International Women’s Day 2011

To celebrate International Women’s Day, here is a selection of items celebrating the political and social activism of women.

From Special Collections

A vindication of the rights of woman with strictures on political and moral subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft. London : Printed for J. Johnson, 1792. First Edition. xix, 452 p. ; 22 cm.

This first edition of Wollstonecraft’s seminal work was purchased for York’s Special Collections in 2010. The octavo edition features period-style full brown tooled morocco leather, raised bands, black morocco spine labels with gold lettering.

A link to this item’s catalogue record can be found here.

Social Workers and Community Activists

Florence Philpott (1909-1992) was a caseworker, community organizer, educator, and a leader in the field of Canadian social work. During her career, Philpott worked for various social service agencies in Hamilton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto. She was the Executive Director of the Toronto Social Service Council (1948 — 1963), and possessed a national profile in her field, contributing to special projects and to local and national committees and boards. She belonged to a network of women who were instrumental in formulating social welfare policies and creating leadership roles in the field of social work for Canadian women.

A link to a finding aid for the Florence Philpott archives can be found here.

Margaret (Dillon) Norquay (1920-) was a writer, teacher, broadcaster and pioneer in distance education. After serving as a welfare officer in the Canadian Women’s Army Corp (CWAC) during WWII, Norquay worked as a distance educator and social advocate, serving on such community organizations as the Community Committee on Immigrants of the Social Planning Council (from 1964 to 1972), the Earl’s Court Community project in Toronto (1963-1973), and the Committee for Intercultural/Interracial Education in Professional Schools (CIIEPS) as well as other community and interculturally based endeavours. In 2008, Norquay’s work “Broad is the way : stories from Mayerthorpe” was published as part of the Wilfrid Laurier University Press life-writing series and provides interesting glimpses of the life of a young minister’s unorthodox wife.

A link to a finding aid for the Margaret Norquay archives can be found here.

A link to her memoir Broad is the way: stories from Mayerthorpe can be found here.

Grace (Lonergan) Lorch (d.1974) was a school teacher and civil rights activist married to York University mathematician, Lee Lorch.   A teacher in Boston, she served as President of the Boston Teachers Union and as a member of the Boston Central Labour Council. Although unsuccessful, she was the first teacher to challenge a Boston school regulation that female teachers resign after marriage.  The Lorches were tireless civil rights activists and Grace is perhaps best known for her involvement in the Little Rock Crisis of 1957.   On 4 September 1957, during the Little Rock Central High School Crisis, Grace Lorch intervened to protect Elizabeth Eckford (one of the “Little Rock Nine”) from an angry white mob. In October she was subpoenaed to appear before the Un-American Activities Committee and accused of being a communist.  Harassment and threats eventually led to the couple moving to Canada.  Grace Lorch received letters from concerned citizens all over the United States and Canada as well as Belgium, New Zealand and England following media coverage of Little Rock.

A finding aid to the Lee Lorch archives can be found here.

Jean Augustine’s efforts to establish the “Famous Five” statue on Parliament Hill

On December 11, 1997 MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Jean Augustine attempted throughout the day to pass a motion to consider the request of the Famous Five Foundation to honour the memory of Emily Murphy, Nellie Mooney McClung, Irene Marryat Parlby, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards—the “Famous Five”—by allowing a statue commemorating them to be placed on Parliament Hill.

The Famous Five fought to have their case heard by the Privy Council and on October 18, 1929, it declared in the ” Person’s Case of 1929″ that women were persons and thus eligible to hold any appointed or elected office.

Augustine made five motions throughout the day only to be denied by a single MP (she attributes this hold-out to political infighting extraneous to the actual motion).  Late in the day the motion was passed thanks in part to the quick thinking of Marlene Catterall, MP for Ottawa West – Nepean and Denis Coderre, MP for Bourassa, who were able to cite Parliamentary procedure to nullify the one dissenting vote.

The Famous Five statue was unveiled on Parliament Hill and remains a popular attraction to visitors and school groups.

Several files relating to Jean Augustine’s work as a community activist and federal politician. Augustine was Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, and later Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, and was Special Advisor on Grenada.  She is currently Fairness Commissioner for Ontario.

A link to a finding aid for Jean Augustine’s archives can be found here.

Marilou McPhedran’s efforts to ensure the Canadian Constitution of Rights and Freedoms included a gender equality clause

Marilou McPhedran is a lawyer, activist and legal reformer based out of Winnipeg. In 1981 and 1982, McPhedran was a volunteer member of and counsel to the Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution, a group that successfully drafted a gender equality clause for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. McPhedran’s other volunteer and activist work included serving as co-founder of the Charter of Rights Education Fund in 1982-1983 and co-founder of the Women’s Legal Education Action Fund (LEAF) in 1985, for which she also served as chair of LEAF Foundation and chair of the LEAF’s National Board of Directors. In 1984, she co-founded and later served as chair of the Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee on Violence against Women and Children (METRAC), the first non-government organization in Canada dedicated to research and advocacy to counter violence against women and children.

A link to a finding aid for Marilou McPhedran’s archives can be found here.

See here for a guide to all archival resources related to women’s studies

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