifesteditself in the first ninety pages of the new script. Renny, Maurice andMeg are in their immaturity somewhat more watered [sic] than welike to think, but what is worse, is to remark in the new characterswhich you have introduced a tendency to be quaint and bizarrebeyond the reader’s credulity. Cousin Malahide with his simper andhis highly artificial ejaculations, Philip with his annoying lisp, thewooden Mary and the almost absurd fainting fit of Maurice’sfather. 22Upon receipt of this letter, de la Roche took some time to consider it seriously.She was not so much offended by its contents — by 1934 she was accustomedto receiving Weeks’ criticism of her work — as by its blunt delivery andcallous tone. Moreover, to have had to wait three months for such news wasunacceptable to the novelist. She felt ill-used by her American publishers, whotreated her in this instance with apparent disregard.A writer of note and of great value to her publishers, de la Roche would not takesuch treatment lightly. In a feeble attempt to deflect the serious damage doneby Weeks’ letter, Alfred McIntyre cabled the author at her home in Devon,England:Do not offer Malahide to another publisher. We expect to carry outcontract for its publication as it stands or as revised by you unlessupon reading complete manuscript majority feeling here is againstpublication and we are able to convince you that our attitude iscorrect. 23 179


IJCS/RIÉCNotwithstanding McIntyre’s appeal, de la Roche’s considered response to hiscable and Week’ earlier letter was unambiguous. On 18 September 1934, shewrote the following to McIntyre:I am of a migratory nature. I left Knopf to go to Macmillans. I leftMacmillans to go to you. I have changed publishers once or twice inEngland. I am capable of biting off not only my nose but my wholehead, to spite my face. I confess that I have never felt more like amigration than when the combined criticism of MALAHIDE reachedme. Not because it was adverse criticism but because of the manner inwhich it was dealt out to me. 24De la Roche could not have been more honest or more forthright. Her intentionto leave the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown over their poor handling of“Cousin Malahide” was genuine. She wrote calmly and clearly, as oneprofessional to another. In fact, she conducted herself as the equal of Weeksand McIntyre, entitled to the kind of courtesy she regularly showed them. Nolonger would she be content to occupy the marginal position of a female writeramong male publishers, nor would she tolerate being ignored by them. Thatwas evident from the frank statements and measured tone of her letter, whichconvinced her Boston publishers that this time her threat to sever their ties wasauthentic indeed.As was generally the case, the conflict was eventually resolved, but not until dela Roche had successfully reestablished new grounds for the relationshipbetween herself and the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown. SinceMcIntyre’s connection with de la Roche was always primarily professional —which differed from the more familiar association of de la Roche and Weeks— he paid the author a personal visit, especially important during this time ofcrisis. They discussed the revisions to “Cousin Malahide” and reconfirmedtheir commitment to one another and the Jalna series. Soon afterward, Weekswrote a heartfelt letter of apology, dated 3 October, 1934, in which he assuredthe author that his “actions which may have proved to be ill-judged... wereplanned with the very opposite intention.” 25 One month following, theAtlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown received the completed manuscript ofthe novel and Weeks cabled to de la Roche: “Humble pie consumed. MalahidePhilip and family circle could not be better. Splendid work.” 26 The author wasmollified and cabled her response: “Your humble pie my tonic. Bless you.” 27In light of his extreme reaction to the earlier version, Weeks’ avowedsatisfaction with the revised work may now appear overstated. There can be nodoubt, however, that de la Roche had improved the novel’s coherence. Nor didYoung Renny — the work’s title upon publication — disappoint her audience.As Weeks later informed the author:You know, don’t you, what a remarkable send-off YOUNG RENNYhad, for all the drear conditions this spring. An advance sale (with nocopies on consignment!) of 22,000 is something to write home about.We have printed 30,000 copies altogether to make sure that we had asurplus for the reorders which are now coming in on the footsteps ofthe highly favorable reviews. 28180


Mazo de la Roche and Her PublishersDespite the novel’s success and the restored good will between de la Rocheand her Boston publishers, the dispute over Young Renny permanently alteredtheir relationship. Weeks and McIntyre always remembered the devastatingimpact of this incident and, as a result, relinquished control of the Whiteoaks ofJalna to their creator. From this point forward, her publishers questionedneither de la Roche’s authorial autonomy nor her position of power amongthem. Although she welcomed minor editorial suggestions, she would notaccept outright criticism of her work — and her publishers bore this in mindthroughout their subsequent negotiations. Moreover, henceforth DanielMacmillan rather than Edward Weeks received the first manuscript of herwork. Although this decision may have been partly one of convenience — theauthor was living in England at the time — it nonetheless confirmed de laRoche’s authority. Since its members found little in her work to criticize andalways treated her with admiration and respect, she felt more comfortable withthe British firm. In fact, she was wise to place her trust in Macmillan, forWeeks and Eayrs remained duplicitous toward the author to the end. On 24January 1935, for example, following this most difficult crisis of theirrelationship, Weeks informed de la Roche that he had not told Eayrs “whathumble pie tastes like” 29 — an apparent lie since the two men had exchangedletters throughout the Young Renny affair. Ironically, the unthoughtfultreatment of de la Roche by the Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown resultedin the author’s professional development and the firm’s loss of favour in hereyes — precisely those circumstances that Weeks had always hoped toforestall.Throughout the latter 1930s, little conflict arose between the writer and herpublishers. The difficulty over Young Renny had convinced the AtlanticMonthly Press/Little, Brown that de la Roche controlled her destiny as well asher writing. As a result, when issues arose that required serious discussion, itgenerally took place among the men themselves, in an exchange ofconfidential letters that would never reach the author and possibly provoke heranger. In 1937, for example, Weeks sought Eayrs’ advice: he hoped toconvince de la Roche of the need to rearrange her publication schedule toaccommodate a Jalna novel in 1938. 30 Although he was unsuccessful in hisattempt to have the publication dates altered, de la Roche did not learn of hisextreme concern and Weeks simply acquiesced in this instance — as he did inlater situations when the novelist’s will prevailed.In fact, from mid-decade onward the association between de la Roche, Eayrsand Weeks was a friendly one, largely free of the difficulties they hadpreviously experienced. Their earlier clashes of will were the product of allthree parties striving to assert an individual hold on the Jalna series. As theyears passed and conflicts were resolved, de la Roche matured as a writer whoenjoyed international success and as a professional among her malecolleagues. Gradually she removed herself from the margins of the publishingworld, from which initially she had negotiated rather timidly with Eayrs andWeeks. Soon she had persuaded both men of her serious commitment to hercraft, her authorial autonomy, as well as her professional shrewdness, andthere could be no doubt as to the rightful possessor of the Jalna saga.181


IJCS/RIÉCIn 1940, however, the bonds that united de la Roche and her three publisherswere severed by the untimely death of Hugh Eayrs. As Weeks himself wrote tothe author: “The news was stunning in its suddenness, and I am not yet ready tolive with it.” 31 While Macmillan and Weeks felt the blow keenly, de la Rochewas devastated by the loss of Eayrs as a friend, colleague and former mentorwho early on had been aware of her talents. She described his “mind of wit, asoul of generosity and a heart overflowing with sympathy to those who werehis friends. In the lives of his immediate friends his going leaves a blank thatcan never be filled.” 32 Eventually, Eayrs’ position with the MacmillanCompany of Canada was filled by John Gray, who also came to share a closeassociation with de la Roche, but he could never replace the friend she had lostin Eayrs. Further, Daniel Macmillan’s primary connection with the authoraltered when Lovat Dickson became the editor of the Jalna books in Englandand a dear friend of the novelist. Hence, the death of Eayrs marked a turningpoint in de la Roche’s career. From 1940 onward, with international successand her status as a professional firmly established, the author negotiated withher publishers from a well-earned and undisputed position of power after atrying apprenticeship.Notes* Preparation of this essay was assisted by funding from the Social Sciences and HumanitiesResearch Council of Canada. Also, I am grateful to Esmée Rees, Mazo de la Roche’s literaryexecutor, who has permitted me to quote from the unpublished papers.1. Joan Givner’s fine biography of de la Roche is an exception. See Joan Givner, Mazo de laRoche: The Hidden Life (Toronto: Oxford UP, 1989).2. Delores Broten and Peter Birdsall describe the agency system as follows: “The book trade [inCanada], importing from Britain and then from the United States, fed upon its own negation.The agency system...made indigenous publishing appear unnecessary. Agencies ensured thecontinuing lack of profitability of Canadian trade books. One can posit that the agencysystem contributed to the underdevelopment of retail bookstores in Canada, through poorservice and extra mark-ups.” Paper Phoenix: A History of Book Publishing in EnglishCanada (Victoria, BC: CANLIT, 1980) 80.3. See Mazo de la Roche, Explorers of the Dawn (New York: Knopf, 1922; London: Cassell,1924); Possession (New York, London, Toronto: Macmillan, 1923); Low Life: A Comedy inOne Act (Toronto: Macmillan, 1925); Delight (New York, Toronto: Macmillan, 1926); andCome True (Toronto: 1927).4. See Mazo de la Roche, “Buried Treasure,” Atlantic Monthly 116 (Aug. 1915): 192-204; and“Explorers of the Dawn,” Atlantic Monthly 124 (Oct. 1919): 532-40.5. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Daniel Macmillan, 20 May 1927, Macmillan Papers, BritishLibrary.6. For an examination of the publication of Jalna, see Ruth Panofsky, “`Go My Own Way?’:The Publication of Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna,” Epilogue 17 (Spring 1994): 1-13.7. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Edward Weeks, 30 Jan. 1930, Edward Weeks Papers, Universityof Texas at Austin.8. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Edward Weeks, 24 June 1930, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.9. Alfred McIntyre, letter to Edward Weeks, 9 July 1930, Weeks Papers, University of Texas atAustin.10. Edward Weeks, cable to Mazo de la Roche, 17 July 1930, Weeks Papers, University of Texasat Austin.11. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Edward Weeks, 22 July 1930, Weeks Papers, University of Texasat Austin.182


Mazo de la Roche and Her Publishers12. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 29 July 1930, Weeks Papers, University of Texasat Austin.13. Ibid.14. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Alfred McIntyre, 25 Aug. 1930, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.15. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 2 Mar. 1951, Weeks Papers, University of Texasat Austin.16. Hugh Eayrs, letter to Edward Weeks, 30 Jan. 1931, Weeks Papers, University of Texas atAustin.17. Hugh Eayrs, letter to Edward Weeks, 12 Apr. 1937, Weeks Papers, University of Texas atAustin.18. Hugh Eayrs, letter to Edward Weeks, 5 Sept. 1933, Weeks Papers, University of Texas atAustin.19. Horatio Lovat Dickson, undated note, Horatio Lovat Dickson Papers, National Archives ofCanada, MG 30 D 237.20. See Atlantic Monthly Mar. 1934.21. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Edward Weeks, 15 Mar. 1934, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.22. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 27 Aug. 1934, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.23. Alfred McIntyre, cable to Mazo de la Roche, 6 Sept. 1934, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.24. Mazo de la Roche, letter to Alfred McIntyre, 18 Sept. 1934, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.25. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 3 Oct. 1934, Weeks Papers, University of Texasat Austin.26. Edward Weeks, cable to Mazo de la Roche, 10 Nov. 1934, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.27. Mazo de la Roche, cable to Edward Weeks, 13 Nov. 1934, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.28. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 24 May 1935, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.29. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 24 Jan. 1935, Weeks Papers, University of Texasat Austin.30. Edward Weeks, letter to Hugh Eayrs, 30 Mar. 1937, Weeks Papers, University of Texas atAustin.31. Edward Weeks, letter to Mazo de la Roche, 14 June 1940, Weeks Papers, University ofTexas at Austin.32. “Hugh Eayrs, in Memoriam,” Globe and Mail 4 May 1940: 10.183


Frances RooneyEdith S. Watson:Photographing Women in Rural CanadaAbstractProfessional photographer and wanderer Edith S. Watson (1861-1943)produced a rich visual document of rural Canadians at work between c.1890and 1930. She travelled coast to coast, at first alone, then with her partner inwork and life, Victoria Hayward, producing art photographs for independentsale and commission photographs for numerous companies, magazines,newspapers and books. Her seemingly serendipitous way of life allowed her tosupport herself and at times her parents and sister while living among otherwomen and in an independent manner seldom recorded in social history.RésuméEdith S. Watson (1861-1943), photographe professionnelle et voyageuse, alaissé, entre 1890 et 1930, un riche témoignage visuel sur la vie et le travail desCanadiennes. Voyageant seule d’un bout à l’autre du pays au début et avec sapartenaire dans son travail et dans la vie, Victoria Hayward, par la suite, elleproduisit des photographies pour la vente privée et sur commande pourplusieurs compagnies, revues, journaux et livres. Même si Edith S. Watsonsemblait mener une vie de bohème, son style de vie lui permettait de subvenir àses besoins et, à l’occasion, à ceux de ses parents et sa sœur, tout en vivantparmi d’autres femmes de façon indépendante et rarement attesté en histoiresociale.Edith Watson was born in Connecticut in 1861. From the 1890s until the1930s, she spent several months each year wandering around Canadaphotographing rural people, often women, usually at work. Her hundreds ofpublished photographs show women carrying water on hoops and drying codon fish flakes in Newfoundland, digging clams in Cape Breton, weaving andmaking soap in Quebec, harvesting wheat, flax, beets and rhubarb on theprairies, mending nets and drying fish on the west coast. She photographedestablished rural communities, First Nations people and groups of NewCanadians, including Mennonites, Hungarians, Doukhobours and JapaneseCanadians. She carried her equipment with her. While at first she used heavycameras and carried 8x10 inch glass plate negatives with her, she laterpreferred simple cameras which she sometimes gave away when she left anarea. Composition was the strong point of her gentle portraits, and she wouldfrequently wait several days for the right light or grouping of people oranimals. Much of her developing was done in streams at night as she travelled;the rest she did at home at the pump in her kitchen.International Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCCarrying hay in homemade pieced quilts, outport Newfoundland,c. 1900This was no leisure project. Edith supported herself, and at times her agingparents and sister Amelia, with her photography throughout her adult life,selling prints for between $.50 and $2.00 all over North America andexchanging photographs for equipment, accommodation and travel. Her workappeared in such diverse places as the Toronto Star, Saturday Night, TheCanadian Magazine, The Halifax Chronicle Herald, The Vancouver Sun, TheDetroit Free Press, The New York Times, National Geographic, Hygeia (thejournal of the American Medical Association), Vogue and Yachting. Shecompiled the photographs for several travel brochures and books for theprovincial governments of Nova Scotia and Ontario and for the colonial186


Edith S. Watson: Photographing Womengovernment of the then Crown Colony of Newfoundland and Labrador. Hercorporate commissions included publicity photographs for the CanadianPacific Railway, the Cunard Line, several rope and cartage companies, Ginneducational publishers, and the Methodist Church in Canada and the U.S. Thesubjects of these photographs were sometimes specifically commissioned, forexample, her shots of the Chateau Laurier and the Banff Springs Hotel. Othersshe chose to accompany articles; still others, notably those for the rope andcartage companies, portrayed the company’s product in a setting of her choice.She also sold and gave away prints as she travelled. Although, according to theDigging potatoes, Path End, Newfoundland, c. 1900187


IJCS / RIÉCWorking the fish flakes, outport Newfoundland, c. 19001891 and 1892 censuses in the U.S. and Canada, 15 percent of professionalphotographers in both countries were women, Edith’s work differed from thatof most other professionals — of either sex — in that she wandered acrossthousands of miles with her camera taking both art and commissionphotographs rather than working from a studio and producing primarilyportrait prints.For many years, Edith worked in winter in a studio in Bermuda where sheshowed and sold her work through the Bermudiana and other major hotels. Itwas there in 1911 that she met Victoria Hayward, a 35-year-old Bermudianjournalist. The next year Victoria, or Queenie as she was called, joined Edithon her travels to Canada. The two lived and worked together in a true Bostonmarriage until Edith’s death.Eastman Kodak commissioned a show of Edith’s work for the 1915 PanamaExhibition. The photographs were in crates at the Hartford train station whenKodak backed out in order to demonstrate instead its latest accomplishment:easy-to-use colour film.Macmillan published Romantic Canada, Edith and Queenie’s majorcollaboration in 1921. At over 250 pages, it was the most lavish travel bookpublished in Canada to that time, and it is perhaps best remembered as theplace where Hayward coined the phrase “Canadian mosaic.” Macmillancommissioned two further books, Romantic Bermuda and The Islands ofCanada, but both were cancelled because of financial difficulties.188


Edith S. Watson: Photographing WomenEdith and Queenie never really retired, but life became slower and morerelaxed as they aged and as Edith finally achieved financial security. Herscrapbooks indicate an avid interest, although no apparent activity, in the “IsPhotography Art?” controversy, and while she does not seem to haveparticipated in the struggle for voting rights for women (whether because oflack of interest or the need to focus on making a living is not clear, though thelatter seems most likely), she was interested in politics, registered as aDemocrat and voted faithfully. Her addiction to travel lasted for the rest of herlife.Edith died on a trip to Florida in 1943; Queenie arrived back in Connecticutwith the coffin on Christmas morning. The first time she saw Edith’s graveafter the stone marker had been installed, she wrote in her diary: “Went downto see Edith’s tombstone ... It looks very nice and just like the others, herfather’s, mother’s and Minnie’s, which was what she wished. A rabbit ranaway from eating the grass on the grave as I came near. She would have likedthat touch.” Edith’s marker was not quite like the others: hers includes theinscription “They seek a country.”Watson was a very self-conscious artist who had no “proper” late-Victorianqualms about seeing her name in print. At a time when publishers did notconsider photographers worthy of much note, she insisted on — and got — topprices and credits for her work. Without the prices, she would have had to dosome other kind of work, perhaps teach painting as her sister did all her life.Without the credits, Edith would have been impossible to trace.Carrying water from the well with pails and hoops, outportNewfoundland, c. 1900189


IJCS / RIÉCMilking the cow, Cape Breton, c. 1900She was also a pack rat who came from a family that did and does preserve itshistory as well as space and the demands of expanding families allow. LoisWatson, Edith’s cousin by marriage and, with her husband Bob the inheritor ofEdith’s belongings after Victoria Hayward’s death, admitted to me that herfirst impulse when she and Bob saw the photographs was to throw everythingaway. “But as we went through all those photographs and negatives, it quicklybecame obvious that here was something special. We had to keep it. Those twowomen loved that country so damned much.” Another time, Loisshamefacedly said that she and Bob had thrown away bushel baskets ofnegatives when they cleaned out Edith’s house. But they kept every print, andeven after loss and gifts and Edith’s sales to dozens of publishers,manufacturers, railroad companies and steamship lines, a considerablecollection remained.Victoria Hayward wrote articles, collaborated on books, shared her life withEdith Watson and left intimate word pictures to accompany Watson’sphotographs. If Watson kept diaries (as did most middle-class women of hertime — or did she consider the photographs her diaries?) they have notsurvived. A few of Hayward’s diaries remain, and they are charming; althoughthey cover less than a year in all, they are wonderfully informative.190


Edith S. Watson: Photographing WomenThe diaries describe the domestic routine of the Watson-Hayward household:chores, visits, repairing furniture, preferences in food, decoration, travel. Theychronicle evening backgammon games, Edith’s bouts with indigestion andtheir accompanying bad temper, Victoria Hayward’s patience with her and thearguments when that patience ran out.Edith and Victoria lived and worked intensely. They established extended,largely female, personal and professional networks which intersected withsimilar groups across North America and beyond. They relished their own andtheir friends’ fertile activities, and were anything but the brittle, bitter “oldmaids” single women have so often been painted to be. Their story provides aNative woman and baby, French River, Ontario, c. 1910191


IJCS / RIÉCHungarian women harvesting rhubarb, Saskatchewan, c. 1913challenge to preconceptions concerning the lives of our predecessors and adoor to the exploration of those lives as well as a rich, vivid, dignified andrespectful look at the lives of turn-of-the-century rural Canadians.192


Edith S. Watson: Photographing WomenDoukhobour women plastering a ceiling, Brilliant, B.C., 1919 or 1920193


IJCS / RIÉCBibliography“Another Mrs. Gainsborough on sale.” Toronto Star. June 11, 1983, E27.Hayward, Victoria. Manuscript diaries, 1927-44.Hayward, Victoria and Edith S. Watson. Romantic Canada. Toronto, Macmillan, 1920.Jones, Laura. Rediscovery: Canadian Women Photographers, 1841-1941. Exhibition catalogue.London: London Regional Art Gallery, 1983.Rooney, Frances. “Finding Edith S. Watson.” Blatant Image I (1981):86.—— “Edith S. Watson, Photographer, and Victoria Hayward, Writer.” Fireweed 13 (1982):60-8.—— “Finding Edith Watson.” Resources for Feminist Research 12:1 (March 1983):26-8.—— “Edith S. Watson: A Photoessay.” Canadian Woman Studies 7:3 (Fall 1986):48-9.—— Edith S. Watson: Rural Canadians at Work, 1890-1920. Exhibition catalogue. Sackville,NB: Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, 1991.—— My Dear, Dear Edith. Exhibition catalogue. Galiano Island: Nuse Gallery, 1994.—— Working Light: The Wandering Life of Photographer Edith S. Watson. Ottawa, CarletonUniversity Press, forthcoming (fall 1995).Watson, Amelia M. Manuscript diaries, 1880-1933.Watson, Edith S. Scrapbooks and photograph albums, 1880--1930.194


