I was doing some research for an article on lacrosse, Canada’s national summer sport, and came across the following in M. Ann Hall’s book, The Girl and the Game (p.21). In it, she describes the reaction of (male) commentators in the late 19th century to the idea of women playing lacrosse. A news items appeared […]
International Women’s Day is one of the few celebrations observed in Canada that is the product of dissident or reform movements. Its origins go back to 1909 when the American Socialist Party held an event honouring the 1908 garment worker’s strike in New York, where women protested against gruelling working conditions in the city’s factories. The following year there was a women’s conference in Copenhagen and from a motion by two German socialist women, International Women’s Day was declared.
Agnes Macphail began her career as a country schoolteacher. Interested in agricultural problems, she became a member and active spokesperson for the United Farmers of Ontario. Her move into politics stemmed from her desire to represent the farmers of her region. In 1919 women gained the right to run for Parliament, and Macphail was elected in 1921, the first federal election in which women had the vote.
“This application to the Law Society of Upper Canada is refused. The governing statute regulating this body, not having been drafted under the advanced views of the day and specifically referring to the admission of persons, does not permit the interpretation of ‘persons’ to include women.” This was the spirit of the reply to Clara Brett Martin’s application to study law in 1891.
Despite the rejection, Martin persisted. Optimistically, or perhaps naively, she appealed to what she considered the “broad spirit of liberality and fairness” characteristic of the legal profession. With the support of such influential people as Dr. Emily Stowe and Sir Oliver Mowat, Martin’s appeal led to the passage of a provincial act allowing women to become solicitors. She became a law student in 1893 and placed first in the examinations to become a solicitor.
The names of women are conspicuously absent from the lists of famous Canadian medical pioneers. During the 19th Century, while male physicians and surgeons were exploring new treatments and innovative medical procedures, Canadian women were struggling for the mere right to practice medicine. For them, acceptance into a medical school was a major achievement. The two women most responsible for breaking down the barriers and advancing medical training for women in Canada were Emily Stowe and Jennie Kidd Trout.
There is a delightful scene in the 1950 movie Cheaper by the Dozen, the story of Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, in which a birth control advocate approaches Lillian to speak at a rally. Lillian asks her husband to assemble their family to consider the request and to the amazement of their visitor, children pour forth from every direction. The Gilbreths have 12 children, by choice as they explain while reminiscing after the birth of child number 12. On their wedding night Frank had suggested that they have 12 children because everything you buy is “cheaper by the dozen.” Frank is the engineer who conceived the “motion study” principles and he’s all about efficiency (true story). It’s a running gag through the movie, but their large family is an expression of the importance of choice, the cornerstone of birth control.