They come from different backgrounds and took different paths to success. Some used politics to achieve power and influence, while others decided that they could get greater results by organizing the downtrodden. But one common thread runs through their lives: they have all been prominent in the struggle for women ’s rights.
During the 1940s, when she was beginning a career as a labor organizer and union activist, Parent recalls that some of her opponents flung personal remarks at her—in the hope, she said, of breaking her spirit. But Parent, at the time a recent sociology graduate from Montreal’s McGill University, said that she remained unfazed by allegations that she was a prostitute, a lesbian and a Communist. Instead, she persevered toward her goal of improving the conditions of workers—especially women in low-wage industries. To that end, she fought Quebec’s textile barons to unionize the industry during the Second World War with considerable success. After the war she and her husband, Kent Rowley, continued to organize workers in low-paying jobs, and the couple often took part in bitter picket line confrontations. Widowed since 1978 and retired for the past four years, Parent, 69, is the Quebec representative on the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, which is partly funded by the Secretary of State. Declared Parent: “Women made very important progress in the 1960s and early 1970s in the fight for equality and against discrimination. But I think the greatest long-term accomplishment has been the changing of attitudes toward women.”
The deputy premier of Manitoba argues that simply “growing up female” provided sufficient reason to spark her interest in feminism. She added that she identified with the 1963 book The Feminine Mystique by U.S. author Betty Friedan and that it increased her awareness of feminist issues. In 1981 the former high-school counsellor first entered the provincial legislature as a New Democratic Party member representing a Winnipeg riding. Since then, she has been deputy premier in Premier Howard Pawley’s six-year-old NDP administration and now serves as labor and housing minister as well as minister responsible for the status of women.
While minister of community services, Smith, 57, actively supported the government’s pay equity bill, which the legislature passed in 1985. Under that act, Manitoba became the first province to ensure equal pay for female public
servants who performed work of the same value as services provided by a man in a different job. Declared Smith: “Pay equity is a major accomplishment. If lots of us had not been talking about this for 15 years, it never would have come about.”
Growing up in Calgary during the Depression, Anderson says, made her acutely aware of the bleak options available to women. In 1951 Anderson landed a job as advertising-editorial co-ordinator in the advertising department of Maclean Hunter’s Chatelaine magazine. Six years later, after working her way through the ranks, she became the magazine’s editor, a position that she held for 20 years. During that time Anderson transformed the magazine. Instead of concentrating exclusively on recipes and beauty tips, she regularly commissioned articles on such controversial subjects as abortion. And during her tenure she saw the monthly magazine’s subscription and newsstand sales grow from 425,000 to almost one million. Anderson, 61, now writes a weekly column on women’s issues for The Toronto Star. She said that while there has been some progress toward true equality for women, “it’s depressing to read the writings of prominent pre-First World War women and find
out they were talking about the same things we’re talking about today.”
In 1973 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to grant an Alberta divorcée, Irene Murdoch, a share of the family farm that she had helped develop during her 25-year marriage. That decision outraged Patricia Cooper— and, she said, prompted her to begin fighting for women’s rights. Declared Cooper, a Winnipeg schoolteacher at the time: ‘T grew up with the assumption that laws treated men and women equally.” Among her recent achievements, she helped found the Alberta Coalition Against Pornography in 1984. And a year later she played a prominent role in the creation of the Legal Education Action Fund —an influential women’s legal advocacy group that operates across the country. Now western vice-president of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Coöper, 41, said that she believes the women’s movement is still strong. Declared Cooper: “Some people say we’ve reached a plateau. But maybe social action isn’t as much on the agenda as women move into decision-making positions.”
Last year former Saturday Night magazine editor Robert Fulford described Michele Landsberg as “one of the most eloquent feminist journalists in Canada.” Married to former -
Ontario NDP leader SteDulude: aggressive phen Lewis, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, and mother of two girls and a boy—they range in age between 17 and 22—48year-old Landsberg recalled her childhood realization that society placed limits on girls’ aspirations. Declared Landsberg: “I grew up in a world in which I was a second-class person because I was female.”
After her graduation in 1962 from the University of Toronto, Landsberg began writing for the Toronto Globe and Mail,
where she stayed for three years. But in 1971, after six years of freelancing while she stayed at home with her children, she began writing a column and feature articles for Chatelaine. She currently writes a weekly column on women’s issues for the Globe. Landsberg admits that, at times, progress for the women’s
movement seems painfully slow. “I think that economically we are still very much behind, but there have been tremendous changes in consciousness since the 1960s.”
Brown, 57, says that she is keenly aware that she now serves as a role model for many women considering a career in politics. Still, it was not until the late 1960s—more than 10 years after she had moved to Canada from her native Ja-
_ maica to study social
work at Montreal’s McGill University—that Brown became involved in the women’s movement. After McGill, she moved to Vancouver to take her master’s degree in social work at the University of British Columbia. In 1972, when B.C. voters elected the province’s first NDP government, she went to Victoria as an MLA representing a central Vancouver riding. Though she remained a backbencher, Brown was a prominent figure in Premier David Barrett’s government. The NDP lost
power in 1975, but she retained her seat then and in two subsequent elections before retiring from provincial politics last year. Brown is currently teaching women’s studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and she says that she has great faith that women’s struggle for equality will succeed— eventually. Declared Brown: “We are attacking hierarchal structures and patriarchy. It’s not something that can be changed overnight—or even in one generation.”
Born in Laprairie, Que., 25 km from Montreal, Dulude, 43, says that a middle-class childhood spent in a small town shielded her from the knowledge that many women lived in poverty. But by 1971 Dulude had become a lawyer, and her work as the director of a legal aid centre in Montreal’s east end had, £ she said, made her sharply I aware of the problems t faced by disadvantaged £ women. Last year she became the first francophone president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. And now, says Dulude, fighting for women’s rights takes up most of her time. To that end, she says that she is prepared to use the aggressive style that has become her trademark in order to focus attention on women’s issues. According to Dulude, that will mean bringing more pressure to bear on governments. In a male-dominated society, declared Dulude, “I have always believed that if there were social inequalities, it was the responsibility of the state to step in.”
The 43-year-old leader of Nova Scotia’s NDP acknowledges that her involvement in feminism is relatively recent. During the 1970s McDonough said that she was busy striving to be a super mother—raising her two children and juggling a career as a social worker. As an NDP candidate, McDonough failed to win a Halifax riding in federal elections that were held in 1979 and 1980. But she was successful in the provincial riding of Halifax-Chebucto in 1981 and at the time was the only female member in the legislature. Now she leads a three-member contingent in the 52member house—and one of her principal goals in politics is to encourage more women to run for office.
-NORA UNDERWOOD with DAVID TODD in Toronto and correspondents’ reports
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