M. Jeanne Yardley and Linda J. KenyonDead and Buried: Murder and WritingWomen’s LivesAbstractThe article points out both the fundamental role of narrative in communityidentity and the complex relations that develop among historical narratives ofthe same event. It shows how contemporary newspaper accounts of twomurder cases almost a century apart illustrate the process of shaping thatoccurs in journalism. William Chadwick’s play “Exposures” and LindaKenyon’s short story “Anna Weber Has Made This” then allow us to explorethe complex ways in which creative writers respond to the questions posed byearlier narratives and rework historical fact to suit the ideological needs oftheir own time. From this comparison, the authors suggest the importance ofsuch events as an access for both readers and writers to otherwise buriedaspects of ordinary women’s lives.RésuméL’article souligne à la fois le rôle fondamental que joue le récit dans l’identitéd’une communauté et la relation complexe qui se développe au fil des annéesentre les récits d’un même événement. En utilisant deux reportages de deuxmeurtres qui ont eu lieu à plus d’un siècle d’intervalle, les auteures illustrentcomment le journalisme crée un processus de construction. Par ailleurs, lapièce de théâtre de William Chadwick « Exposure » et la nouvelle de LindaKenyon « Anna Weber Has Made This » nous permettent d’explorer la façondont les écrivains répondent aux questions engendrées par les récitsantérieurs et la façon dont ils retravaillent des événements historiques afin desatisfaire aux manques idéologiques de leurs temps. Par l’entremise de cettecomparaison, les auteures font ressortir l’importance de tels événements etainsi livrent, tant aux lecteurs qu’aux écrivains, des aspects de la vie defemmes de tous les jours, aspects qui resteraient autrement à tous jamaiscachés.We wish to begin by acknowledging the sensitivity of the material covered inthis paper. It is all too easy, as the narratives we will discuss amplydemonstrate, to banalize, sensationalize or rationalize stories of women’smurders or any stories about violence — to make the horrible act that inspiresthem appear trivial, entertaining, or (and to far worse effect) culturallylegitimate. It has been particularly difficult for us to justify our work on themore recent of the two cases, which remains fresh in local memory and stilllooms large in the daily lives of family members. Yet the narrativization ofmurder is a means to protest against and heal from the trauma of domesticviolence. Throughout our analysis of narratives retelling the stories of theseInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCwomen’s murders, we hope that readers will hear a clear subtext insisting uponthe appalling and utterly unacceptable fact of murder.We begin with two women, two deaths:Berlin News-Record, Wed August 11, 1897ALLEGED SUICIDEMrs Anthony Orr, wife of a respectable farmer living about a milefrom town, disappeared yesterday afternoon. A shot-gun is missingfrom the house, and grave fears are entertained that she may havecommitted suicide. A search party of thirty men have been scouringthe district all day, but no clue has been found.* * *Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Sat March 29, 1986BODY FOUND IN ROSEVILLE,MURDER PROBE LAUNCHEDResidents of this quiet hamlet are in shock as police try to unravel themystery surrounding the discovery Thursday of an unidentifiedfemale’s body in a snowbank behind Roseville Country Restaurantand General Store.Waterloo regional police are treating it as a homicide, the region’sfirst this year. Police are releasing few details and have little to go onbecause the semi-clad body was badly decomposed and there was noidentification on the body.The two cases open with contrasting scenarios: in the first, the woman ismissing and a week later turns up dead, buried in her own corn patch; in thesecond, a body is found in a public parking lot and is finally identified afterthree months of police work. The murder of Emma Orr is the first case in thehistory of Waterloo county to result in a conviction and hanging, while thedeath of Danuta Czapor eighty-nine years later joins a continuing series oflocal tragedies, the first in an expected sequence of homicides in the area thatyear. Yet as they develop, these two scandalous events share a number offeatures. Both are set in the area of Roseville, Ontario, a little to the west ofCambridge; in fact, both women are buried in the same cemetery. Bothconcern mature women with children, married to men considerably older thanthemselves, and killed by a member of their own household. Both receive awealth of detailed newspaper reporting during the period of mystery, before anarrest and conviction bring closure to the case. And both inspire creativerewritings that take off from the “facts” and proceed in their own directions.The narratives arising from these two cases provide us with an opportunity toexplore both the fundamental role of narrative in community identity and thecomplex relations that develop among historical narratives of the same event.Through an analysis, first, of the newspaper narratives of the Orr and Czapormurders and, then, of a play and short story that return to these events in fiction,we can examine the ways in which different narratives either conceal orquestion the issues underlying these events.196


Dead and Buried: Murder and Writing Women’s LivesThe reports published in contemporary newspapers about each of these casesprovide us with an initial set of narratives, a first attempt by members of thecommunity to find meaning in the events, although the language and length ofexcerpts differs. The coverage of the nineteenth-century case is voluminousand wordy; in addition, the mandate of the paper at the time of the Orr murderwas clearly to cover local events. Along with four columns of advertisements,the Orr case is joined on the front page in August 1897 by items with theseheadlines:ALDERMAN BROWN THE LUCKY MANGETS CONTRACT FOR BUILDING THE NEW G.T.R. DEPOTandTHE SINGING SOCIETIES ARE WITH USGOOD WEATHER, JOLLY CROWDS, EXCELLENT MUSICIn contrast, the Czapor case shares the front page with contemporary nationaland world events, with headlines like these:KHADAFY CLAIMING VICTORY OVER U.S.andOTTAWA TAX CREDITS GO TO U.S. COMPANYFOR DAIRY RESEARCH10-YEAR PROJECT TO COST MILLIONSand rapidly moves to the back pages of the paper as it becomes old news. Wewonder if the world was just a busier place in 1986 than it was in 1897, or ifover the years murder has become less noteworthy. The articles also reflect theeasier access reporters had to court and other official records in the nineteenthcentury,as well as the willingness of journalists to speculate and developtheories independent of “reliable sources.”Despite these superficial differences, the newspaper coverage of these twocases, although they occur almost a century apart, is strikingly similar in styleand substance because the overall role of news media has not changed. If werecognize murder as a community trauma, then we must acknowledge thenarratives arising from it as part of a process the community uses to assimilateand recover from such trauma. Newspaper narratives of both periods fulfillthis task through repeated retellings, revelling in detail that would normallyoffend readers but here serves to, in the words of historiographer HaydenWhite, “familiarize the unfamiliar” (49).Berlin News-Record, August 19, 1897Dr. J.M. Cameron, one of the physicians who made the post mortemexamination, testified that he had made a thorough examination ofthe body which was that of a well-nourished woman about 5 feet 4inches in height, and weighing 140 lbs. The tongue protruded fromthe face and the eyeballs protruded from their sockets. On the face,neck, chest and abdomen were large, diffused, livid patches. Theskull was fractured in three places.... The brain was too muchdecomposed to admit of an examination. The heart, lungs and other197


IJCS / RIÉCorgans were in a healthy and normal condition. In the stomach waspartly digested food, in which pieces of meat and eggs were found.* * *Kitchener-Waterloo Record, July 8, 1986The photos show front and side views of the body, with her faceapparently bruised, her hair disheveled, and her eyes closed indeath....The woman was probably in her 30s. She had brown eyes andmedium brown collar-length hair, with what appeared to be naturalgrey streaking. She had a scar on the lower right side of her abdomen,a surgical scar inside her right ankle, and a mark from where a warthad been removed from the sole of her right foot, near the toes.Hayden White suggests the therapeutic effect of narrative in his comparison ofthe rewriting of historical events to the personal process of “rewriting” one’spast that takes place during psychotherapy (50-1). This refamiliarization ornormalization begins with an exploration of memory, an obsessive retelling ofevery aspect of the story.For the community, the therapeutic need is to heal the breach that the murderhas introduced into the apparently seamless structure of daily life. Fear, theawareness of everyone’s vulnerability, creates an overwhelming stress thatcan be relieved only by the legal resolution of the case. The newspapernarratives about both Emma Orr and Danuta Czapor take part in thenormalizing effort to determine “whodunnit”:Berlin News-Record, August 17, 1897The latest theory is that whoever fired at the woman chased herthrough the garden to the lane and shot at her as she was trying to getthrough the fence, but, not hitting her, used the butt end of the gunwith which to fell her, and from there dragged the body the few yardsto where it was found buried in the corn patch. Whether the womanfired at an assailant and missed or whether the assailant fired at thewoman is still a matter of mystery. It is more probable, however, thatthe gun was in the hands of the woman, because a man, being moredextrous in the use of such arms, would not likely miss his mark, andsome shots would be found in the woman’s legs, which is about theelevation of the bullets in the fence...* * *Kitchener-Waterloo Record, July 8, 1986... She may not have been reported missing because the person whowould normally do this — a husband, for instance — might have beenthe one who killed her...But that is just guessing. Staff Sergeant Hunter declined to speculatewhether she was killed where her body was found, or brought toRoseville and dumped. He also declined to guess why she waswearing only a blue track suit in early spring with snow still on theground.198


Dead and Buried: Murder and Writing Women’s LivesAlthough nowadays reputable publications resist open speculation — in the1986 excerpt, we are told the police are “declining to guess” — clearly bothreporters are quite prepared to do so.In one sense, the identification of Orr and Czapor murder suspectsimmediately eases the community’s fear, because — as the last excerptspeculates — both turn out to be victims of domestic violence. In fact, thepeople charged and convicted were both trusted young men, in the first case thehired farm boy and in the second the woman’s own son. Even with theseresolutions, however, the cases serve as a reminder of the vulnerability of allwomen. To function well in the world of our culture, we need to believe thatour homes are places of safety, that members of our household honour ourlives, and that we can carry out our daily tasks without risk. And when this isnot true, we want to know that the ensuing violence happens only to otherpeople. Newspaper reporting of the cases thus responds to the question whichremains largely unexpressed but nevertheless echoes in every narration:“could this happen to me?” The narratives answer this fear by offering thereassuring description of the victim as someone markedly different from thestereotypical wife and mother:Berlin News-Record, Aug 11, 1897This is the woman who ran away with a young man some years agoand it is currently reported that she has killed herself.* * *Berlin News-Record, Aug 16, 1897... It will be remembered by readers of the Reporter that on Friday itrejected the elopement theory as the solution of Mrs Orr’s suddendisappearance.... Still, ninety out of every hundred persons in Galtregarded the case as one of a woman’s illicit passions and desire for alife apart from her husband....It appears that the Sunday before, the father of Anthony Orr wasburied. He and his wife were at the funeral. Mrs Orr was not in verygood odor with the rest of the family and was very cooly treated, infact she was not recognized at all by the female members of thefamily.* * *Kitchener-Waterloo Record, July 11, 1986Staff Inspector Dara Landry said Mrs Czapor had never been reportedmissing by her husband, Stanley, or any other members of her familyor friends because of her lifestyle where she would often live awayfrom home for a while.* * *Kitchener-Waterloo Record, July 12, 1986Neighbours and family interviewed Friday described 37 year-oldCzapor as a quiet woman who kept to herself and never smiled ortalked to people she passed on the sidewalk. She had no friends, but199


IJCS / RIÉCseemed devoted to her young daughter Trudy, eight or nine yearsold....“She would never say hello,” said Alison Thomas of 57 BerkleyRoad. “She would just walk with a distant look in her eyes.”Explicitly, these reports establish the eccentricities of the victim and hersituation, implicitly arguing that she herself was the cause of her own violentdeath. The theory is this: if we can prove that the victim deserved whathappened to her, then we know what steps to take to avoid being like her andbecoming a victim ourselves.In the course of their narration, these newspapers deliberately invade theprivacy of the individuals concerned, revealing details of day-to-day life thatwould otherwise remain unavailable and probably uninteresting:Berlin News-Record, Aug, 16 1897As gleaned from [Tony Orr’s] story, on the day of her disappearance,Mrs Orr arose early, ate her breakfast and went about her usualwork.... He left, at 7 o’clock in company with his 10 year-old son,Norman, and took a sow to Mr Andrew Orr’s farm on the 12thconcession. When he left, his wife was milking the cows in the lanejust at the north side of the house. The hired boy, James Allison, wentaway half an hour afterwards and took two cows to Mr George RBarrie’s farm, about one mile east.... The farm upon which this terrible tragedy took place is situated offthe Blenheim Road in North Dumfries, about two miles from Galt. Along lane leads up to the house, which is a very substantial, and a verywell kept, comfortable home. Everything about the house points tothe cleanliness and aesthetic taste of the deceased lady. Flowersadorn the ground in close proximity to the house and altogether thesurroundings were of a most cheerful nature. The dairy andouthouses were scrupulously clean and everything was arranged inthe best possible order. The inside was in the same condition as theexterior and was really a model country home.* * *Kitchener-Waterloo Record, July 12, 1986... For one month last summer, [Danuta Czapor] worked as a waitressat the Swiss Chalet restaurant at 510 Hespeler Rd. “She was apleasant woman, but she liked doing things her way. She was a littlepushy,” said head waitress Dorothy Rooth.Rooth said Mrs Czapor didn’t pass her employment trial. Herapplication said she had worked as a cashier at a Becker Milk store in1982 and at Domco Food Services in 1983.... The Czapor house in the Galt area of Cambridge is a tiny stuccobungalow with five rooms. The living room with a pull-out couch isGregory’s bedroom, furnished with a desk, a dresser and a portabletelevision. Bare light bulbs hang from the ceiling.The back bedroom, where Mrs Czapor slept, is pink with green trimand the musty gold-colored curtains hang haphazardly from the rods.200


Dead and Buried: Murder and Writing Women’s LivesThe window looks out on neat rows of staked tomatoes, beans, squashand onions, the ground meticulously weeded and cultivated.Although neighbors depict Stanley Czapor Sr as a solitary man whowas given to loud outbursts of anger, this neatly-tended garden is hisexclusive domain.In spite of the striking contrast between the two homes and lives we glimpsehere, the newspaper narratives engage in very similar kinds of prying in theirattempts to make the murder comprehensible to their readers.The murder of a wife and mother is one of those events that shocks acommunity, as well as individuals who are not at all involved. The challengethat such a murder offers to our personal and community identity is clear in theextensive media coverage that invariably appears immediately after the event.It is evident that the newspaper narratives of the murders of Emma Orr andDanuta Czapor go far beyond the mere reporting of objective facts, if such athing is possible. As the first response to the murder, each narrative takes afundamental role in providing a shape for the chaos of experience by detailingstomach contents, wart scars, daily routines and employment records;assigning causes such as adultery and anti-social behavior; attributingsignificance to the tidiness of houses and gardens; and suggesting routestoward closure by way of the specific peculiarities of the characters involved.As time goes on, however, the case is normalized, even if not solved, andrelegated to the back pages as the threat it poses to community identity losesimmediacy, and finally it is omitted altogether in favour of current happenings.Although the trauma remains painfully real for people closely involved, itrecedes for everyone else and is presumably forgotten. In the end, thesenewspaper narratives actually fulfill their normalizing function for thecommunity by distracting it from and essentially concealing the real issuesunderlying domestic violence.But as Paul Ricoeur reminds us, every narrative is not only an answer to anearlier question, but is itself a source of new questions (Vol. 3, p. 172). And sothe stories of women’s murders raise questions among creative writers with noconnection other than geography with the original case, sometimes many yearsafter the actual historical situation. Waterloo playwright William Chadwick’splay “Exposures,” first produced as “Emma Orr” in 1980, works with therelations among the characters of the Orr case, while Kitchener writer LindaKenyon’s short story “Anna Weber Has Made This,” written in 1986,incorporates the narrator’s response to the discovery of Czapor’s body. Theseare narratives which extend the process of assimilating the outrage associatedwith murder and which, in doing so, can be seen in relationship to thenewspaper reporting that began that process. But, equally importantly, theselater narratives make use of the real story of the murder for their own purposes,to create a world according to their own need to ask questions about issues toodangerous to conceal. The murder, for these writers, becomes a point of accessto aspects of life that would, otherwise, remain dead and buried.The Chadwick play shows us how a dramatic narrative makes use of suchmaterial. This is a two-act work presenting little physical action, relying ratheron the strength of dialogue to develop an atmosphere of almost stifling tension201


IJCS / RIÉCand impending doom. The play’s chronology builds upon two occurrences thatwe may recall from the newspaper narratives of the Emma Orr case — themorning of the murder itself and, just one day before, the burial of Tony Orr’sfather. In doing so, it makes a significant revision of this story. Stagedirections tell us that the play opens in August, around the turn of the century.During an early scene, a fictional young photographer visits the Orr farmlooking for business and meets Emma for the first time. During the course ofconversation, it becomes clear that Tony’s father’s funeral is to be the next day.Ensuing scenes take place after the funeral, recounting the background ofEmma’s past extramarital affairs and her quarrel with Tony’s family, as well asillustrating the development of a relationship between Emma and thephotographer. But the several scenes which present this new romance wouldrealistically take place over a period of days or perhaps even weeks, so the timebetween the father-in-law’s funeral and Emma’s murder, which “in fact”occurred on subsequent days, is thus greatly expanded. The time introducedinto this point of the story’s chronology allows the play to build upon what thenewspaper narratives revealed of Emma’s difficulty with Tony’s family, andher “illicit passions and desire for a life apart from her husband,” exposing indetail the tensions in the marriage and the family.The final scene in the play occurs early in the morning and follows closelywhat the newspapers have told us about the pattern of activities on the Orr farmthe morning Emma was murdered, except that in this narrative there is nomurder. There is a murder weapon, hired boy Jim Allison’s gun which Emmaasks him to show her during the penultimate scene and which then is left inTony’s control at the end of that scene. And there is certainly a strongundercurrent of violence. On stage, we observe Jim, who is at other times aparagon of gentleness, spearing rats with a pitchfork and half stranglingEmma’s daughter after she teasingly flirts with him. Off stage, thephotographer’s legs are broken as a warning to stay away from Emma, and anunnamed “someone” stands at the farmhouse door to prevent Emma herselffrom leaving during the last evening. But there is no hint that Emma’s life isabout to end. An audience watching this play with no previous knowledge ofthe Emma Orr story would thus have no sense that it describes events leadingup to a murder. This, then, is not a play “about” a murder; rather, it is a play thatborrows the details of a real situation and a set of real characters from history,and uses them to explore the troubled relations in a family.In Linda Kenyon’s fiction, in contrast, the action takes place after the murder,and the historical murder acts as a catalyst for an important epiphany in thecharacter’s life. In this short story, the narrator and protagonist is a farm wife,frustrated with the limitations and deprivations imposed by her rigid husband,facing the temptation to try to make a life of her own in a city apartment. As herdecision about leaving her marriage slowly reveals itself both to her and to thereader, she incorporates her reactions to a poster describing a murderedwoman found in a snowbank behind the Roseville store, obviously theunidentified Danuta Czapor. After visualizing the freedom of life on her ownin contrast to the constraints of existence with her husband, she ponders theidea of murder:202


Dead and Buried: Murder and Writing Women’s LivesHow did that woman end up in the snowbank, that’s what I need toknow. Did she and her husband pull into the store for something ontheir way from somewhere, say from her parents’ place, and as theywalked back to the car did they start arguing about something, sayabout how every time she gets talking with her mother and sisters hecan never get her away at a reasonable hour, and does she for once notstart apologizing, does she just stand there and look him straight in theeye, and does he get that cold look on his face but this time somethingsnaps and his fist comes crashing....What probably happened was this. She had just pulled down theblind, switched off the light, and was pulling up the covers when sheheard someone at the door to her apartment. Suddenly a strange manappeared in the bedroom doorway, and before she could scream, hither hard in the face, kept hitting her. I hope she blacked out then.When he’s done, she isn’t breathing any more, though blood stilltrickles from the cut above her eye. Is he scared then? Do his handstremble as he pulls her track suit on her, or is he mad at her for dying,does he stuff her arms and legs in any-which-way. He shuts herapartment door carefully, hopes she won’t be missed for days, maybeeven weeks (he’s been watching her: he knows she lives alone)....Then what. Does he drive blindly around, not sure what to do, whereto go, or does he have it all planned out, does he say to himself “I’ll goto Roseville. The parking lot behind the store is nice and dark and thesnowbanks big enough that if we don’t have a thaw, maybe theywon’t find her until spring.” Does he scoop the snow away with hisbare hands, or has he thought to put a shovel in the car. What does hedo, lay her gently in the hole or just stuff her in, maybe give her onelast kick, the way the boy on the television commercial does when hefinally gets the bag of garbage to the curb.By working through her fear of these two opposing scenarios for the murder,the protagonist in this short story reconciles herself to a continuation of life onthe farm. In doing so, the narrator reminds us of the pervasiveness of the threatof violence in women’s lives. Rather than helping the culture to heal andsmooth over the disruption caused by the Czapor murder, this narrative insistsupon keeping the wound open, refusing to allow us to forget what hashappened, and does happen.Moreover, as a symbol of the lack of security the character feels, the murderfacilitates her choice between two extremely limited options. It is ironic, fromour perspective, that the Czapor murder was committed by a family memberrather than a stranger; that any woman statistically has more to fear from herhusband than from any unknown mad man — ironic, but perfectly appropriate.The unnamed narrator in this tale, like William Chadwick’s Emma Orr, istrapped in a life where no real possibility exists for creative development ortransformation. In addition, the woman’s husband is perhaps equally trappedin his passionate rejection of an emotional life as part of his rebellion againsthis family’s tradition. Likewise, the whole family in Chadwick’s play istroubled and unhappy: Jim longs to be back with his father, the daughterfantasizes about growing up to be a lady, Emma dreams of leisurely oceancruises and apparently sees the young men with whom she becomes involvedas ways to escape the doldrums of rural existence. Both of these rewritings,203


IJCS / RIÉCenact a theme of entrapment, the violence of the actual murder serving tosharpen the contrast between what the characters desire and what is availableto them. As Carolyn Heilbrun puts it in Writing a Woman’s Life, thesecharacters suffer the “absence of any narrative that could take [them] past theirmoment of revelation and support their bid for freedom from [their] assignedscript” (42). In writing narratives about the place of murder in these women’slives, these two writers point to what is perhaps the greatest violence againstwomen in our culture: the denial of a meaningful story of their own.NotesJeanne Yardley gratefully acknowledges the support of a SSHRCC Post-Doctoral Fellowshipduring the research and writing of this paper.BibliographyBerlin News-Record. 11 August 1897 through 19 August 1897.Chadwick, William. “Exposures.” Toronto: Playwrights Union of Canada, n.d.Heilbrun, Carolyn. Writing a Woman’s Life. New York: Ballantyne, 1988.Kenyon, Linda. “Anna Weber Has Made This.” Unpublished story, 1986.Kitchener-Waterloo Record. 29 March 1986 through 12 July 1986.Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative. Trans. Kathleen McLaughlin & David Pellauer. 3 vols.Chicago: Chicago UP, 1984-5.White, Hayden. “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact.” The Writing of History: Literary Formand Historical Understanding. Eds Robert H. Canary & Henry Kozicki. Madison:University of Wisconsin Press, 1978. 41-62.204


Jenny HorsmanViolence and Illiteracy in Women’s Lives:Proposal for Research and PracticeAbstractThis article focuses on the links between the violence in women’s lives andilliteracy. The author argues that the exploration of these links is crucial andthat theorists and practioners alike must break the silence about violence andquestion what impact experiences of violence have on literacy learning andhow learning can be effectively carried out. The silence concerning the linksbetween literacy and violence obscures the nature of the literacy learningprocess and the complexity of the work in literacy programs. Literacy workwith one survivor of abuse is described in detail in order to illustrate thiscomplex literacy interaction in the context of abuse.RésuméL’article porte sur les liens entre la violence contre les femmes etl’analphabétisme. L’auteure soutient qu’il est crucial d’explorer ces liens etque les théoriciens et les praticiens ne doivent plus passer sous silence laquestion de la violence. Ces deux derniers doivent examiner l’impact de laviolence sur l’apprentissage et les façons d’améliorer les techniques deformation. En passant sous silence les liens entre la violence etl’analphabétisme, on cache la nature du processus d’apprentissage chezl’analphabète et la complexité du travail qui s’effectue dans les programmesd’alphabétisation. L’auteure décrit en détail le cas d’une victime d’abus pourillustrer l’interaction complexe qui se développe lors de l’alphabétisationdans un tel contexte.How does severe abuse, either sexual, emotional or physical, affect a girl’sexperience of learning to read? To survive, to bury the abuse even from herown consciousness, to cry out for help in a myriad of direct or indirect ways,and to continually monitor her world for her safety requires enormous energy.While the experience of abuse may prompt some to work even harder atschool, the erosion of sense of self, self-esteem and self-confidence canprevent others from becoming successful learners. 1 I have worked with manywomen in adult literacy programs and interviewed many more who havespoken of their abusive childhoods. 2 Many white 3 women who grew up inCanada in urban and rural settings tell stories of childhoods of violence,poverty and abuse of all kinds. These women speak of misbehaving in school,of being unable to concentrate, of being desperately shy. Some became wardsof the Children’s Aid Society. They were removed from their families,sometimes temporarily, only to return to the same violence or be placed inother abusive families or institutions. As children, some were labelledInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCmentally handicapped and placed in institutions. As teenagers, some weresterilized without their consent. I have repeatedly heard harrowing stories ofchildhood experiences from women who did not learn to read as children andwho, as adults, are struggling to improve their reading and writing skills.Several years ago, a participant from a women’s literacy group I wasfacilitating called after the workshop to apologize for having mentioned,during a discussion, that her childhood had been difficult. I said she had noneed to apologize. This was the beginning of my realization of howunspeakable the experience of abuse as a child, or an adult, remains for many.For many adults, that silence is central to issues of illiteracy and to theirattempts to improve their reading and writing skills and become “literate.”Since the mid 1970s, people unable to read and write well, have been termedilliterate or functionally illiterate, in Canada and in other “industrialized”countries. In the last twenty years, increasing media attention has focused onpeople labelled in this way. The attention was especially intense in 1990,International Literacy Year, they were commonly portrayed as people“chained in prison,” “disabled,” “caged and blinded,” victims experiencingonly “death in life.” 4 The readers of such articles, perhaps highly literatethemselves, might heartily agree that not reading and writing well means aperson is illiterate which is an intolerable condition that must be remedied.Few, however, consider the social circumstances of those labelled illiterate, orthe purpose of such labelling and its effect on those labelled. Littleexamination centres on why people are illiterate. The assumption is thatilliterate adults either did not go to school or, if they did, are stupid. Theattitude seems to be, then, that having been given one opportunity to learn toread, only the bare minimum should be spent on adults to have a “secondchance.” However, questions about why these adults could not learn aschildren and what approaches and programs are appropriate need to be asked.If these adults are to have a genuine chance to learn to read, the links betweenilliteracy and violence cannot be ignored.As I talked to both women and men in literacy programs I learned about thecentrality of violence in the lives of people who were unable to learn to readand write well as children. Stories frequently evoke the violence of familiesstressed to the limits in poverty; the violence of the educational system that setthem apart, labelled them and said they could not learn; the violence of thesystem supposed to help them — Children’s Aid, welfare — that judged andtoo often placed them at further risk. This information suggests that sexual,physical, psychological and economic abuse was a common reality for manyadults unable to read and write well, including many of those who find theirway to adult literacy programs. A major research study by the CanadianCongress for Learning Opportunities for Women (CCLOW) (Lloyd, 1991,1994a, 1994b) explored women’s experience of literacy programs andidentified violence as one barrier to women’s literacy learning. Womeninvolved in the research talked “about the pervasiveness and magnitude ofviolence against women.” (1994a p.107) Three women involved in theresearch taught literacy classes in which every woman present had beensexually abused. One “woman-positive” activity carried out as part of the208


Violence and Illiteracy in Women’s Livesstudy involved a house-to-house survey in Rabbittown, Newfoundland. Theviolence in the women’s lives as adults was often made apparent by the men’srefusal to even allow them to answer the questions. At the end of the study, oneinterviewer summed up what they had learned:On every page of every questionnaire we see violence, poverty, andloneliness. The despair in the young women especially is loud andclear. They are in situations that make life seem hopeless. They eitherdon’t know they have choices or they don’t want to leave the situation— we don’t really know. Or do they really have choices? (1994bp.81)In spite of this important study, considerable silence shrouds the links betweenviolence and literacy. Media reports fail to connect issues of abuse to adultilliteracy. While the media describes illiteracy with images of sickness, thetrue sickness in society, which I believe often leads to illiteracy — violence —is not addressed.Very little research is available to ground methodologies for teaching readingand writing to adults who have experienced abuse. 5 In 1987, I wrote:In most of literacy discourse “illiterates” are not differentiated bygender, but the reader can usually infer that “people” are actuallymen. In this way women become “other” in relation to men as thenorm. (Horsman 1988 p.123)This criticism still applies in 1995. Even in the 1990s, the absence of literatureon literacy that addresses women’s literacy needs is striking. Over the years,however, a series of feminist critiques have argued for programming which isrelevant for women. 6 Several of these writers have also critiqued that whenwomen are considered as the recipients of literacy, the focus centresexclusively on their roles as wife and mother. Kazemak (1988) argues that theabsence of studies on the relationship between women and literacy suggests:...at the best a naivete or ignorance on our part as literacy scholarsand, at the worst, a conscious or unconscious disdain for the specificliteracy needs of women within a patriarchal society. (p.23)Given the rarity of studies that acknowledge women’s specific literacy needs itis not surprising that there is also little work carried out on the impact of abuseon women’s literacy learning. However, one study that does illustrate theimpact of abuse on learning is by Belenky et al. (1986) It identified as silent agroup of women who had experienced abusive childhoods. Unfortunately,several shortcomings limit the study’s usefulness for workers seekinginformation on how to help women learn in the aftermath of abuse. Although itidentifies the “demeaning,” violent and isolated childhoods of these women, itdoes not appear to ascribe this silence to the power of others who have forcedthem to see their voices as dangerous. Belenky et al. describe the women as“worried that they would be punished just for using words — any words,”(p.24) but they fail to recognize that this silence may be rooted in fear becausethey have been punished for using any words. The suggestion that these“silent” women lack voice because they are “isolated from the self” fails toconvey the materiality of the unequal power dynamic within which many havelived. The description of the women: “like puppets moving with the jiggle of a209


IJCS / RIÉCthread. To hear is to obey,” (p.28) suggests they are less than human and doesnot recognize the power of the authorities they may be forced to obey. Thedanger of this study is that we may be inclined to blame the women for theirlack of voice and to see them as inferior, with an inadequate “way of knowing.”The need for women’s safety is not recognized as a political problem. Instead,the research suggests that women learn in different ways than men and sorequire a different type of education. Though I would agree that safe spaces areneeded for women’s learning, I am dubious of simplistic divisions betweenmen’s and women’s ways of learning. We must examine the powerdimensions of men’s and women’s experience in a raced, classed society ingeneral and in the classroom in particular. Rockhill’s work on literacyacknowledges the context of power, or lack of it, for women and explores howliteracy “poses the potential of a change and is experienced as both a threat anda desire.” (1987c p.330) She explains that literacy for women carries thepotential for violence: “that is, the desire of women for literacy and the threatof violence, subtle or overt, posed to them by the men in their lives if theyactually act on it by attending programs.” (1988 p.8)Literacy programming is not usually designed with women’s needs in mind orwith an acknowledgement of the tension inherent in many women’s attemptsto develop literacy skills. Although some programs do run women-onlygroups, these are regularly contested by men in the programs. 7 When women’sgroups do take place, these frequently allow women the space to begin voicingtheir experiences of violence. Such groups are rare, however, given the acuteshortage of funds for literacy programs. Generally, programming is notdesigned with attention to the impact of abuse on literacy learning. Althoughmost literacy workers have heard many horrific stories, little is said or writtenabout how this life experience affects literacy learning. This shortcoming isparticularly serious considering that much literacy teaching is carried out byvolunteers ill-equipped to cope with this situation. 8 An exciting publicationjust released by CCLOW (1995) offers suggestions on how to “make learningsafer,” and may begin to address this need. Drawing material from a series ofworkshops on the links between violence and education, the book offerspractical suggestions for removing the educational barriers created byviolence. This collection is an important step in breaking the silence bypractitioners about the links between violence and education. Theorists andpractitioners alike must continue to break the silence about violence andquestion how this silence affects the work that can be done in literacyprograms. Only then will literacy programs be able to adequately support andteach adult 9 survivors of abuse.Some Toronto-based literacy programs workers and administrators insist thatissues of abuse are too difficult and specialized to be addressed in literacyprograms. Literacy workers, they argue, are not therapists or trainedcounsellors. However, if literacy workers try to avoid touching on violentexperiences in women’s lives and do not recognize connections betweenilliteracy and violence then I think many women will be unable to improvetheir reading and writing skills. Alice Miller repeatedly mentions (eg. 1993)the crucial importance of a sympathetic “witness” to make it possible forsurvivors of childhood abuse to begin unearthing buried memories and210


Violence and Illiteracy in Women’s Livesaddressing the consequences of abuse. Anne-Louise Brookes (1992) capturesthe importance of writing about experiences of abuse when she says: “Inwriting the words I was sexually abused as a child, I began to shift theirimportance by making conscious the abuse.” (p.30)The mainstay of much literacy work is learners telling their stories through thelanguage experience approach, where the learners speak and the tutor writesdown what they say, and in the publication of learner writing. But what storiesremain untold? If literacy learning includes ideas of empowerment and findinga voice, then learners speaking about their lives must be part of literacy work.Literacy workers must be prepared to respond to the truths which learners wantor need to write and speak about, and to offer relevant reading material. Howcan workers in literacy programs exclude certain realities of a learner’s life asinappropriate to the literacy program without silencing learners andconfirming for survivors of abuse that their experiences are “unspeakable”?For literacy workers to take on work that does recognize the violence in manywomen’s lives there must be recognition of the challenging and complexdynamic of this work. Workers need varied supports and places where they canlearn about working with women who have been abused. They must preparethemselves to hear these stories without rescuing or inadvertently revictimizingthe learners.Many women may not ask to work on memories of abuse. Yet literacyprograms still have an obligation to “make the space.” Workers need to allowthe possibility of focusing on such experiences, to show that it is OK to talkabout them and to remove the taboos. Women who have been conditioned toremain silent and deny the realities of their lives are unlikely to ask to work ontheir memories. Furthermore, literacy workers must not presume that awoman’s childhood was abusive or that self-disclosure is an obligation. Thesurvivor must retain control over her own stories, and when and how much shetells of them.When women do speak out, literacy workers must be extremely sensitive to theconsequences; they must ensure safety and support for women who may havelittle experience of safety. In mixed classes, the presence of men may silenceall possibility that women will speak out. If they do speak out, the men in theclass may respond abusively. Literacy workers must know about resources andservices to which they can refer these women. However, referrals alone are notan adequate means for literacy programs to deal with the problems ofmemories of abuse. The teaching or tutoring relationship may have evolved atrust which enables a woman to tell her story to that person, but not necessarilyto a therapist. This sort of relationship, in which the survivor feels valued, isessential to preserving sanity and building the self-esteem vital to learning. PatCapponi describes the importance of one teacher who was the first person totreat her respectfully:Before that man... no one had ever looked at me or spoken to me asthough I had value. For me, that’s the key. Otherwise, I probablywould have gone on believing that I was intrinsically bad, withnothing to offer. (1992, p.207)211


IJCS / RIÉCFor literacy workers to support the women they work with, they must explore avariety of ways of collaborating with women who work with survivors in othersettings. For example, literacy workers can learn from the experience ofwomen counsellors in women’s shelters, or feminist therapists, how to dealsensitively with the issues and relationships that develop. Ultimately, thequality of the relationship is crucial for survivors; it teaches them a new way ofrelating to others and creates new possibilities for learning content. Literacyworkers can also learn from these resource people how to take care ofthemselves while working with such difficult issues and demandingrelationships.If the experiences of abuse in women’s lives were recognized, I believe itwould ultimately challenge the isolating separation between literacy andcounselling. The healing and literacy learning processes are toointerconnected to be addressed separately through organizations with little orno contact. The literacy field would benefit from new possibilities ofcombining literacy work with services for women who have experiencedviolence, and from new ways of conceptualizing the problem of illiteracy.Research is needed to examine how the experience of abuse may influencevarious approaches to literacy learning.The unspoken connections between literacy and violence obscure theinteraction involved in the literacy process and the complexity of the workcarried on in literacy programs. The next part of this paper details one tutoringsituation which focuses directly on the learner’s experience of severe abuse.The aim is not to offer any prescriptions, but to encourage practitioners andtheorists to explore appropriate ways of teaching and supporting womensurvivors of abuse through literacy programs. I want to illustrate the challengeof this work and to show the need for collaboration among women whoprovide services for abused women and women who work in the literacy field.This particular tutoring relationship began with the telephone call mentionedearlier in which Mary apologized for commenting that her childhood had beenunhappy. She had never told anybody about her childhood. This first telling,and my reassurance that she could speak of it, launched a difficult process. Atfirst, she wanted to tell me many of the horrors of her childhood, demandingmore and more of my time and support. I would then retreat, guiltily, afraid thatshe was asking more than I could give, but unwilling to let her down. Finally, Isuggested we schedule a regular meeting where she could speak, read andwrite about her memories of childhood and her experience of abuse. We thenbegan a long process of negotiating how we would work together. The more Ibacked away, the more she clung. But once I clearly stated what I could offerhowever limited, she demanded less. Literacy workers often feeloverwhelmed by the support they are asked to provide. We need to learn howto respond to these needs in ways that value ourselves too, so that we do notoverstretch our resources. As I have begun speaking of this history with otherliteracy workers I have heard their stories of the demands made on them as theyrecognized a learner’s experience in any small way.At the start of this tutoring situation, I felt ill-equipped to cope. A counsellorwho worked on issues of violence at the local health centre listened to me212


Violence and Illiteracy in Women’s Livesdescribe how Mary and I were working, and express my fears about how todeal with the intensity of the emerging relationship. She offered me supportand invited me to meet with her whenever necessary — a form of peer supportwhich therapists offer each other. This support was invaluable 10 and should beavailable to other literacy workers as a recognized part of literacy work.This tutoring relationship with Mary has taken me through many highs andlows. I had to learn the difference between support and rescuing, and how toavoid giving advice or “answers.” I had to learn how to encourage Mary tomeet her own challenges and recognize her own strength, rather than lean onme as her saviour. Once, I overheard another tutor take over and “solve”Mary’s problem; the consequence of not meeting the challenge to help asurvivor recognize her own strength was clear: Mary seemed to “shrink” in animage of herself as less capable and less adult. Gradually, I learned that whatshe most wants is to be “heard.” She tells me her problems not so that I will tryto solve them, but so that I will hear what has happened and how she feels, andacknowledge that she does have a right to feel as she does. Womenexperienced in working with survivors have suggested that the speaking is away of testing whether a story is bearable. If someone else can bear it, perhapsthe woman can too.I also had to learn to set my own boundaries, place clear limits on my role, andunderstand that I was not responsible for her. I had to keep a reign on theamount of time I could give her and on the type of support I felt able andqualified to offer. Frequently, I would let these limits slip and again have toreestablish them clearly. I have told some of my horror stories about notmaintaining boundaries to other literacy workers. At the time, I did notunderstand that it was a crucial model to offer someone who had very fewboundaries herself. I was fascinated to hear other stories from literacy workerswho recognized that they had not maintained boundaries either. Some hadinvited learners to stay in their homes, had looked after their children, orregularly received calls at home, even in the middle of the night. Several saidthey were usually too ashamed to tell these stories. Yet many literacy workersconsider it unacceptable to set limits. In a workshop on working withsurvivors, one literacy worker found it unimaginable that she could set limitsfor her own sake. The one compelling reason she could accept to justifyconsidering her own needs and setting her own limits was the idea thatmaintaining boundaries was important for the learners. For people who hadtheir boundaries violated as children, and therefore have difficulty maintainingtheir own boundaries as adults, the literacy worker’s ability to set boundariesserves as a crucial model.The empathy of many women who endeavour to respond to the demands ofsurvivors may relate to their own experiences of abuse. My work with Maryforced me to explore my own difficult childhood memories and to find my ownsources of support for this work. The work on abuse may trigger the worker’sown memories, and their behaviour — such as the inability to set boundaries— the product of their own experiences, may create problems when workingwith survivors. Tutors who are survivors may be ideal people to work with213


IJCS / RIÉCother survivors but only if they can find a place to do their own emotional workand establish the necessary supports.My relationship with Mary is complicated and sometimes filled with tension. Istruggle to focus on the therapeutic nature of the relationship without losingsight of my limits as a literacy worker — not a therapist. The line betweenliteracy learning and therapy often becomes blurred, making it difficult tojudge what we can appropriately work on together. Trust is especially hard forher, and she frequently pushes my limits to test my reaction. By making heremotionally-charged memories the content for our literacy work, a veryparticular form of tutor-student relationship has gradually developed. Thoughit often seems immensely difficult, this tutoring has also been my mostexciting experience of literacy learning. I have often spoken about the value ofliteracy as making it possible for a person to read about the experience of othersand write about her own experience. 11 In this way, a person can see thecommonality of her own situation with others and get a distance from her ownexperience, as she sees it in writing outside herself and can assess itdifferently. 12 But I have never seen this value of literacy so powerfully as intutoring that focuses on experiences of violence and abuse hidden as ashameful secret. When Mary and I first began to read other stories of women’sexperiences of abuse, from Newfoundland, Toronto, England and Australia, 13the commonality of experience was key in helping to normalize and decreaseher shame about what she had lived through. Her writing became an essentialelement of every session — to get the memories out and, in a symbolic sense,leave them behind.The mainstay of our work over the past several years has been The Courage toHeal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, by Ellen Bass andLaura Davis, and The Courage to Heal Workbook, by Laura Davis. When wefirst began to read these books, Mary could hardly believe they were notwritten specifically for her and from her experiences, so apt were theirquestions and observations. This helped her believe that her experiences werenot so different from other women’s: how else could the authors be so right?The books were equally crucial for me because they provided a framework andreassured me that I did not require experience with other survivors or trainingas a therapist to work with her. When we first started our sessions together,these books provided guidelines for creating safety and setting ground rulesthat would ensure we both felt comfortable. THey taught me that I did not haveto set the pace of our work. Every so often, we look at the table of contents andmark the sections she would like to work on in the near future. The books alsooffer advice from those listening to stories of abuse, such as the need to leavethe pain behind at the end of each session. The author takes a shower and thinksof what she hopes for each person she has worked with, symbolically washingaway the pain. This idea helped me to recognize my own need and create aprocess to meet it. A colleague once pointed me towards a plain languagerewrite of The Courage to Heal, entitled Beginning to Heal. We worked with itregularly for a while, but we were drawn back by the greater complexity of theoriginal book.214


Violence and Illiteracy in Women’s LivesAt intervals, Mary and I discuss our progress and plan the issues she wants tofocus on over the next few months. We sometimes digress from these plans tofollow new directions suggested by her experiences between sessions. Somesections she may need to read many times. “Understanding that it wasn’t yourfault” was one example — we read it over and over. One day she phoned to say,“It wasn’t my fault.” It took me a moment to realize what she was talkingabout. It was an incredible moment. Although, I feared this insight would fadeand we would have to go back to reading the section again, it stayed with her along time. Eventually, with much embarrassment, she asked to read thechapter again. We both learned to accept doubt, not as failure, but as the nextphase of our work. She has also learned to spell and write the word “know,”always a stubborn problem for her, which I suspect relates to her struggle totrust herself enough to believe she does know. This raises questions aboutemotional barriers to word recognition and strategies to overcome them.Another routine that we follow as unfailingly as our use of The Courage toHeal is to end with some poems. I look for women’s poems written instraightforward English which capture complicated ideas about women’slives. 14 This time of reading poetry together provides us with a sense ofclosure, a way of pushing back the past a little and leaving the rawness of thesession behind as we both return to our respective lives. This approach helps usboth feel ready to face the world again. Indeed, women who work withsurvivors commonly divide a session into thirds, using only the middle third toaddress the issues, while the last third prepares for the return to everyday life.Clearly, literacy workers could avoid much trial and error if there were morecommunication between literacy workers and others who work with survivors.As Mary continues to read about other women’s experiences and about theoryon the impact of abuse in a woman’s life, her self-esteem, confidence inexpressing herself, and her literacy skills improve. She does not yet readeasily; she may never achieve the confidence to assume she can make sense ofwhat she reads on her own. Her experience raises questions about how abusecomplicates the process of learning to read as an adult. Over the years, we haveboth recognized many points of growing confidence, including the point atwhich she first recognized that the abuse was not her fault. She has struggled tobuild a sense of herself as someone who can demand respect, continually relearningthat she has the right to make this demand. She has become a vocalspokesperson for learners’ rights. By recognizing the depth of her anger at allthose who have abused her, she is better equipped to separate that well of pastanger from her irritation over present problems. Many learners, especiallywhen they first begin speaking out, are extremely angry, and this anger isusually directed at the very literacy workers offering them support. Some ofthe intense anger may arise from past unrecognized or unacknowledgedexperiences of abuse and neglect. This anger is then projected on the mostavailable, sympathetic person with whom the learner feels safest inexperimenting with these new feelings. The ending of Marge Piercy’s poem“A Just Anger,” one of the poems we often read, reminds me of the importanceof addressing issues of memories of abuse:215


IJCS / RIÉCA good anger acted uponis beautiful as lightningand swift with power.A good anger swallowed,a good anger swallowedclots of bloodto slime. (1969 p.22)To work on memories of abuse is a hard and painful process; but it is alsobeautiful and full of power. To leave the memories unspoken and hidden is toleave them to fester and limit potential.Memories of abuse cannot be left unacknowledged, particularly in literacyprograms, which aim to encourage people to develop their literacy skills inorder tell their own truths. 15 The particular approach to working withmemories of abuse that Mary and I have followed is one way to address thesememories. As we work, I continually question whether the approach isadequate: Is it responsible for both of us? Is it useful? Is it enough? How doesher experience of abuse affect her ability to decipher print, to read and writeemotionally-loaded words, to put her own thoughts, ideas and experiences inwriting and to become literate? What comes next? Will we know when it istime to move on? Much more exploration of ways to work directly withindividuals and groups on the issues of the violence in their lives is needed.Whether a woman is working directly on her experiences of abuse, or readingand writing about other topics, the abuse will have some impact. We also needmore understanding of ways to teach reading and writing more effectively towomen living with the impact of abuse.The silence surrounding the connections between violence and illiteracy needsto be broken. Literacy workers and researchers must understand more aboutthose connections. Theorists need to explore the impact of abuse on learning toread. Programs must be developed with an awareness that many learners aresurvivors and need supportive learning conditions for the literacy learningprocess to be empowering. A wide variety of strategies for teaching literacylearners who are survivors of abuse must be developed so that learners canwork directly on issues of abuse in their lives, but also so that those who do notchoose to work directly can also learn effectively. A greater understanding ofthe connections between literacy and violence could lead literacy workers toestablish contacts with those working on issues of violence and to learn fromthem how to take care of themselves, set their own boundaries, and obtain theother supports they need. An understanding of the connections betweenliteracy and violence could lead to acknowledgement of the complexity of theliteracy learning interaction. This recognition is crucial for both learners andworkers.AcknowledgementsThis article has benefitted greatly from the expertise of Moon Joyce who read many draftsand repeatedly discussed the issues with me. I also want to acknowledge Mary, whoseprofound embarrassment about both her illiteracy and the abuse she experienced makes it216


Violence and Illiteracy in Women’s Livesimpossible to acknowledge her by her real name. Though she would not recognize herself asmy teacher, she has taught me much of what I have learned about issues of abuse.Notes1. Numerous writers have described this pattern of school experience. Handbooks on dealingwith abuse such as Bass and Davis (1988), and Gil (1983), as well as accounts of personalexperience such as Spring (1987), Capponi (1992) and Brookes’ (1992) theoretical andautobiographical exploration all focus on the feeling of being “different” after experiencingabuse and describe similar experiences with schooling.2. Research carried out in Nova Scotia in 1986 (published 1989a, 1990) and conversations withwomen in literacy programs in Toronto from 1982 to the present.3. Many of the women of colour I have worked with have been immigrants and their experienceof family and schooling, or the lack of it, seem to fall in many different patterns. I do not wantto claim the same experience as for the white women who went through the Canadian schoolsystem and experienced the social service and medical systems in Canada. The main focusof this paper is therefore the experience of white women.4. These quotes are from Callwood (1990) but they are typical of numerous writers at the time.5. The work of Kathleen Rockhill (eg. 1987a, 1987b, 1987c) is a valuable exception to thissilence as she explores women’s experience in relation to literacy and English as a SecondLanguage and considers the silences around violence in our society.6. Researchers such as MacKeracher (1987), DeCoito (1984), Carmack (1992) and Kazemark(1988) in the United States, Thompson (1983a, 1983b) and McCaffery (1985) in England,Bhasin (1984) and Ramdas (1985) in India, and myself in Canada (Horsman 1990) have alladdressed the question of relevant programming for women.7. In one program in Toronto which serves street people, women began a women’s group, butmen continually interrupted their sessions. Staff decided that rather than give up on thegroup sessions they would close the program to men on that evening so that women couldhave uninterrupted time to meet together. Men still disturbed the sessions, so supportive menwere enlisted as “bouncers” to preserve the space which women needed to meet free from theintervention of men. The program staff took extremely seriously the need for women to havea safe place to meet. Some programs might have stopped the women’s group when men firstbegan to make it almost impossible to run and to complain that it was unfair that they wereexcluded.8. The writing of McBeth and Stollmeyer (1988) describing their work in a women’s literacygroup at East End Literacy is a rare example where the stories are shared and the implicationsfor literacy work considered.9. Although this article focuses on women’s experience, I do not intend to suggest that men donot also experience abuse. Work seeking to understand the place of childhood abuse in thelives of illiterate men and the implications for literacy teaching is also badly needed.10. I want to recognize the contribution Lois Heitner, who died tragically in 1993, has made tomy practical work and thinking about issues of women and violence. She was a giftedtherapist and counsellor on issues of violence. She encouraged me to continue this tutoringwork when I became scared that I was out of my depth, offered me regular support, andcreated plans with me to start a literacy group for women to write and speak about the abusethey experienced.11. I have also written about this understanting of literacy elsewhere, eg. 1988 (with Gaber-Katz), 1989b.12. I believe it is not enough for women to simply tell their stories in literacy programs. Literacyprograms must also identify ways to offer women support in developing a critical analysis ofhow their lives came to be that way, how they come to tell some stories and not others, andsupport in creating changes if they choose to seek them.13. See student autobiography references.14. See poetry references for a selection of the poets we read.15. I read an earlier version of this article with Mary and discussed whether she was comfortablewith my perspective on our history together and with my making it public. She decided shewas happy with my account and its publication, and hoped it would encourage more womenwith experiences of abuse to seek support in literacy programs. We are also taking part in a217


IJCS / RIÉCproject, sponsored by the Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women, towrite curriculum for women in literacy programs.BibliographyBass, E. & Davis, L. (1993). Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse.New York: Harper Collins.Bass, E. & Davis, L. (1988). The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child SexualAbuse. New York: Harper & Row.Belenky, M.F., Clinchy, C.M., Goldberger, N.R. and Tarule, J.M. (1986). Women’s Ways ofKnowing: The Development of Self, Voice and Mind. New York: Basic Books.Bhasin, K. (1984). “The Why and How of Literacy for Women: Some Thoughts in the IndianContext,” Convergence, 17(4), 1984, 37-43.Brookes, A.L. (1992). Feminist Pedagogy: An Autobiographical Approach. Halifax: FernwoodPublishing.Callwood, June (1990). “Reading: The Road to Freedom,” in Canadian Living (p. 39-41).Canadian Congress for Learning Opportunities for Women (1995). Isolating the Barriers andStrategies for Prevention: A Kit about Violence and Women’s Education for AdultEducators and Adult Learners. Toronto: Author.Capponi, P. (1992). Upstairs in the Crazy House: The Life of a Psychiatric Survivor. Toronto:Viking/Penguin Books.Carmack, N.A. (1992). “Women and Illiteracy: The Need for Gender Specific Programming inLiteracy Education,” in Adult Basic Education. 2, (3).Davis, L. (1990). The Courage to Heal Workbook: For Women and Men Survivors of Child SexualAbuse. New York: Harper & Row.De Coito, P. (1984). Women and Adult Basic Education in Canada: An Exploratory Study,Toronto: CCLOW.Gaber-Katz, E. & Horsman, J. (1988). “Is It Her Voice if She Speaks their Words?” in CanadianWoman Studies, 9, (3 & 4).Gil, E. (1983). Outgrowing the Pain: A Book for and about Adults Abused as Children. New York:Dell Books.Horsman, J. (1988). “Discourses of Il/literacy: A Literature Review,” in Canadian WomanStudies, 9, (3 & 4).Horsman, J. (1989a). “Something in My Mind Besides the Everyday:” Il/literacy in Women’sLives in a Nova Scotian County. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto,Toronto.Horsman, J. [project coordinator] (1989b). Lifeline to Literacy: People with Disabilities SpeakOut. Toronto, Ontario: TVOntario.Horsman, J. (1990). Something in My Mind Besides the Everyday: Women and Literacy. Toronto:Women’s Press.Kazemak, F.E. (1988). “Women and Adult Literacy: Considering the Other Half of the House,” inLifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 11 (4), pp. 23, 24 & 15.Lloyd, B.A. (1991). Discovering the Strength of our Voices: Women and Literacy Programs.Toronto: CCLOW.Lloyd, B. A. (1994a). The Power of Woman-Positive Literacy Work: Program-Based ActionResearch. Halifax: Fernwood & Toronto: CCLOW.Lloyd, B. A. (1994b). Women in Literacy Speak: The Power of Woman-Positive Literacy Work.Halifax: Fernwood & Toronto: CCLOW.MacKeracher, D. (1989). “Women and Basic Education,” in J. Draper and M. Taylor (eds.), AdultLiteracy Perspectives. Toronto: Culture Concepts.McBeth, S. & Stollmeyer V. (1988) “East End Literacy: A Women’s Discussion Group,” inCanadian Woman Studies, 9 (3 & 4)McCaffery, J. (1985). “Women in Literacy and Adult Basic Education: Barriers to Access,” in M.Hughes and M. Kennedy (eds.) New Futures. Changing Women’s Education. London:Routledge and Kegan Paul.Miller, A. (1993). Breaking Down the Wall of Silence. New York: Meridian Books.Ramdas, L. (1985). “Illiteracy, Women and Development,” in Adult Education and Development,24, pp. 95-105.Rockhill, K. (1987a). “Gender, Language and the Politics of Literacy,” in British Journal ofSociology of Education, Vol. 8 no. 2.Rockhill, K. (1987b) “Violence against Wives,” presentation, Ontario Institute for Studies inEducation, Toronto, March.Rockhill, K. (1987c) “Literacy as threat/desire: Longing to be SOMEBODY,” in Women andEducation: A Canadian Perspective. Edited by J. Gaskell and A. McLaren. Calgary:Detselig.218


Violence and Illiteracy in Women’s LivesRockhill, K. (1988). “The Other City... Where No One Reads,” in Canadian Woman Studies,9,(3& 4).Spring, J. (1987). Cry Hard and Swim: The Story of an Incest Survivor. London: Virago.Thompson, J.L. (1983a). Learning Liberation: Women’s Response to Men’s Education. London:Croom Helm.Thompson, J.L. (1983b). “Women and Adult Education,” in M. Tight (ed.) Education for Adults,Vol. II Educational Opportunities for Adult Education. (pp. 145-158). London: CroomHelm.Student autobiographyByrnes, Josie (1977). Never in a Loving Way. Manchester: Gatehouse Books. (Order from:Gatehouse, St. Luke’s, Sawley Road, Miles Platting, Manchester, M10 8DB, England.)Doiron, Rose (1987). My Name is Rose. Toronto: East End Literacy Press. (Order from: DominiePress, 2362 Huntingwood Drive, Unit 7, Agincourt, Ontario, M1S 3J1.)Fay. Listen to Me: Talking Survival. Manchester: Gatehouse Books. (Order from: Gatehouse, St.Luke’s, Sawley Road, Miles Platting, Manchester, M10 8DB, England.)Green, A.K. (1990). Coming Out of My Shell. St. John’s, Newfoundland: Distance EducationProgram for Literacy Providers. (Order from: Educational Planning and Design AssociatesLimited, 18 Leslie Street, St. John’s, NF. A1E 2V6.)Women’s Writing Project (1990). Belles’ Letters. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Homefront Belles.(Order from: Homefront Belles, PO Box 64, Civic Square, ACT 2608, Australia.)PoetryBraid, Kate (1991). Covering Rough Ground. Vancouver: Polestar Books.Brandt, Di (1992). Mother, Not Mother. Stratford, Ontario: Mercury Press.Piercy, Marge (1969). To Be of Use. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.Tynes, Maxine (1990). Woman Talking Woman. Nova Scotia: Pottersfield Press.Tynes, Maxine (1987). Borrowed Beauty. Nova Scotia: Pottersfield Press.Wallace, B. (1992). The Stubborn Particulars of Grace. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewart.219


Neil B. BishopMarginalités sexuelle, régionale etsociolinguistique dans Dis-moi que je vis etVeuillez agréer... de Michèle Mailhot etThey Shouldn’t Make You Promise That deLois SimmieRésuméLa condition féminine, et la quête par la femme mariée de sa libération,constituent la dyade thématique principale des trois romans étudiés. Elle s’ymanifeste par les thèmes de la solitude et de l’incommunicabilité, ainsi que parcelui de l’adultère tantôt subi, tantôt employé durant la quête de la libération.La dimension régionale de ces romans interagit avec la dyade thématiqueprincipale; le voyage y constituant un geste spatial particulièrementsignificatif. La dimension sociolinguistique dans les deux romans de M.Mailhot s’avère liée à leur dimension régionale, alors que, chez Simmie, elleest liée à la lutte de la libération féminine. Tant les ressemblances que lesdifférences du traitement des thématiques retenues sont d’un intérêt querehausse la provenance régionale fort différente des romans dont deux furentpubliés au Québec, qui leur sert aussi de référent, et dont le troisième a commeréférent sa ville de publication : Saskatoon.AbstractWomen’s lives, and the quest, by married women, for their liberationconstitute the main thematic dyad of the three novels studied. It is expressedthrough the themes of solitude and lack of communication, and adulterycommitted either by the husband or by the wife herself during her quest forliberation. The regional dimension of these fictitious worlds interacts with themain thematic, the journey being an especially significant spatial act. Thesociolinguistic dimension is linked to the regional dimension of Mailhot’snovels, but with the struggle for woman’s liberation in Simmie’s. Both thesimilarities and differences between the treatments these novels give theirthematic material are interesting, all the more so given the very differentregional origins of the novels: two were published in Montreal which is alsothe referent of their fictional space, while the other’s referent is its city ofpublication: Saskatoon.Dis-moi que je vis (1965), Veuillez agréer... (1975) et They Shouldn’t MakeYou Promise That (1981) ont tous pour thèmes principaux une conditionféminine aliénante (surtout celle de la femme mariée), et la quête, par unefemme, de son autonomie. Cette quête aboutit à l’échec dans Dis-moi que jevis, mais, dans les deux autres romans, aboutit sinon à la réussite, du moins à saInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCpossibilité, voire son début. Les trois romans thématisent le recours, par lafemme en quête d’autonomie, à la relation extra-conjugale, mais traitent cethème fort différemment. Le référent du cadre spatial des romans de Mailhotest Montréal, alors que celui du roman de Simmie est Saskatoon. Par contre, siles trois romans offrent un cadre spatial urbain, le voyage vers l’extérieur decet espace urbain fictif les marque, revêtant toutefois des fonctions différentesdans Dis-moi que je vis, d’une part, et dans Veuillez agréer... et They Shouldn’tMake You Promise That, d’autre part. La moyenne bourgeoisie constitue lecadre socio-économique de ces trois récits, mais d’importantes divergencesdémarquent l’univers sociolinguis- tique des romans de Mailhot de celui duroman de Simmie. Cette différence sociolinguistique comprend unecomposante ethno- linguistique. La marginalité de la condition féminineforme la plus importante des diverses marginalités que nous venonsd’évoquer. Or, l’interaction entre celles-ci est telle, qu’il s’avère utile dejoindre à l’étude de la marginalité sexuelle celle des problématiques régionaleet sociolinguistique.Si certaines ressemblances réunissent les trois romans de notre corpus,d’autres ne caractérisent que deux des trois; quelques-unes réunissent non pasles deux romans de Mailhot pour les distinguer de They Shouldn’t Make YouPromise That de Simmie, mais rapprochent plutôt celui-ci et Veuillez agréer...,opposés ainsi à Dis-moi que je vis.Sur le plan du discours romanesque, l’emploi massif de l’ironie et du sarcasmeallie encore Veuillez agréer... et They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That,tandis que le ton de l’héroïne de Dis-moi que je vis — en partie peut-être enraison de son âge (la trentaine, soit dix ans de moins que les deux autreshéroïnes) — semble plus « doux » (et donc elle paraît plus aliénée). Toutefois,cette question du ton découle de celle de la voix narrative. Or, la voix narrativerapproche, cette fois-ci, Dis-moi que je vis et They Shouldn’t Make YouPromise That, tous deux narrés à la première personne par le personnageprincipal. À cette narratrice autodiégétique fait contraste la narration à latroisième personne de Veuillez agréer... Cette opposition est atténuée par lesnombreuses indications de quasi-fusion entre le personnage de Judith etl’instance narrante : marques de la situation d’énonciation, dont surtoutl’univers axiologique des deux instances, celle du personnage et celle de lavoix narrative, puisqu’elles partagent les mêmes valeurs et réactions.Ces marginalités sexuelle, régionale et linguistique se trouvent partiellementcompensées par des facteurs mélioratifs. Désavantagées socialement par leursexe, membres d’un groupe linguistique minoritaire à l’échelle du Canada etdécentrées par rapport à la principale région économique du pays, les héroïnesde Mailhot n’en appartiennent pas moins à la majorité francophone, blanche et(naguère) catholique du Québec et à une classe socio-économique privilégiée.L’héroïne de They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That subit une conditionféminine problématique, mais comme les protagonistes de Mailhot, appartientà la moyenne bourgeoisie. Et si sa ville — Saskatoon — se trouve isolée desgrands centres de la culture occidentale, elle est en prise directe avec la culturedominante de son époque, comme en témoignent les nombreuses références aucinéma, à la télévision et à la peinture américaines. Malgré ces avantages222


Marginalités sexuelle, régionale et sociolinguistiqueapparents, les facteurs marginalisants l’emportent dans ces vies de femme quicorrespondent pourtant au mythe et à la doxa du bonheur tel que nos sociétés ledéfinissent le plus souvent.Les trois romans thématisent surtout la condition dysphorique de la femmemariée (mais évoquent aussi l’éducation des jeunes filles, qui, à la maison, àl’école et à l’église, multipliait les embûches entre la femme et son autonomie),mais aussi la lutte du personnage féminin pour rejeter cette condition et laremplacer par une vie plus autonome et plus épanouissante. Condition et lutteféminines (avec ce que toute lutte suppose de révolte, de réflexion et d’action)constituent une dyade thématique.Dans Dis-moi que je vis, Josée ouvre le roman en nous annonçant son bonheurgrâce à une relation extra-conjugale :Banal, voilà, nous [Josée et son mari] sommes un couple banal. Dumoins nous l’étions, car maintenant l’un de nous est heureux. [...] Ouije suis heureuse et je ne veux pas savoir pourquoi. [...] C’est cela lebonheur, une minute d’oubli. (DM 12)Le roman consistera ensuite en une longue analepse complexe. La narratriceautodiégétique remonte le temps pour s’expliquer à elle- même (la véritablenarrataire) ce qui lui est arrivé. Elle raconte une vie conjugale marquée desolitude et d’incommunicabilité, elle qui pourtant semblait tout avoir pour êtreheureuse selon son mari, homme d’affaires prospère, et selon la société. Elleaurait pu lui crier, à l’instar de l’héroïne de Veuillez agréer..., « J’étais tropseule avec toi ». Solitude et incommunicabilité : quand Pierre, son mari, lisantà côté d’elle, lui demande, « Tu ne lis pas? », et qu’elle répond, « Mais si, jeréfléchissais sur une phrase », la narratrice observe qu’« [i]l ne me demandepas laquelle et retourne entre sa parenthèse, entre les bornes de sa parenthèse[...] » (DM 10). Au restaurant, nous dit-elle,[j]e le vois s’enfouir dans l’immédiat d’un plaisir qui cerne tout sonêtre. Happé corps et âme par un bifteck. Et il m’apparaît combien seralongue et triste ma station en marge de la vie. (DM 117)Cette vision accablante de la condition de la femme mariée hante tout notrecorpus (mais They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That offre l’espoir qu’uneunion épanouissante entre femme et homme serait possible). Josée sait quepour son mari, elle a le devoir d’être heureuse dans sa vie de femme au foyer. Illui interdit de travailler à l’extérieur pour mieux signaler sa propre réussite(DM 64). Elle estime que son amie Jeanine a mis le doigt sur la plaie collectivedont elles souffrent toutes :Il a fallu Jeanine (dix ans de mariage, cinq enfants, des rideaux, desconfitures et trois martinis) pour rompre l’hypocrisie.« Et bien moi, jeta-t-elle brusquement, j’en ai assez de tout cela!Savez-vous ce que j’aimerais dans ma maison? UN HOMME! [...] Lemien ou un autre, peu importe, pourvu que j’aie quelqu’un. À quoi çasert tout ce travail s’il n’y a jamais personne pour l’apprécier? Paulest toujours absent. Il soigne les moribonds, jour et nuit, sous prétextede me faire vivre. Et je crève! » (DM 94-95).223


IJCS / RIÉCL’écriture recourt ici à la juxtaposition de termes dont les sens respectifs sontsans lien, dans une construction qui suggère pourtant une ressemblancesémantique. Si « mariage et « enfants » ont un lien sémantique évident,« rideaux » et « confitures » ont un lien moins évident avec les deux premierstermes et tendent à réduire le sens de ceux-ci à leur sens propre pour suggérerque mariage et vie de famille se sont réduits à n’être que « rideaux » et« confitures ». L’expression « trois martinis » rompt encore plus les lienssémantiques puisqu’elle ne relève pas ici du continu (l’état d’être une femmemariée, une femme au foyer, une mère de famille), mais du ponctuel (Jeaninevient de boire trois martinis, d’où sa rupture avec l’hypocrisie). En mêmetemps, cette juxtaposition produit une contamination sémantique à deux sens,suggérant ainsi qu’en raison de sa vie de femme mariée (état continu) Jeanineboit de façon non pas ponctuelle mais continue : le mariage la pousserait versl’alcoolisme (comme il pousse Josée vers l’adultère et comme il semblepousser Eleanor dans They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That vers letabagisme).Mais si Jeanine et la narratrice croient que la plaie, c’est la solitude, ellesméconnaissent la racine du mal. L’axe comportemental révèle que cetteracine, c’est la dépendance, l’attente que le sens de sa vie lui soit livré parautrui : Josée se jettera dans les bras de Jean, bellâtre donjuanesque, qui n’auracure des tentatives d’approfondissement que Josée voudra donner à leurrelation. Certes, celle-ci sera fort agréable pour la femme sur le plan physique,même son mari en profitera sous forme des caresses plus savantes et del’ardeur sexuelle renouvelée de son épouse, sous forme aussi (sentiment deculpabilité chez Josée aidant) de trois tartes au sucre par semaine! Mais Joséedécouvre que :[l]e gouffre entre deux êtres ne se mesure jamais si bien qu’à l’instantoù ils sont collés l’un à l’autre, de la tête aux pieds, qu’au momentprécis où justement, ils semblent le mieux unis. (DM 156)Si la majeure partie de Dis-moi que je vis forme une longue analepsemémorielle et explicative, le récit étant constamment coupé par des réflexionsau présent, le roman se termine sur un présent qui diffère de celui du début. Leprésent du point de départ correspondait à un moment où la narratriceautodiégétique se sentait heureuse; le présent du point d’arrivée correspond àun moment ultérieur où la narratrice, déçue du vide de la relation qu’elle a eueen dehors des liens du mariage, se retourne vers son mari :Me reste le souvenir de Jean, tendre et frivole, qui m’apprenait lasaveur des moindres gestes.Me reste toi, Pierre, endormi dans ta longue patience.[...] Le jour se lève... Pierre, réveille-toi. (DM 159)Échec désolant : Josée, être irrémédiablement relatif, cherche toujours sonbonheur et le sens de sa vie dans sa relation avec autrui. Rappelons le refus del’analyse et de la lucidité dont témoignait sa phrase au début du roman, « C’estcela le bonheur, un moment d’oubli » (DM 12). Ainsi, ce présent final quimarque un moment ultérieur au présent liminaire du récit constitue, sur le planpsychodiégétique, un retour au passé (évolution régressive du personnage en224


Marginalités sexuelle, régionale et sociolinguistiquetermes de maturité et d’autonomie). Et la dernière phrase du roman, qui, auniveau d’une sémantique de surface, semble déboucher sur l’avenir, traduit àun niveau plus profond le repli actantiel d’un personnage-narratrice qui n’aurajamais su accéder au statut de sujet dont elle avait rêvé. En demandant à sonmari de se faire l’adjuvant de sa quête, elle lui confère le monopole de lafonction actantielle de sujet.Dans Veuillez agréer..., Judith, comme Josée dans Dis-moi que je vis, estemprisonnée dans la solitude et l’incommunicabilité conjugales. La narrationà la troisième personne crée une distance nécessitée par le caractère encoreplus pénible de la souffrance subie; la création de cette distance protectrice estaussi la fonction de l’ironie, de l’humour et du sarcasme qui foisonnent chezMailhot. Claude, mari de Judith, est encore pire que Pierre (DM) puisqu’iljoint à l’absence, à la gloutonnerie abrutissante et au travail survalorisé auxdépens de la vie conjugale et familiale, ces incartades de Claude signalées parJudith lorsqu’elle refuse de coucher avec lui :Claude prit très mal la chose. Lui qui ne désemparait pas du devoirconjugal malgré les extras qu’il fournissait vaillamment à gauche et àdroite, se sentit lésé, bafoué, rejeté. Il refusa de quitter la chambre, sachambre que sa qualité de propriétaire lui accordait de plein droitmême s’il ne l’occupait plus qu’à temps partiel à cause de son horairenocturne surchargé. (VA 31) [...] Après un compte suffisant de nuitsinconfortables dans le salon [...] et de levers à cinq heures pour que lesenfants ne la voient pas camper d’aussi ridicule façon, Judith jugeaavoir purgé la peine encourue par Claude etintégra sa chambre.(VA 38)Plusieurs procédés stylistiques mettent en relief le caractère négatif dumariage que subit Judith : emploi ironique de termes normalement valorisants(« ne désemparait pas », « vaillamment », « horaire surchargé »); accumulationadjectivale (« lésé, bafoué, rejeté »); antithèse (« Judith jugea avoir purgé lapeine encourue par Claude »).Judith s’est mariée pour les mêmes raisons que Josée et Eleanor : pressionsociale qui définit comme ratée toute femme non mariée et désir de vivre lasexualité, ce que la société de sa jeunesse ne permettait que dans le mariage.Mais Judith évoluera différemment de Josée. Comme l’a signalé Maïr Verthuydans Michèle Mailhot: A Cautionary Tale, Judith « has rejected what sheperceives to be the now-traditional haven of the forty-year-old woman: thenervous breakdown, the last-chance sleeping-around syndrome, a life centeredon the Church » (134). Judith, en réaction contre les abus et la solitude que luiinflige son mari, conquiert son autonomie économique en prenant un emploi.Brièvement, ce travail dans une maison d’édition lui vaut une certainesatisfaction :[...] on lui donnait plus cher pour son esprit que pour son corps,preuve que sa démarche était vertueuse et droite.Ses débuts de femme de carrière se firent donc sous les plus heureuxauspices. (VA 30)Toutefois, le mythe de l’emploi-qui-résoud-tout volera en éclats. Le travail à lamaison d’édition (que Judith surnomme « le Tube » en raison de sa225


IJCS / RIÉCressemblance avec le tube digestif, y compris ses produits de sortie!) s’avèreune amère désillusion. La direction supérieure ne prise guère la littérature, etles littérateurs sont de prétentieux écrivailleurs pique-assiette (« Judith règlel’addition du repas auquel il l’a invitée. Il paiera la prochaine fois, avec sesdroits d’auteur », VA 23) qui ne maîtrisent ni l’orthographe ni la grammaire(« “Je crois devoire vous informez” lui écrit un auteur qui menace de retirer sonmanuscrit », VA 23). Judith prendra conscience de combien un emploi, aiméau début, peut devenir aliénant. Judith finira par démissionner de ce deuxièmeemploi, guère plus épanouissant que son joug conjugal, pour partir à lacampagne.Certes, cette fin de roman contraste avec celle de Dis-moi que je vis qui revientà la case/cage de départ. Mais Veuillez agréer..., en finissant sur le départ à lacampagne, se rapproche de ces contes de fée dont Jennifer Waelti-Walters,dans Fairy Tales and the Female Imagination, a démontré le caractère aliénantpour les femmes. Judith y vivra-t-elle d’amour et d’eau claire? Ce manque deréalisme tend à rendre encore plus ténue une libération tout optative, à peineinchoative.They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That de Lois Simmie offre beaucoup deressemblances avec les deux romans de Mailhot. Le récit, à la premièrepersonne et au présent, comporte une diégèse dans laquelle Eleanor prendconscience de l’aliénation où la laisse son mariage, quitte mari, enfants etSaskatoon afin de rejoindre sa mère à Victoria, puis rebrousse chemin dans lesRocheuses pour revenir à Saskatoon, entamer une relation amoureuse, prendreun logement et se mettre à la recherche d’un travail. Elle reproche à son mari età son mariage ce que Judith et Josée reprochaient aux leurs :l’incommunicabilité. Que Hugh soit amateur de roses ne l’empêche pas dedisparaître derrière le journal dès la fin de son repas. Repas dont Hugh nerompt le silence conjugal que par les reproches qu’il adresse à sa femme et quiportent, tantôt sur la qualité de la cuisine, tantôt sur le fait qu’elle fume à latable, tantôt encore sur ses énoncés qui seront longtemps le moyen par lequelEleanor exprimera sa révolte. Pour Hugh, comptable aisé, c’est à son épouse des’occuper de tous les travaux ménagers; ni lui ni leurs trois enfants ne sedonnent la peine de jeter leur linge sale dans les chutes à lessive dont la maisonest abondamment pourvue. Comme Claude (Veuillez agréer...), Hugh estimeque son épouse devrait se sentir heureuse de ne pas travailler à l’extérieur et yvoit la marque de sa propre réussite et de sa générosité.On se rappellera que Veuillez agréer... a thématisé la dépression en précisantque, même si Judith en est frappée, elle refuse d’y succomber. Dans TheyShouldn’t Make You Promise That, Eleanor nous informe que « Hugh hasdecided to send me to a psychiatrist just because I wouldn’t get out of bed tomake his supper » (TS 26). Eleanor est alitée à l’heure du repas du soir parcequ’elle est malade — état de santé qui relève du psychologique, certes —; maisaussi, ce que Hugh ignore, à cause de la prison conjugale :The weekend had been long and depressing [...]. I prepared meals andpicked up after the kids [...] to circumvent Hugh’s why don’t-thesekids-do-anything-around-the-houselecture. [...]226


Marginalités sexuelle, régionale et sociolinguistiqueI was down in the laundry room smoking a cigarette and staring at aload of jeans going round and round in the washer [...] when it came tome with crystal clarity that my life wasn’t going to change for thebetter. [...][...] Hugh called down the stairs. He wanted his supper, poor dear,he’d had a hard day watching two hockey games and rereading theweek’s papers and Time magazine in case he missed any depressingnews the first time around. (TS 26-27)Hugh fait donc partie de ceux qui définiraient comme folle toute femme quirégimberait à se couler dans le moule défini et dénoncé dans Veuillez agréer... :« Servante, servilité, services, servitudes » (VA 51).Le thème de l’infidélité marque les trois romans. Dans Dis-moi que je vis,Josée se sert de l’infidélité comme moyen de se libérer. Dans la mesure où elletente de se transformer en sujet de sa quête et d’écrire son histoire au lieu de lasubir, elle se livre à l’adultère en espérant inscrire dans son histoire laprovocation (au sens narratologique) : l’événement qui ferait progresser sadiégèse d’un état initial de dysphories 1 vers un état amélioré 2. Cettedémarche échouera, car Josée confirme son statut d’être relatif dans un récitsocial que prescrit et écrit l’instance masculine. Dans Veuillez agréer...,l’infidélité conjugale est le fait du seul mari, mais donne lieu à ce tour de forceironique, la lettre que Judith adresse à une maîtresse de son mari, rappelantainsi que le plus souvent la femme « trompée » a affaire aussi à une autrefemme (VA 75-84). Judith reprochera à la jeune femme son manqued’autonomie et de solidarité féminine, indiquant que l’adultère n’est pas lavoie d’une véritable libération de la femme (VA 81). Dans They Shouldn’tMake You Promise That, Eleanor désire Harold, un vieil ami de son villagenatal de Fairmont (Saskatchewan) dès qu’il ressurgit dans sa vie en tantqu’amoureux de la meilleure amie d’Eleanor, Gena. C’est seulement après ledécès de Gena et le départ vers l’ouest d’Eleanor que celle-ci, revenue àCalgary, initie une relation intime avec Harold. Eleanor redevient ainsi sujetpar rapport à sa propre sexualité; ses rapports physiques avec son mari étaientaliénants puisqu’ils figuraient pour Hugh parmi les tâches ménagères qu’il sesentait en droit d’imposer à son épouse. Toutefois, la relation avec Harold n’estqu’une étape; elle ne sera pas la cause de la dépendance qui vicia la relationentre Josée et son amant, puisqu’Eleanor entreprend des démarches pour seconstruire comme sujet autonome : prise d’un logement et recherche d’unemploi. Eleanor et Judith savent qu’elles devront se débrouiller « par leurspropres forces », sans le soutien de quiconque, afin de découvrir ce que Judith,dans Veuillez agréer..., a appelé « Ma vie enfin, ma mienne » (VA 54). MaisVeuillez agréer... nous rappelle que ni un logement ni un emploi ne sont despanacées. M. Jean Anderson a bien démontré que l’œuvre de Mailhot, si elleprivilégie la problématique féminine, présente la société industriellecapitaliste, y compris son obsession de la consommation et ses appareilsménagers qui « robotisent » la femme, comme inacceptable pour tous. Or, lamise en cause de la vie de la femme-du-médecin par le discours de Jeanine,déjà cité, et celle de la vie de femme-de-l’homme-d’affaires-prospère dansDis-moi que je vis reflètent la dévalorisation de cette même vie de confortbourgeois qui est décrite dans They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That. Un227


IJCS / RIÉCcontraste apparaît toutefois entre Veuillez agréer... et They Shouldn’t MakeYou Promise That, car Eleanor, à la fin du roman, vient d’atteindre une étapeque Judith a vécue il y a des années : séparation, divorce, prise d’un emploi;Simmie critique la vie de la femme au foyer, celui-ci fût-il des plusconfortables, mais ne met pas en cause le système économique, laissantentendre que si Eleanor trouve un emploi, sa vie en sera plus épanouie.Dans Dis-moi que je vis, l’adultère pose donc le geste de l’épouse aliénée, maisloin de se constituer en acte de révolte, celui-ci reste la saisie désespérée d’unebouée de sauvetage (illusoire), le geste d’un personnage dépendant, encoreprisonnier du statut actantiel d’objet. Dans Veuillez agréer..., le mari commetl’adultère. Les remarques cinglantes de la voix narrative, voire du personnagede Judith parfois, signifieraient que l’infidélité du mari constitue l’un desaspects douloureux de la condition conjugale contre laquelle Judith se révolte.Toutefois, cette interprétation se heurte à des énoncés, que la voix narrativeattribue à Judith et selon lesquels Judith attacherait peu d’importance àl’infidélité de son mari :– Mais Claude, je t’avais dit n’importe qui, sauf la gardienne. Il mesemble qu’il en restait encore assez. (VA 39)L’avocat [...] s’était jeté sur le flagrant adultère comme sur le motif.Judith avait essayé d’expliquer que ce n’était pas si important, queClaude avait peut-être exagéré en ce sens mais qu’elle souhaitait uneséparation pour de tout autres raisons. [...] « Madame, petite madame,rassurez-vous, votre dignité est protégée, dignité qui tient tout entièredans l’activité légale du membre viril de l’époux. » [...] Quelquesgouttes du précieux liquide sont dispersées et voilà qu’aussitôtl’épouse se dessèche, comme privée de vie, la pauvre mignonne.Comment accepter que sa vie, son honneur, sa sécurité dépendentdirectement des aventurettes glandulaires de Claude? CommentJudith, reine du foyer, pouvait-elle être déchue par la seuleinsubordination d’un petit groupe de chromosomes qui veut allermourir hors de son royaume? Non, monsieur maître avocat, je ne vaispas pousser les cris conventionnels des femmes trompées et me jeter,défaite, aux pieds du magistrat en invoquant mon droit sacré àl’exclusivité d’un petit pénis. [...] mon sens de la propriété n’est pasassez vif pour me faire revendiquer en si haute instance un si communobjet. [...] C’est un constat de décès que je veux signer, celui de notrecouple et non pas une plainte pour offense bénigne. (VA 43-44)Dans le dernier paragraphe de cet extrait, on remarquera le passage de la voixnarrative à celle de Judith elle-même, de la troisième personne à la première; leparagraphe suivant comportera le retour à la voix narrative et à la troisièmepersonne. Ces faits confirment la quasi-fusion entre l’instance narrative et lepersonnage de Judith, comme si ce roman à narrateur hétérodiégétique était unroman autodiégétique qui se cache ou une variante fictive de l’autobiographieà la troisième personne. L’atténuation de l’importance affective et sociale del’adultère va jusqu’à la déclaration que celui-ci (fût-il multiple) constitue une« offense bénigne ». Ce processus d’atténuation recourt aussi à ladévalorisation du sexe masculin et de ses attributs (« petit groupe dechromosomes », « petit pénis », le diminutif « aventurette » et l’ironique228


Marginalités sexuelle, régionale et sociolinguistique« précieux liquide »). Nier ainsi l’importance de l’adultère est ici un moyend’affirmer l’importance de la femme, qui réside d’abord en la femme ellemêmeet non dans le type de relation qu’elle aurait avec tel ou tel homme. Lepoint de vue de Judith semble en évolution marquée par rapport à celui de Joséedans Dis-moi que je vis où la protagoniste dépendait de sa relation avecl’homme pour se sentir valorisée. En même temps, la suppression del’importance attachée à l’adultère, dans Veuillez agréer..., va de pair avecl’affirmation que toute relation entre deux personnes comporte d’autresdimensions, autrement plus significatives, que la seule dimension sexuelle.Revenons à l’utilisation, dans Veuillez agréer... et dans They Shouldn’t MakeYou Promise That, du personnage de la femme négative. Dans celui-là, il s’agitde la maîtresse, la femme complice du mari adultère puisqu’elle couche aveccelui-ci dans le lit même de l’épouse. Chez Simmie, il s’agit de l’ironiquementnommé Mrs. Ducharme, dame âgée dont Eleanor s’occupe une fois parsemaine et dont elle dit,[...] Mrs. D.C. [...] has criticized me for being Protestant, for havingtwo cars in the family (this while riding in mine), and for wearing eyeshadow — hideous brown grease, makes me look cheap. [...]Of course she never says thank you for anything. I have bought a bookon assertiveness training in the faint hope that it may help me dealwith Mrs. Ducharme. Yelling “You’re welcome, you old bitch” whenI am three blocks away from her place, with the car window rolled up,is not the answer. (TS 28)On assiste ainsi à la révolte d’Eleanor contre le rôle de servante et de donneusede soins non rémunérés traditionnellement dévolu aux femmes. Le personnagede Mrs. Ducharme appartient à cette lignée de personnages fréquents dansl’œuvre de Michèle Mailhot et qui atteint son apogée avec le personnageéponymede Béatrice vue d’en bas (1988), une femme ayant introjecté lesvaleurs phallocrates au point de les servir constamment, surtout en yasservissant d’autres femmes.Quant à la dimension régionale de notre corpus et de ses marginalités,constatons d’abord qu’il y a région, et puis région dans la région. Au Québec, ily a Montréal, la « métropole », et puis la province. Dans Dis-moi que je vis,leséjour de Josée en Floride avec une amie annonce, par l’aliénation de celle-ci(malgré ses multiples aventures), que l’adultère ne permettra ni la libération, nil’épanouissement dans cet univers romanesque. Quant à l’espace romanesquerenvoyant au référent québécois, la région extra-métropolitaine est (hormis unbref répit au chalet) quasi absente. Il en va essentiellement ainsi dans Veuillezagréer..., bien qu’à la dernière page du roman, Judith parte avec ses « enfants »pour la campagne : c’est donc « en région » que résiderait son épanouissementet son salut (comme le laissait prévoir le bonheur qu’éprouvait Josée pendantson séjour au chalet). La problématique régionale se manifeste encore sousforme de l’importance de la religion dans le vécu de la jeune Judith comme dela jeune Josée, et celle du vocabulaire religieux (fût-il d’un emploi ironique).Ce Québec fictif est présenté comme lieu où sévissait une culture répressive(des femmes surtout), conformément au discours habituel à propos de la« Grande Noirceur ».229


IJCS / RIÉCD’autre part, la problématique régionale se manifeste, toujours au niveausociolinguistique, par la rareté des québécismes chez Mailhot. Ce corpusromanesque, qui souscrit à la prédominance de la métropole montréalaise dansson Québec fictif, privilégie une autre métropole linguistique, puisque s’ypratique un français hexagonal. C’est peut-être en partie ce qu’a voulu signalerAndré Vanasse en attribuant à Mailhot « une écriture sophistiquée », « desmots lisses sur lesquels on glisse » (Vanasse, 45). Le régional ici peut êtrequalifié de composante ethos-linguistique exclue, dans la mesure où il s’agit del’exclusion textuelle de caractéristiques verbales typiques du parler desCanadiens d’expression française. Cette absence confirme, certes, tout commece feu d’artifice de jeux de mots et de procédés stylistiques à effet ironique ousarcastique, à quel point les textes de Mailhot relèvent de l’écrit et de l’écriture.Ce rejet du régional, jusque dans les dialogues, va de pair avec le rejet culturelvisant la religion et les rapports entre femmes et hommes : Judith et sanarratrice repoussent un certain Québec culturel d’antan dans son ensemble.Dans They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That, le statut régional découlebeaucoup moins de la dimension linguistique que de la toponymie et de ladescription des espaces. Saskatoon et la Saskatchewan y sont explicitementnommées, tout comme Victoria, Winnipeg, Drumheller, Kindersley etCalgary. Frappante est l’absence de la traditionnelle dichotomie, chère auxéditorialistes comme aux politiciens, entre la Saskatchewan ou les Plainesd’une part, et « the East », d’autre part; cet « East » par lequel lesSaskatchewanais entendent d’habitude l’Ontario et le Québec. L’espace, chezSimmie, tend à avoir pour extrémité orientale Winnipeg, se terminant à l’ouestà Victoria. Mais la pulsion régionale est encore plus centripète chez Simmie,puisque la région tend à se réduire à la seule Saskatchewan, voire à Saskatoonet à sa région opposés non à « the East » mais à la côte du Pacifique. À mesurequ’Eleanor avance vers l’ouest, vers les Rocheuses lors de son voyage pourrejoindre sa mère à Victoria, le paysage et la météo deviennent toujours plushostiles. Elle se rappelle avec nostalgie des voyages en sens inverse, et lasensation de respiration plus épanouie éprouvée au moment de quitter lesmontagnes « étouffantes » pour regagner les Plaines. Lors du trajet de l’est versl’ouest que relate ce roman, déjà l’Alberta apparaît comme un espace étranger,voire hostile.L’isolement géographique n’empêche pas l’univers culturel de Saskatoon etdu personnage d’Eleanor d’être richement branché sur la culture étatsunienne,comme en témoigne une riche intertextualité intersémiotiquerecourant à la peinture, au cinéma et à la télévision. Branchage troublantpuisque — Eleanor en est bien consciente — les jouissances que procure cetaccès vont de pair avec des réclames publicitaires qui dévalorisent et aliènentla femme. Du reste, ce branchage est à polarité unique; sa puissance résideentre les mains riches et masculines de Hollywood et de Madison Avenue. Cequi n’empêchera pas Eleanor de se prononcer en faveur des « soaps » en tantqu’émissions qui parlent aux femmes d’aspects importants de leur réalité.They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That retient l’intérêt au niveausociolinguistique, car la guerre des sexes s’y livre sur le terrain linguistiqueaussi. Et si ce roman est remarquablement écrit, si son feu d’artifice verbal230


Marginalités sexuelle, régionale et sociolinguistiquecomporte les mêmes procédés que Veuillez agréer... (ironie et sarcasme), ildiffère des romans de Mailhot en se constituant comme une tentative detranscrire par écrit la langue parlée (d’où des dialogues bien plus nombreuxque chez Mailhot). Hugh emploie un anglais guinet reproche à Eleanor sonanglais plus populaire, voire « vulgaire ». Ce reproche pousse Eleanor à s’enservir plus rageusement que jamais. Hugh voudrait obliger Eleanor à seconformer à l’image de l’épouse bourgeoise parfaite en matière de languecomme en tout. Eleanor elle-même doit en arriver à se libérer de certainesinhibitions à ce propos. Elle raconte que, contre l’irritation de Hugh de voir safemme lire tant, elle s’est mise à lire en cachette jusqu’à ce que « [...] theabsurdity of it hit me and I told Prince Machiavelli to fuck off, though not inthose words of course » (TS 18). Plus tard, Eleanor le lui dira dans précisément« those words »!Il y a encore ce moment où Eleanor, en route vers Victoria, est prise en mêmetemps que sa chienne d’un appel de la nature :Jude nudges my arm with her nose and rolls her wimpy eyes at me.[...] Christ, she has to pee and the rain is coming down in buckets.You’ll have to wait, I tell her, good dog. Jesus, it’s catching, now Ihave to go, too. [...] We should have gone in Calgary when westopped for gas. God, that truck was close! Shit! Shit! On a glisteningblack rock, the word “REPENT” gleams in fluorescent red. MaybeHugh is going ahead of me with a bucket of paint. (TS 129)Passage qui donne lieu à une forte association du religieux et du scatologique.Le lien exprime la révolte d’Eleanor contre cette dimension du patriarcatqu’est la religion chrétienne dans ses formes prédominantes, révolte queprécise l’association du religieux à Hugh. La mise en cause de la religion et del’Église est fréquente dans l’œuvre de Michèle Mailhot, mais elle recourt ausexuel plutôt qu’au scatologique.Tant les ressemblances que les différences dans la présentation desproblématiques des marginalités féminine, régionale et sociolinguistiqueretiennent l’attention. Les héroïnes de Mailhot ne semblent pas se sentirvraiment chez elles, ni pouvoir espérer trouver le bonheur, à Montréal; celle deSimmie se meut dans ce qu’elle semble vivre comme un rassurant centre dumonde, même quand elle y souffre. L’aliénation des héroïnes et des narratricesde Mailhot se traduirait-elle par leur refus du langage qui se pratiquecouramment chez elles? Cet élan vers un langage, perçu comme le leur plusque le québécois courant, peut constituer le rejet d’un parler vécu commel’imposition d’une sorte de grossièreté ou de manque de raffinement masculin.La problématique fondamentale, commune aux deux œuvres, est bien laproblématique féminine. Les deux œuvres montrent les épreuves multiplesd’une condition féminine traditionnelle, mais expriment aussi l’espoir d’unelibération féminine tant personnelle que collective. La libération chez Mailhotreste plus hypothétique que chez Simmie puisqu’elle ne semble pas pouvoirs’atteindre dans le milieu urbain ni dans la société (post?) industrielle etcapitaliste qui a servi de cadre (de cause?) à leur aliénation. Dans TheyShouldn’t Make You Promise That, par contre, la libération épanouissantesemble possible, en ville et dans la société industrialo-capitaliste. Mais peut-231


IJCS / RIÉCêtre Judith, dans Veuillez agréer... répondrait-elle aux espoirs de Eleanor :« Je connais la chanson... et ne la chante plus. »BibliographieI. Textes littérairesMailhot, Michèle, Dis-moi que je vis, Ottawa, Cercle du livre de France, 1964, 159 p._____, Veuillez agréer..., (préface d’André Major), Montréal, vlb éditeur, 1990 (1 re éd., ÉditionsLa Presse, 1975), 114 p.Simmie, Lois, They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That, Saskatoon, Fifth House, 1987 (1 re éd., NewAmerican Library of Canada, 1981), 148 p.II. Corpus critiqueAnderson, M. Jean, « Fuir pour survivre: aliénation et identité chez Michèle Mailhot », Voix etimages, X:1, automne 1984, 93-105.Audet, Noël, « Fôte d’amour », Lettres québécoises, 50, été 1988, 24.Beaudoin, Réjean, « Le roman raturé » (c.r. de Passé composé), Liberté, 195, juin 1991, 92-100.Brown, Anne, « La haine de soi: le cas du roman féminin québécois », Studies in CanadianLiterature, 14:1, 1989, 108-126.Champagne, Christine, « Le passé composé de Michèle Mailhot », Lettres québécoises, 61,printemps 1991, 21-22.Chassay, Jean-François, « Portrait d’époque. Béatrice vue d’en bas » Le Devoir, 20 fév. 1988, D3.Ducrocq-Poirier, Madeline M., « Les romancières québécoises contemporaines et la conditionféminine », L’esprit créateur, 23:3, automne 1983, 40-47.Elder, JoAnne, « Droit d’auteur(e) », Canadian Literature, 134, Autumn 1992, 181-182.Gilbert, Paula Ruth, « The Daughter Below: Double Parody of Mother-Daughter Bonding inMichèle Mailhot’s Béatrice vue d’en bas », The American Review of Canadian Studies,22:4, winter 1992, 511-532.Gould, Karen, « Setting Words Free: Feminist Writing in Quebec », Signs, 6:4, été 1981, 617-642.Lafuste, France, « Écrire pour que rien ne se perde », Le Devoir, 20 fév. 1988, D1.Leblanc, Julie, « Le langage figuré et la problématique de l’énonciation », Texte. La rhétorique dutexte, 8/9, 1989.Marcotte, Gilles, « La preuve d’un joli talent d’écrivain », L’Actualité, 9:6, juin 1984, 132._____, « Deux romancières règlent leurs comptes », L’Actualité, 13:5, mai 1988, 169.Paradis, Suzanne, « Michèle Mailhot: Laure, Josée », Femme fictive, femme réelle. Le personnageféminin dans le roman féminin canadien-français (1884-1966), Québec: Garneau, 1966,312-317.Parmentier, Francis, « Dis-moi que je vis de Michèle Mailhot », Livres et auteurs canadiens 1964,34-35.Pascal, Gabrielle, « Dis-moi que je vis, roman de Michèle Mailhot (née Asselin) », dans MauriceLemire et alii, Dictionnaire des œuvres littéraires du Québec, tome IV, Montréal, Fides,1984, 262-263.Pawliez, Mireille Inès Victoire, « Béatrice vue d’en bas de Michèle Mailhot. Une étudenarratologique féministe », mémoire de M.Ph., Massey University (Australie), 1993, vi +175 p.Perron, Gilles, « Le passé composé », Québec français, 81, printemps 1991, 16.Ross, Catherine, « Rites of Passage », Canadian Literature, 130, Autumn 1991, 138-139.Stary, Sonja G., « La Mort de l’araignée », The French Review, 48:3, fév. 1975, 666-667.Trudel, Louise, « Le fou de la reine », Livres et auteurs québécois 1969, 46-48.Vanasse, André, « Michèle Mailhot, Veuillez agréer... », Livres et auteurs québécois 1975, 45.Verthuy, Maïr, « Michèle Mailhot A Cautionary Tale », dans Gynocritics. Feminist Approaches toCanadian and Quebec Women’s Writing / Gynocritiques. Démarches féministes à l’écrituredes Canadiennes et Québécoises, Toronto, ECW Press, 1987, 131-141.___, « Veuillez agréer..., roman de Michèle Mailhot », dans M. Lemire et alii, Dictionnaire desœuvres littéraires du Québec, tome V, Montréal, Fides, 1987, 933-934.Waelti--Walters, Jennifer, Fairy Tales and the Female Imagination, Montréal, Eden Press, 1982.232


Shirin KudchedkarCelebrating Women’s Language and Women’sSpace: Yolande Villemaire’sLa Vie en prose 1AbstractYolande Villemaire’s La Vie en prose can be seen as a celebration of women’slanguage and women’s space. A group of women who run a publishing houseedit and write manuscripts where the glimpses of women’s lives are not assignificant as the writers’ efforts to give them expression. Who writes what,who does what, does not matter — attempts to unravel this only lead toconfusion. Together, the women create a space in which “la vie en prose” isfound to embrace “la vie en rose.” The paper begins with a brief account ofwhat the novel is about and then proceeds to demonstrate how women create aspace for themselves. The foregrounded terms “prose” and “rose” arestudied. The women are not allured by the glamour of “la vie en rose”; rather,by discovering “le fun” in the seemingly prosaic trivialities of day-to-dayliving, they discover their own version of “la vie en rose.” The image of “ladame en rose,” which highlights this theme, is discussed. The issue oflanguage is next considered, together with the manner in which the textcontinually investigates the relationship of the feminine subject to languageand to reality. The fact that the actual process of writing and the implements ofwriting are constantly to the fore is examined. Intertextual and intratextualresonances are analysed, focusing particularly on the “ring,” the “dance”and the “bridge.” The novel’s treatment of extraterrestrial experience and ofromantic love are discussed. The paper concludes with relating Villemaire’sproject to the Quebec women’s enterprise of writing a women’s language,inscribing themselves in the body of language and creating women’s space.RésuméLa Vie en prose de Yolande Villemaire peut apparaître comme une célébrationde la langue et de l’espace des femmes. Un groupe de femmes qui gèrent unemaison d’édition révisent et rédigent des manuscrits où les aperçus de vies defemmes ne sont pas aussi importants que les efforts déployés par leursauteures pour leur donner une expression littéraire. Qui écrit quoi, qui faitquoi, cela n’a pas d’importance — toute tentative pour déméler cet écheveaune saurait qu’engendrer la confusion. Ensemble, les femmes créent un espaceoù « la vie en prose » embrasse « la vie en rose ». L’article commence par unbref compte rendu du thème du roman, puis l’auteure s’emploie à montrercomment les femmes se créent un espace. On étudie les termes de « prose » et« rose », qui sont à l’avant-plan du discours. Les femmes ne sont pas séduitespar l’éclat de « la vie en rose », mais plutôt en découvrant ce qu’elles appellent« le fun » au cœur des banalités apparentes de la vie vécue au jour le jour,elles découvrent leur propre version de « la vie en rose ». Il s’ensuit uneInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCdiscussion de l’image de « la dame en rose », qui fait ressortir ce thème. Puis ilest question du langage de même que de la façon dont le texte ne cessed’explorer la relation entre le sujet féminin, le langage et la réalité. On sepenche sur le fait que les processus d’écriture et les instruments de l’écrituresont constamment à l’avant-plan. On analyse les résonances inter- etintratextuelles en se concentrant particulièrement sur « l’anneau », la « dance» et le « pont ». Le traitement par le roman de l’expérience extraterrestre et del’amour romantique font l’objet d’une discussion. Dans la conclusion, onétablit un lien entre le projet de Villemaire et l’entreprise des femmesquébécoises, qui est d’écrire dans une langue de femme, de s’inscrire dans lecorps du langage et de créer l’espace des femmes.Women’s struggle to make a space for themselves within patriarchal socialstructures has been of long duration and has received much impetus as a resultof the feminist movement of the second half of this century. The literaryproject termed “écriture au féminin” (“writing in the feminine”) could beconstrued as one of the most radical aspects of this effort. Women have feltexcluded by the male language which, although termed a mother tongue, hasnot been a nurturing mother tongue for them, for it does not express theirexperience and their meanings. Hence, they have sought a language in whichthey can “write themselves” and have evolved literary forms in which they canexplore this process of discovery.As far as Canada is concerned, the first to formulate this imperative wereFrancophone women writers in Quebec influenced by French feminist theory:Nicole Brossard, Madeleine Gagnon, France Théoret, Louky Bersianik,Louise Dupré and many others. The paper discusses one such text, YolandeVillemaire’s La Vie en prose, a novel in which women engaged in writingscrutinize the process involved. The scrutiny is not solemn. Rather, it takes theform of lighthearted play, which nonetheless raises searching questions.A brief introduction to the novel is followed by a discussion of the major issueon which it dwells — “la vie en rose,” which offers women space to bethemselves, a “vie en rose” which is not contrasted to a banal, prosaicexperience but achieved through a zestful embrace of the seemingly mundaneaspects of every-day life. “Life in prose” is celebrated; by doing so, womenenjoy “life in rose.”The next section of the paper examines the continual foregrounding of the actof enunciation. The process of composition fascinates the writers, as syntacticlapses or defects in the typewriter lead off in unexpected directions. The novelin process of composition appears to be La Vie en prose itself. Butcharacteristic of Villemaire is the doubt as to which of the women iscomposing it or whether all are not, through their own compositions,contributing to a collective enterprise.Intertextuality and intratextuality form the very fabric of the novel. Thepervasive allusions to the ring, the dance and the bridge, associated with thewell-known song “Sur le pont d’Avignon,” are extensively discussed.A short excursus on the treatment of extraterrestrial experience and one onromantic love precede the conclusion which relates Villemaire’s novel to the236


Celebrating Women’s Language and Women’s SpaceQuebec women’s enterprise of writing a women’s language and creatingwomen’s space. To turn then to the novel.A group of women run a publishing house. They scrutinize the manuscriptssubmitted to them, singly, together. Most of them are themselves writers. Thenovel is divided into sections with enigmatic titles like “Delta/echo,sierra/tango” or “L’écriture rouge.” There are no clear links between sections,often no links within sections. The characters are constantly on the move —one visits Urbino, another Provence, yet another Los Angeles — apart fromtrips into the superterrestrial. Sometimes first-person narration is employed,less often third person. In the latter case, the protagonist is almost always “elle”(Lotte is an exception). In the first-person narration, the novelist determinedlyavoids using the speaker’s name. No other character addresses her by name.Very rarely does she address herself: “Ne t’adresse pas à Lexa, Vava” (347);“Laure est-tu d’Avignon ou de la Malbaie?” (128) (Do not address Lexa,Vava.” “Laura do you come from Avignon or Malbaie?”) It is difficult topuzzle out which sections are by the same narrator, difficult to decide whetherthe narration concerns the main characters or characters invented by them andwhether we are not in fact reading one of the manuscripts they are engaged inwriting. One looks for references to the places they visit, their interests,childhood memories, names of children, lovers, even cats, in one’s desperatesearch for clues. Finally one concludes that, if one were meant to know, onewould know.The successive sections may take the form of narration, letters, manuscriptswritten or submitted, accounts of trips (in more than one sense), of eveningsspent in the company of friends. We move from childhood memories to thetrivia of daily living, to writing, to fantasizing, to “le fun.” The women strugglewith the first sentence of a manuscript, they discuss problems of playproduction, they travel, they enjoy ecstatic unions with lovers, so ecstatic as tobe perhaps enacted in fantasy. We are immersed in the reality of women’slives, yet the mode is not that of realism. We do not ask ourselves: what kind ofperson is Rose, is Valva, how are they contrasted? We do not speculate aboutmotivation. Rather, the character is the motive or starting-point for the novel,as one of the women writers says when she has just created the character NaneYelle and is getting tired of her. What is to the fore is a collective female voiceand collective female experience. As Janet Paterson puts it: “...the inscriptionof the feminine I in the discourse produces an enunciative plurality...apolyphony of feminine voices...calls into question the myths of the unitarysubject and of a homogenous collective voice. 2 ” (317) Suzanne Lamy in herarticle on the novel 3 speaks only of “la dame en rose” (the woman in pink)rather than any of the women by name.Who does what, who writes what, does not matter. Together the women createa space in which “la vie en prose” is found to embrace “la vie en rose,” togetherthey explore how “words” relate to “things,” how one crosses the bridge fromreality into fiction, how the female subject makes her own, through a processof transformation, literary modes that were controlled by a literary institutionnot her own. Both Janet Paterson and Suzanne Lamy have provided perceptiveaccounts of how the leitmotif of rose runs through the novel; this is so much237


IJCS / RIÉCforegrounded that any discussion of the novel would remain incompletewithout it. If “la vie en rose” is life blooming rose pink, romantic, alluring, “lavie en prose” is the prosaic life of every day, life as it really is. The novel thenwould seem to represent the prosaic reality of life, composed of trivia,inconsequential, drifting. Characters relax discussing a film, they amusethemselves with plans for starting a café, they go off at a tangent. A charactertravels to California, it is hot, she puts the air conditioning at the maximum, shetakes off her shoes, lights a cigarette, misplaces it. Someone else is in theprocess of typing her book; she struggles with the uncooperative typewriter,watches a spider, recollects the story of Arachne. Even the detective novel oneof them is writing proceeds at a leisurely pace, noting trivia. This is what life is,far removed from the glamour of Hollywood or the dream world of women’smagazines.Yetla vie en prose” and “la vie en rose” are not polar opposites. While thenovelist is opting for the world of mundane reality as the material for fictionand rejecting the decorative, romantic model of femininity which is conjuredby the phrase “la vie en rose,” reality is not as mundane as would appear fromthe account just given. After all, the word “prose” contains within itself theword “rose.” “Rose” and “prose” are opposites yet “rose” is encompassedwithin “prose.” A distinctly festive, ludic air permeates the whole enterprise.The characters liven up their existence constantly. They have “le fun.” Andone does not require glamour to have “le fun.” One may sing a song from aHollywood movie but one may also sing a jingle made up by oneself. Thewoman in California referred to above has arrived in the middle of the night inan unfamiliar town. She tramps along, making the maximum noise, enjoys thesound her boots make, sings a soldier’s marching song, “These boots are madefor marching,” tap-dances. The women don fancy dress; they improviseplaylets.The word “rose” appears constantly in the text, together with an endlesssuccession of rose-coloured objects. 4 Within the first four pages we find acharacter named Rose, a film “Pink Lady,” a character in it who wears pinkpyjamas, a character in another film who thinks she is Rosa Luxemburg. Thecharacters wear pink dresses, salmon-coloured pants. (74) They eatwatermelon and a salad consisting of radishes, cantaloup, strawberries andyogurt with cherries. (74) The Godot one awaits is a lady in rose in a carriage.(39) Indeed the whole world of the novel is drenched, steeped, bathed in rose.Suzanne Lamy emphasizes this when she speaks of...la présence du rose qui colore toute La Vie en prose, donne satonalité à ce texte de prolifération où tout se passe au niveau descourants, des attitudes, avec tout l’inattendu de la vie... Il est leleitmotiv, l’object transitionnel en qui fusionnent les douceurs del’enfance, les robes claires et les sucreries. (114)(the presence of that rose tinge which colours the whole of La Vie enprose gives a kind of tonality to this proliferating text whereeverything takes place on the level of flow, of attitudes, with all theunexepectedness of life... It is the leitmotif, the transitional object inwhich are fused the joys of chilhood, the light dresses and the sweets.)238


Celebrating Women’s Language and Women’s SpaceFor her, all the characters are one character: la dame en rose.Her presence is pervasive — this lady in rose. She represents all the positivevalues of the novel. Her appearance is sometimes unexpected, sometimes theculmination of a joyous experience. The text foregrounds its writing in herpresence: “La femme en rose qui descendait l’escalier de ce texte...” (188)(The woman in rose who descends the stairs of this text.) “Il y a toujours unefemme en rose dans le paysage de ce roman comme il y a toujours du rosedepuis que j’en ai entendu la chanson...” (188) (There is always a woman inrose since I heard the song about it.) A lyrical vision of her is undercut by areflection that she is ultimately the creation of a novelist.Dans le ciel, ce soir, il y avait une spirale de nuages roses qui montaitdu soleil couchant. De la terrasse, on voyait la brume lever entre lescollines et des strates pastelles de jaune et de mauve et leseffilochures roses bougeaient dans le ciel. J’ai demandé à X s’ilvoyait ce personnage qui volait, là, dans la spirale. Il a dit: “Oui, lafemme en rose...,” ça parait qu’il lit le roman à mesure. Et c’était, oui,une femme en rose qui planait dans le ciel...(223)(In the sky that evening was a spiral of rosy clouds that ascended fromthe setting sun. From the terrace one saw the mist rising between thehillocks and bands of pastel yellows and mauves and ravelled strandsof rose swayed in the sky. I asked X if he could see that being, flyingthere in the spiral. He said: “Yes, the woman in rose...,” it appeared heis reading the instalments of the novel. And it was indeed a woman inrose who hovered in the sky.)However, the narrator is not disturbed if the vision does not materialize; if itsometimes exists, in a sense, it, always exists.Je n’ai pas vu passer de dame en rose en carosse sur un aquaducromain. C’était moi qui parcourait l’oasis de Gabès en fiacre... Et jen’étais qu’une dame en blanc... Et je trouvais que cela avait peud’importance. (232)(I have not seen any lady in rose passing in a carriage over a Romanaqueduct. It is I who was crossing the oasis of Gabès in a carriage...And I was only a woman in white... And I found that this was a matterof little importance.)Janet Paterson is thus led to conclude that “the quest for `la vie en rose’ isvalorized in spite of the banality of the cliché.” (319) I am not sure that I wouldsee it in terms of a quest. Rather, by embracing “la vie en prose” in a spirit ofjouissance one finds oneself plunged inla vie en rose.” It is as when a matchlands on the typewriter, jamming the key for “p.” (85) The issue is explicitlydiscussed in the novel; there is/is not a distinction between the two. “La vie enprose, parce que la distinction n’existe pas. C’est l’univers du rose : entre lerouge de la révolution et la blanche de la fête.” (129) “La vie en prose parce quela distinction n’existe pas...Si elle n’existe pas, elle existe, pourtant,simultanément.” (194) (La vie en prose because there is no distinction. It is theuniverse of rose between the red of revolution and the white of festival.) (Lavie en prose because the distinction does not exist...If it does not exist, it exists,however, simultaneously.)239


IJCS / RIÉCProse and rose employ a different language; prose spells out its meaningsthrough similes whereas rose metaphorizes itself, not dependent on anobserver to interpose with a “like.” Prose can constrain. “La vie l’avait à cepoint emporté sur la prose qu’aucun texte ne pourra jamais rendre compte detout ce qu’il y avait dans cet instant-là.” (221) (Life had, to such an extent,prevailed over prose that no text could ever comprehend all that the momentcontained.) Yet even prose in its attempt to grasp the fleeting moment movesbeyond the literal. “La vie, même en prose, va trop vite pour être prise au piedde la lettre.” (83) (Life, even in prose, passes too swiftly to be taken literally.)Imprisoned within prose one can yet call up rose divinities. “Je manque peutêtreun peu de vie depuis que je me suis enfermée à double tour dans la prose.Mais ce n’est que le temps d’une tsampa, le temps de faire lever ces divinitésroses comme le font ces lamas qui méditent pendant des années sur une déité desorte que cette déité prend réalité.” (194-195) (Something of life is missing forme since I am double-locked in prose. But it is only the time of a “tsampa” thetime to call up those rose divinities as do the lamas who meditate for years on adeity with the result that deity takes on reality.) Even if it corresponds to autopian ideal, the vision of rose enables women to create a space forthemselves, to live and move joyously and freely in that space. “Je veux voir lavie en rose et croire aux utopies.” (197) The rose that one discovers in the life ofprose is not the conventional glamour of “la vie en rose” but is no less a festive,celebratory rose.The themes of rose and of women’s space are foregrounded by the cover page.A woman in a short, loose-fitting pink dress appears to be jumping; the fact thather knees and thighs are firmly pressed together, though one foot is behind theother, suggests that this is what she is doing rather than running or steppingforward. She is in an aperture framed by pinkish brown walls with a similarwall in the rear. In the foreground is what could be a floor, towards the side aretwo tall objects, one of which could be either a drum or a cask. The picture thenis suffused with pink and the woman is acting freely in her own space,unconcerned about any observer. She is far from the sleek, curvaceous modelsassociated with the glamour of “la vie en rose” but lives “la vie en rose”nonetheless.However, it is most specifically through the act of writing that the womencreate a space for themselves. The text continually investigates therelationship of the feminine subject to language and to reality. Since thewomen are writers, Paterson argues that “...the enunciated is modified in itslinear progression by the systematic thematizing of the enunciation...Theenunciative situation directly affects the text by projecting upon it the presenceof the feminine subjects who are writing.” (320) In each section of the text (theenunciated), the reader is conscious of a writer producing this section, what itmeans to her to be writing it, the situation in which she is writing, the search forexpression. The act of enunciation is thus “thematized”; it is as much thesubject of the novel as anything the women may be doing.The actual process of writing is constantly foregrounded as is the fact that weare reading a novel and that sections of it are manuscripts composed by womencharacters in that novel. Several references to the novel “La Vie en prose” itself240


Celebrating Women’s Language and Women’s Spaceindicate that it is in process of composition. One can scarcely speak of a framenarrative and inset narratives, as one does with a novel like Hubert Aquin’sProchain Épisode, since not only is there scarcely any narrative which formsthe outer core, but even the manuscripts rarely tell a “story” of an imaginarycharacter; rather, they show us a woman writing — it could be Rose or Laure orNane herself or a first person voice in her manuscript. We even find a writershowing us another writer at work. Yolande Villemaire gives us a textcomposed by “Noémie Artaud,” probably the pen name of Nane, which showsus a woman (is it Nane Yelle?) watching a girl in a café scribbling as ifterrorized, and herself buying a notebook in which to write her journal. “LeLivre-Sphinx” which purports to be by “Gloria Olivetti” is more obviously atext composed by Nane, whose identity is betrayed by the heavy thump of herun-cooperative typewriter.Attention constantly focuses on the implements of writing: the pens, the paper,the notebooks that the women buy and use. Most prominent of these is Nane’stypewriter; its antics determine the actual course of her writing. She puts itsshortcomings to advantage: if it types only semi-colons, rather than blot themout, she adds idle details to entangle further. The defects in her machine forceher to branch out, generate paragraphs. Literary criticism of a traditional kindused to speak of how a character “ran away’ with the author, assumedproportions and occcupied a space far from the author’s original plan. Morerecent criticism demonstrates how words assume control, and we shall turnpresently to instances of this in the novel. But here is a case where the purelymechanical process of writing takes over and determines the style and theactual content.The play of language, the play of words, syntactic lapses which gender newmeanings, all such processes which go beyond the author’s volition, serve asmeans by which the woman writer encourages language to lead her into newspaces. Meanings proliferate to a point where it is useless to call to mind theliteral sense of words (or of things)....“le sens prolifère à ce point que de merappeler le sens littéral des mots et des choses ne m’est plus d’aucun secours.”(191)Sheer play is evident in a short letter signed by “Lisle”:Je t’écris dans le vide et c’est comme écrire un roman; et dans “La Vieen prose” il y a “lives near Poe,” ce qui s’écrit sur un air de chat-chatchatet de mystère. (101)(I write in the void and it is like writing a novel; and in La Vie en prosethere is “lives near Poe,” which writes itself with an air of chat-chatchat[a play on cha-cha-cha and the French for cat] and mystery.)One form that the game takes is to launch into a sentence which continuesindefinitely with relative clauses and adverbial clauses leading us far from theoriginal topic of discourse. The game sometimes reinforces the themes of thetext; an instance already discussed at length is the play on “rose” and “prose”.Another instance is the reinforcement of the presence of a collectivity ofwomen in the novel by inventing names ending in the same sound as “elle”(she), such as Rose Vel, Nane Yelle, Laure de son nom d’Aurel, Yvelle. The241


IJCS / RIÉCinvented character Rose Vel employs such play herself when she says she hasadopted this name because, though it sounds beautiful, it is actually the nameof a washing soap and the life of women is a combination of looking pretty anddoing the washing — “faire la belle et faire la vaisselle.” (70)A point to which stylisticians direct attention is “syntactic foregrounding,” themanner in which syntax is either indicative of a “mind style” or else “enacts”the theme. Here, on the other hand, it is the unexpected syntactic lapses thatsuddenly open up new vistas.Je commence à être si habile à détecter mes lapsus syntagmatiquesque ça risque de n’avoir bientôt plus aucun intérêt. C’est très jaunescabces mots qu’on imagine neutres; ils passent leur temps àtraverser les piquets de grève et se mettent le cœur joyeusement àl’ouvrage pendant que le boss, tout content, s’empresse de fairefusiller les grévistes de Five Roses. (198)(I have begun to be so skillful in detecting my syntactic lapses that Irun the risk of losing all interest in this soon. These words that oneimagines to be neutral, are really scab-yellow, spending their timeslipping through the picket lines of the strikers and setting to workjoyfully while the boss, fully satisfied, engages himself in having thestrikers of “Five Roses” gunned down.)The reversal of values implied here is clever and unexpected for the strikers arethe monitors of language conventions and norms of discourse rather thanrebels and the scabs are not disloyal to a cause but rather set to workundermining such conventions and norms. The analogy leads off to an actualevent when the boss had the strikers fired on, after which, speaking of thisanalogy, the writer once again makes words responsible for approximating apersonal story to the regional, national or international reality. “Ce sont lesmots qui ont tendance à confondre l’histoire personnelle à l’actualitérégionale, nationale ou internationale.” (199)The writers puzzle over the relation between reality and fiction. For themfiction is not a straightforward transcript of reality, though they do at times tellstories which are little more than a transcription of the trivial, prosaic minutiaeof day-to-day living. There are times when the fiction transports the writer toan alien world where the colours are brighter, sensations keener,contradictions sharper than in our world. After one such hallucinatoryexperience, the writer is terrified. “...[j]’ai compris que j’étais...dans le lieu demon roman. Peut-être aussi de l’autre côté de ce pont que j’ai si peur detraverser et que je franchis pourtant, toutes les nuits, dans mes rêves.” (119) (Irealized that I was in the world of my novel. Perhaps also on the other side ofthat bridge which I so fear to cross and which I traverse so speedilynevertheless every night in my dreams). Yet if strange and comical things canhappen in life, why may they not in fiction? “Elle se dit que, puisqu’il arrive dedrôles de choses au temps dans la vie...il pourrait bien en arriver dans lesromans.” (105) Not for these women however is there a post-modern doubtingof reality itself. “Rien ne vaut l’expérimentation quand on se met à douter duréel, ce qui revient, assez paradoxalement, au même qu’à douter de la fiction.”242


Celebrating Women’s Language and Women’s Space(160) (Experimentation is of no value if one starts to doubt reality, whichamounts, rather paradoxically, to doubting fiction.)The struggle for words, either to capture the essence of the real, or to compose afiction, is a constant preoccupation. “Elle se rappelle...que la langue, mêmematernelle, ne peut pas tout dire d’un coup...” (86) (She recollects thatlanguage, even the mother tongue, cannot say everything at one go.) She hasrecourse to varied strategies.Elle imagine de n’écrire qu’au présent pour retenir le cours des choseset renverser le courant. Ce qui se pose là comme dilemme effrayant,c’est la question des mots et des choses et de ce qui a priorité pour éviterles chicanes et les accidents. (87)(She imagines writing only in the present tense to maintain the flowof things and reverse the current. What poses itself as a frightfuldilemma is the issue of words and things and of which should havepriority in order to avoid trickery and accidents.)She comes to the realization that it is the silences that one must hear and thensomehow write if one is to comprehend and communicate what life has to say.Words appear sometimes too weak, a moment later too strong as they imposethemselves. She is not afraid of such contradictions.Les mots sont fort hélas et ont tendance à s’imposer contrel’hémisphère du silence: j’aimerais arriver à écrire des silences quis’entendent. Mais les mots tendent à la détente: les mots jasent et letexte est ravi par l’anecdote. (129)(Words are strong alas and have a tendency to impose themselvesagainst the hemisphere of silence. I would like to reach the pointwhen I can write the silences which listen to themselves. But wordstend to slacken: words jabber and the text is ravished by anecdote.)As everywhere in this text, ideas are not set forth systematically ordogmatically; they are, as it were, spun off by the play on words.Intertextual as well as intratextual references are integral to the enunciation.We have echoes of innumerable writers — Proust, Brossard, Aquin, of popularsongs, of films and comics — Minnie Mouse and Bionic Woman. At one levelthis is sheer play, at another it sets up resonances, the words of the textabsorbing into themselves associations set up by the original text and, in theirturn, reflecting back upon the original, meanings which will henceforth attachthemselves to it. According to Paterson, the frequency of allusions and echoesrelating to women writers and to Quebec writers, on the one hand celebratesthe plurality and heterogeneity of women writers and, on the other hand,presents the literature of Quebec as a culture available to all.I would like to expand on one instance of intertextuality as well asintratextuality which brings together many of the most significant meanings inthe text. This is the reference to the French song:Sur le pont d’AvignonOn y danse, on y danse.Sur le pont d’AvignonOn y danse tout en rond.243


IJCS / RIÉC(On the bridge at Avignon one dances in a ring.)The ring is central to the text. The women who write and edit are friends whoshare their experiences, advise, suggest, never compete. They form a ring,complete and self-sufficent. The structure of the novel could also be said toform a ring, as it closes in on itself, though the image of a web or spiral might bemore appropriate. (There is an article on the structure by Lise Potvin but I havenot been able to see it in her terms.) 5The dance is also central to this festive text. The women quite often literallydance joyously, dancing right through the night. In an episode which we arelater told is set on the moon, “il” and “elle,” he and she, dance for hours,absorbed in their dance. In another fantasy sequence, Mata Hari and herpartner dance without touching, in perfect synchrony and could so dance evenif one of them were at the Atlantic, the other at the North Pole. For thethousandth fraction of a second, Nane has glimpsed the sacred dance of Shiva,the “lila.” She dances to the sound of a flute on the stairs at Urbino where she issupposed to be attending a course of lectures by Todorov. She can dance forhours, alone or with others. But it is always with the lover, the “angel,”addressed as “you” that she dances “la vie en rose.” “Je peux danser, touteseule, ou avec d’autres, pendant des heures. Mais c’est toujours avec toi quandje danse la vie en rose.” (227)If the dance represents the “jouissance” or ecstacy that the novel celebrates, thebridge suggests sometimes union, sometimes its impossibility (howcharacteristic of Villemaire that it should do both), sometimes a passage, whilesometimes it is simply the locale for the dance. There are bridges betweenfiction and reality, between the known and the unknown. There are bridgeswhich both unite and separate lovers. “La dame en rose” is seen crossing thebridge. That the bridge, the dance and the colour “rose” are highly significantin the novel is highlighted by the fact that frequently all three or at least two ofthem appear in conjunction. A shop near the bridge at Avignon on which Laurehas danced sells curios which are blue in sunshine, pink when it rains, andmauve when the weather is uncertain. Later, following a passage where shewrites of love-making so ecstatic that it carries her to the Milky Way and to thewomb, she asks herself: “Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette danse que tu danses enrond sur le pont, au bout du quai, sur le traversier?” (128) (What is this dancethat you dance in a ring, on the bridge, at the end of the quay, on the crossing?)One reference seems to shed light on the rather puzzling setting in which thewoman in pink is situated on the cover page: “Je ne sais qu’y sauter à piedsjoints pour les défoncer ou n’y danser qu’en rond?”(117) (I do not knowwhether one jumps there [on bridges] with feet together in order to smash themor only to dance there in a ring.) Is it a bridge on which the woman in the pictureis placed or which she is approaching? It certainly does not appear to be so andthere is nothing destructive about her stance, but this is one of only tworeferences we have to jumping as against dancing. The second reference givesus a clue to a fresh interpretation:Je suis encore paralysée, assise à une extrémité du pont pendant quetoi, assis à l’autre extrémité, tu me fais signe de la tête que oui, oui, il244


Celebrating Women’s Language and Women’s Spaceexiste, le pont. Est-ce que c’est avant ou après que je l’ai défoncé ensautant dessus à pieds joints, je ne sais plus...(225-226)Un jour, je vais m’arrêter, je vais sortir ma vieille robe rose et je vaism’avancer sur ce pont. J’avance déjà...Pourquoi c’est si difficile demarcher sur ce pont-là? Ce ne sont que des cordes...Où est-ce quej’allais, est-ce que je n’y vais pas encore? Comment un pont que l’ona déjà défoncé peut-il ne l’être pas? C’était le pont de l’étage audessus,c’est ça? (226)( I am again paralysed, seated at one extremity of the bridge, whileyou, seated at the other extremity, make a sign with your head to saythat yes, yes, it exists, the bridge. Is this before or after I have smashedit, leaping on it with feet together, I don’t know any more...One day I am going to stop, I am going to get out my old rosecoloureddress and I am going to advance along that bridge. I amadvancing already...why is it so difficult to walk on this bridge?There are only ropes. Where was it I went? Am I not going thereagain? How can a bridge still be there when one has already destroyedit? It’s the bridge leading to the stage above, is it?)While the world of the novel is very much our world, there are repeated foraysinto other worlds, other dimensions. In many cases, the writers are trying theirhand at space fiction, in some they are trying to find metaphors to convey theecstasy of love-making. Sometimes they might be drug-inducedhallucinations. But Yolande Villemaire herself is seriously interested in Indianphilosophy and religion, and one concludes that some of these episodes areintended to describe genuine transcendental experiences. The bridge then isperhaps the bridge to the next stage, the stage that follows earthly existence.“La vie en rose,” entrancing though it is, though it was eminently worthwhileto have lived it, must ultimately be abandoned if one is to advance along thisbridge. Paradoxically this bridge must be destroyed, the ties with the worldmust be severed yet having broken it one still needs it to move on. The bridgeopens up new spaces for women.The bridge also extends between lovers. A digression on the role of romanticlove in women’s space is called for here; writing on a text which is a tissue ofdigressions, one need hardly apologize for making one oneself. Several of thefirst-person narrators describe a state of yearning, abandonment, ecstacy quitein keeping with the tradition of romantic love, an explicitly physical loveculminating in physical union. The floating signifiers — rose, the dance, thebridge — are often associated with these experiences or states of mind. One ortwo of them have already been quoted: “C’est toujours avec toi que je danse lavie en rose.”Is love then one of the positives in this world of women, love conceived notvery differently from what is traditionally expected in the man-womanrelationship? Unlike some other Quebec women writers, such as NicoleBrossard, Villemaire does not valorize lesbian relationships as an alternativewhich offers more space, more authenticity. Is the relationship shown asconstricting, as well as fulfilling? Are the writers simply practising their craft?Is there an element of parody? In the beginning one feels this may be so whenthe protagonist in the manuscript by Noémie Artaud longs for her lover,245


IJCS / RIÉCrecollects the feel of his skin, but has forgotten his name and declares: “Je n’aipas envie de cette passion.” (13, 33) (I have no desire for this passion.) But howis the reader meant to respond to the intensity of the passion experienced by anunidentifiable narrator with an angel (75), of Laure with “toi” (127), of Nanewith Djinny (whom she calls her twin), of Vava with Lexa (which is the nameof a character in a novel by Nicole Brossard)? Is it in imagination or in realitythat “le souffle chaud de l’huître de ta bouche dissipe le goût du métal et la rosede ton sexe contre le mien fleurit dans une nappe d’eau noire et lisse poudréed’or.” (297) (The warm breath of the oyster of your mouth dissipates the tasteof metal and the rose of your sex against mine flowers in a sheet of water,black, smooth, powdered with gold.)Extending the realm of experience and expression, enjoying in imaginationwhat she may never have known in reality, the woman writer claims for herselfthe right to live and to express herself as a sexual being.In an issue of the journal Tessera, the Quebec writer and critic Louise Dupréspeaks of the need to discover a women’s language.To affirm our women’s language, de-centred, eccentric in relation tothe symbolic, changeable, passionate, and linked to the semioticchora. As in the subversion of the norm, as in prosody, as in thelanguage of gentle madness, as in laughter. Where women talkamong themselves in open and in-finite communications, where theywrite in the feminine in their fictions, where they talk nonsense inrelation to the law, to power, to the forces of power, so as toundermine them. (35) 6Barbara Godard, writing on the Quebec women’s enterprise, lays stress ontheir relation to language. 7 For them, there is no pre-existing reality which theyseek to translate into language. Rather, they inscribe themselves in the body oflanguage. Writing, for them, is not transcription, but inscription, a means ofresisting language through a foregrounding of process.La Vie en prose demonstrates the woman writer finding her own language, decentred,drawing from the semiotic chora though not altogether abandoningthe symbolic, talking nonsense, laughing, subverting. Woman inscribesherself and experiences herself as subject, breaking from the tradition whichtreated her as object. The women in the novel have entered what wastraditionally men’s sphere, the world of work. They take it seriously, but also itis “le fun.” Publishing brings them to texts both as writers and readers.Through producing women’s texts they create space for women.Notes1. Yolande Villemaire, La Vie en prose (Montréal: Les herbes rouges, 1980). Page referencesindicated in the body of the text.2. Janet Paterson, “A Poetics of Transformation: Yolande Villemaire’s La Vie en prose,” inAmazing Space eds. Shirley Neuman and Smaro Kamboureli (Edmonton: Longspoon andNeWest, 1986), pp. 315-323. Page references indicated in the body of the text. A Frenchversion of the same article, “Le postmoderne au féminin: La Vie en prose” is to be found inher book Moments Postmodernes dans le roman Québéçois (Ottawa: Les Presses del’Université d’Ottawa, 1990) pp. 83-93.246


Celebrating Women’s Language and Women’s Space3. Suzanne Lamy, “Subversion en rose” in Féminité, Subversion, Écriture eds. Suzanne Lamyand Irène Pagès (Les éditions du remue-ménage, 1983), pp. 107-118.4. The French term “rose” means “pink.” I preferred to retain the term “rose” though it mayconjure up for an English-speaking reader a rose-red rather than a rose-pink. This is partly forreasons of euphony, partly because Indian pinks are sometimes rather garish. But moreimportantly, the prose-rose dichotomy is lost if one translates the term, as is the link with thephrase “la vie en rose.” Lamy also points out that rose is an anagram for “Eros” and for “oser”(to dare).5. Lise Potvin, “L’Ourobouros est un serpent qui se mord la queue XZ,” Voix et images 33,Printemps 1986.6. Louise Dupré, “The Doubly Complicit Memory,” Tessera 1, Jan 1984 (Published as Room ofOne’s Own Vol 8, No. 4).7. Barbara Godard, “Writing and difference: Women writers of Quebec and English-Canada,”in the feminine, proceedings of conference Women and Words 1983 (Longspoon Press,1985).247


Gillian WhitlockThe Silent Scribe:Susanna and “Black Mary”AbstractIn January 1831, in the house of Thomas Pringle, Susanna Strickland was theamanuensis of the first autobiography published by a slave woman in Britain,The History of Mary Prince. Here, this connection is used to reflect upon thenature of the relationship between two post-colonial subjects, the pioneer andthe emancipated slave, and to place Moodie’s autobiographical writings in thecontext of recent debates about white femininity in the Empire.RésuméEn janvier 1831, chez Thomas Pringle, Susanna Strickland est la copiste de lapremière autobiographie publiée par une esclave en Grande-Bretagne, TheHistory of Mary Prince. Ce lien servira de réflexion sur la nature de la relationentre deux sujets post-coloniaux, la pionnière et l’esclave affranchie, et sur laplace de l’écriture autobiographique de Moodie dans le contexte des débatsrécents eu égard à la fémininité de la race blanche dans l’Empire britannique.In the November 1971 edition of Canadian Notes and Queries, Carl Ballstadtnoted Susanna Moodie’s earlier interest in the abolition movement. Fewpeople are aware that she was the amanuensis of the first autobiographypublished by a slave woman in Britain, The History of Mary Prince. Ballstadt’sdiscussion of this is brief, a “note” as the title suggests. It reappears in his coeditedvolume Susanna Moodie. Letters of a Lifetime (1985), for in lateJanuary 1831, Susanna Strickland wrote to her friends James and Emma Bird:I have been writing Mr Pringle’s black Mary’s life from her owndictation and for her benefit adhering to her own simple story andlanguage without deviating to the paths of flourish or romance. It is apathetic little history and is now printing in the form of a pamphlet tobe laid before the Houses of Parliament. Of course my name does notappear. Mr Pringle has added a very interesting appendix and I hopethe work will do much good... (Ballstadt et al., 1985, 57)Despite some ten years of Moodie scholarship this incident had entirelyescaped my attention. Its revelation finally came not through Canadianmaterials, but via a recent edition of the autobiography edited by MoiraFerguson. In her “Introduction,” Ferguson notes:In London in 1827, when [Mary Prince] escaped, she was employedas a domestic servant by Thomas Pringle, the Methodist secretary ofthe Anti-Slavery Society and the editory of her History. Pringle’sfriend, Susanna Strickland, recently a Methodist convert, hadInternational Journal of Canadian Studies / Revue internationale d’études canadiennes11, Spring/Printemps 1995


IJCS / RIÉCtranscribed Mary Prince’s narrative while she lived as a guest inPringle’s home sometime during 1829 or 1830.In a footnote, Ferguson observes that she has found no evidence that SusannaStrickland Moodie ever referred to her transcription of two stories, that ofMary Prince and of another slave, Ashton Warner. She did however include apoem entitled “An Appeal to the Free” in Enthusiasm; and Other Poems(1831).The impact of finding Strickland’s hand in the Prince autobiography remainswith me still, and it was perceptibly a revelation to many when I first related thestory of Strickland and Prince to a Canadian audience in 1992. This paper doesnot aim to present more detail or to recover any later references by Moodie tothe episode. Rather, it explores how this fragment, this glimpse of the youngerwoman, might infect our thinking about her later work, beyond Ballstadt’sobservation of it as an interesting footnote or embellishment upon what wealready know. We will approach it as an episode which causes us to reflectupon how we know Moodie, and how we read the later texts. As Ballstadtsuggests, the Mary Prince episode offers an insight into Susanna Strickland’shumanitarianism. However, it also gives us a text to compare to Roughing it inthe Bush, a glimpse prior to that moment of arrival, which provides a differentcontext for thinking about that moment in terms of race, gender andcolonialism.For most readers, the fascination with Moodie begins with the very firstglimpse of the young immigrant in Roughing it in the Bush: her account of thegradual progress up the St.Lawrence to Grosse Isle and beyond into thebackwoods. This sketch dramatises all the confusion and false expectations ofarrival by perpetually deconstructing the cultural baggage brought by themiddle-class wife and mother; this text is frequently used to anchorinterpretations of Moodie’s autobiographical writing. Recently, feministreadings of this sketch in particular have placed its narrator as a figure ofmothering, a narrator who uses her “mother tongue”: “Moodie not only bringsinto textual existence a universe populated by mothers and their offspring, butis always also ... marked herself/marks herself as a figure of mothering.”(Freiwald, 1990: 156) The originating moment of Moodie’s story, the decisionto emigrate, is presented as a specifically maternal moment by Moodie herself.In Freiwald’s analysis, the maternal gaze is a primary constituent of Moodie’snarrative perspective. There is always a child at Moodie’s side — how manycritics have noticed this?Most recently, Helen Buss developed this approach further in her study ofCanadian women’s autobiographical writing. Buss laments that the “desiring,suffering, yearning, nurturing, loving body of a woman, a body Moodie spokeof to her husband in their private letters, has always been left out of ourreadings of Roughing.” (Buss, 1993: 85) In turn, Buss desires to return toRoughing it in the Bush and find that woman’s body, along with thesubjectivity radicalized, the agency created, by the suffering and loving of thatbody. Like Freiwald, Buss also focusses on “A Visit to Grosse Isle” as our firstglimpse of “the narrating Susanna,” “a woman who is herself physicallyperforming a very gendered nursing function, a woman who is quite literally a250


The Silent Scribe: Susanna and “Black Mary”connective tissue, a plural self who cannot help but find identity in alterity.”(Buss, 1993:88)Reading Moodie in terms of gender and maternity in particular, as Buss andFreiwald contend, opens some new possibilities for considering a number ofthe Roughing it sketches as autobiography. However, work remains toarticulate this maternity in historical and political terms, and to understand thefunction of mothering beyond the psychoanalytic perspectives which haveguided work in this area to date. As Helen Buss points out, psychoanalyticmodels can infer essential and ahistorical truths which fail to recognise theconfigurations of different gender constructions in different times. This is ourpoint of departure: by bringing together Susanna Strickland and Mary Prince,we will explore the different voices available to women autobiographers at aprecise point in time — during the surge in abolitionist and early feministdiscourses of the 1820s and 1830s and into the early Victorian cult ofdomesticity — and to understand their subjectivities in terms of post-colonialperspectives. The earlier incarnation of Susanna Strickland as the silentamanuensis in the household of Thomas Pringle, the means by which another,quite different, autobiographical text emerges, is not only intriguing but alsorelevant to our view of the young mother who landed — ever so briefly — atGrosse Isle.The “other” autobiography here, The History of Mary Prince, A West IndianSlave, Related By Herself, is an unlikely document which made Prince the firstblack, British spokeswoman for general emancipation. You may well ask howwe came by an autobiography of a woman born into slavery in the CrownColony of Bermuda in 1788. Prince’s History tells us that she was first sold asan infant, then again in 1805 as an adolescent, and again as a woman in hertwenties. Each time, her History records experiences of degradation andbrutality which reach their depths on the salt ponds of Turks Island. She wassold for a fourth and final time to a merchant in Antigua, who took her toEngland in 1828 as his laundress. Here, at the height of the anti-slaverycampaign, Mary Prince’s plight came to the attention of the Anti-SlaverySociety and she took refuge as a maid in the Claremont Square house ofThomas Pringle, the Secretary of the Society, mentor to Susanna Stricklandand close friend of John Dunbar Moodie, whom he had known in South Africa.So it was that a Caribbean slave came to tell her story: “I was born in Brackish-Pond, in Bermuda, on a farm belonging to Mr Charles Myners. My mother wasa household slave; and my father, whose name was Prince, was a sawyer...”Prince, 1986:47).As Susanna Strickland points out in her letter to James and Emma Bird, “Ofcourse my name does not appear.” In his “Preface to the first edition,” writtenat Claremont Square in January 1831, Thomas Pringle also reservesStrickland’s anonymity:The narrative was taken down from Mary’s own lips by a lady whohappened to be at the time residing in my family as a visitor. It waswritten out fully, with all the narrator’s repetitions and prolixities,and afterwards pruned to its present shape; retaining, as far as was251


IJCS / RIÉCpracticable, Mary’s exact expressions and peculiar phraseology.(Prince, 1986:45)The authenticity of the History was vital, and the issue of verification isaddressed in the Preface quoted above and in the Appendices whichproliferated with each further edition of the History, which went into threeeditions within months of its initial publication in 1831. In the third edition, thesource of the 1986 reprint, Prince’s History is encrusted with prefatory text,footnotes added by Thomas Pringle, several postscripts and an editorialsupplement, all of which in some ways address Prince’s veracity and moralcharacter. Indeed, the unlikeliness of an autobiographical document of thiskind is evidenced by the labour of the Pringle circle to stress Mary Prince’sagency in the making of the text, and to assert her status as autobiographer withall the attendant claims to truth and authorship. Mary Prince assists herself as aspeaking, acting, thinking subject with an identity separate from Anglo-Africanist constructions of her past and present reality (Ferguson, 1992:282),yet her address to the British public is mediated by the interests and concerns ofher patron and his Society’s campaign for abolition. Prince’s History alerts usto the conditions and the limits of autobiography, and how these parametersare shaped by cultural, political and historical factors.Strickland’s role is vital. Prince herself addresses the role of the amanuensis inthe conclusion to the History: “I will say the truth to English people who mayread this history that my good friend, Miss S- , is now writing down for me.”(Prince, 1986:84) As Moira Ferguson suggests in her recent lengthy discussionof the History, by way of thanking Strickland, Mary Prince affirms her ownstatus as interlocutor, claiming her narrative before the very eyes of Pringleand her transcriber, her public mediators and guarantors as it were: “In anotheremphatic power reversal, the amanuensis has become an archetypal slaveotherwho takes orders and generates wealth (in this case textual wealth)simultaneously, an embodiment of Mary Prince’s literacy.” (1992: 292)Mary Prince’s History stands as a representative account; she speaks of and forall slaves: “I know what slaves feel — I can tell by myself what other slavesfeel...” (1986: 84). Yet her right to speak results from her position as anemancipated slave able to authenticate the anti-slavery case at a particularjuncture of this campaign in Britain in 1831. The History is filtered via the penof the amanuensis and the scrutiny of the editor, Pringle, who is her first reader.Both of these intermediaries render her life and character “intelligible” to theBritish public by drawing on the religious and political discourses of the antislaverycampaign. An overwhelming sense of readership, of audience,pervades the History: the character of the narrative is shaped genericallyaccording to the form of the British slave narrative which, in 1830, prescribed aparticularly limited sense of the intersections between gender and race in thelife history of slave women. And yet, the text, as Ferguson alleges, is riddledwith the marks of “double discourse,” of Mary Prince’s refusal to be the silent,fictive object of colonial discourse. Like the later pioneering sketches of heramanuensis, Prince’s autobiography has multiple voices which speak of thepost-colonial body in various and duplicitious ways.252


The Silent Scribe: Susanna and “Black Mary”However, Susanna Strickland’s role went beyond that of the silent scribe. Theanonymous amanuensis, the “lady visitor” Miss S-, becomes an identified andauthoritative spectator in a scene described in an Appendix to the third editionof the History. This Appendix was added by Pringle following inquiries “fromvarious quarters respecting the existence of marks of severe punishment onMary Prince’s body.” Pringle, 1986: 119) So Mary Pringle writes to MrsTownsend, one of the secretaries of the Birmingham Ladies’ Society for Reliefof Negro Slaves, from Claremont Square on March 28, 1831:In order to put you in possession of such full and authentic evidence,respecting the marks on Mary Prince’s person... I beg to add to myown testimony that of Miss Strickland (the lady who wrote down inthis house the narratives of Mary Prince and Ashton Warner),together with the testimonies of my sister Susan and my friend MissMartha Browne — all of whom were present and assisted me this dayin a second inspection of Mary’s body. (1986:120)The women provide a testimonial, “full and authentic evidence,” that “thewhole back part of her body is severely scarred, and, as it were, chequered,with the vestiges of severe floggings.” “[T] here are many large scars on otherparts of her person, exhibiting an appearance as if the flesh had been deeplycut, or lacerated with gashes, by some instrument wielded by most unmercifulhands.” (1986:119)From the body viewed at the end of Mary Prince’s History, gender and thesexuality of the female body are visible only in particular ways of knowing.For the purposes of this autobiography, Prince’s body is viewed in terms of herrace and status. Ferguson has argued that the British slave narrative makes itaxiomatic that Mary Prince’s personhood and her soul be seen to prevail overher gender and her flesh. These are the terms in which she can speak and berecognised in this time and place. Here, as is so often the case, the body is seento represent truth, flesh cannot lie; however, the markings which are read areno less culturally specific than the narrative copied in the main body of theHistory. The women attest to the marks of flogging on Mary Prince’s body.Flogging had become a critical issue in provincial women’s anti-slaverypropaganda campaigns throughout the 1820s:In fact, flogging was one of the worst punishments evangelicalwomen could imagine — especially, but not only, in the case offemales — since it combined absolute control and remorseless abuseof the female body by males.... Flogging, in a word, was anti-Christian. Worst of all, it was a public act, involving an exposednakedness and an unsolicited male gaze, sometimes even attractingspectators and enthusiasts. (Ferguson, 1992: 293)The scene described by Mrs Pringle in the Appendix can be read as the obverseof this public spectacle in terms of the male gaze; the context here is private andbenevolent, for only women view the scars. Ferguson points out that Princewould have operated well within her rights (as evangelicals conceived ofthem) to refuse their request to view her body on the grounds of modesty. Shenot only permits but probably desires her body to be used in this way, as a spaceof inscription, for it offers a rare opportunity to speak her history corporeally tothe world. (Ferguson, 1992: 295)253


IJCS / RIÉCThe increasingly complex relationship between Mary Prince and heramanuensis, Susanna Strickland, which developed at Claremont Square in1831 is intriguing. At a critical conjuncture in debates about race and property,gender and class, the emancipated slave woman recites a text locatedsomewhere between biography and autobiography as they are traditionallyconceived. Physically, these women are adjacent and yet worlds apart.Ultimately, the inscriptions of flogging upon the body of the Caribbeanwoman, a body made grotesque by abuse, are what speaks authentically to theBritish public. However, these marks are not mentioned by Mary herself, butby the woman who is auditor and spectator, Susanna Strickland.No simple equation can be made between these women on the basis of theirgender. Nor can we establish a relationship by recourse to terms of doubled,tripled colonisations of women. Race, gender, class and nation have imprintedthese bodies in very different ways. Their different locations alert us to theappropriateness of Denise Riley’s description of women as a “volatilecollectivity.” Female persons, she says, “can be very differently positioned sothat the apparent continuity of the subject `women’ isn’t to be relied on;`women’ is both synchronically and diachronically erratic as a collectivity ...for the individual `being a woman’ is also inconstant.” (Riley, 1988: 2) Riley’sidea of the volatile collectivity of women alerts us to instability and change notonly across the range of women’s experiences but also within the life of theindividual. Characterisations of women vary historically and socially betweenwomen and within the life history of one woman. Mary Prince and heramanuensis are a forceful example of how women are positioned verydifferently synchronically, and how different are the voices which allow themaccess to the public at any one time. They also remind us that, as critics ofautobiography, women’s access to the status of autobiographer is negotiatedthrough a kind of middle passage, from which subjectivity emerges bearing theimprints of experience and culture, self and society. The body is embedded inhistory.The relationship between Mary Prince and Susanna Strickland alerts us to theradically different positionings of women synchronically, but also to thevariations of gender and sexuality experienced in a single life. SusannaStrickland Moodie, no less than Mary Prince, should be read as a post-colonialsubject. Silent as she is