Canadian Feminism: First Impressions

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April 5, 2013 by Vicki

CanadaI don’t believe that there is a single experience of Canadian Feminism. Quebecois feminists have had a different historical experience than English-speaking feminists. Black Canadian feminists have had to point out the difference between their experience and that of a white female. Aboriginal Canadians reject the label of “feminist” even as they struggle to achieve equality at the Federal level. Canadian feminism seems to be determined by the individual’s experience not a national experience.


Individual names and small groups, however, seem to jump out at me, such as Hannah Norris organizing a woman’s group to fund female missionaries. These small organizations became the cornerstones for the suffragette movement in Canada.


filedesc This is a statue of The Valiant Five,...

filedesc This is a statue of The Valiant Five, a group of Albertan Women. It is a work on permanent public display. This picture was taken by the uploader, and is released into the public domain, with no copyright, and no reservations. license (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I also read about The “Famous Five” who, from 1928 to 1929, fought to have women recognized as “persons” under the law. What would have gone through their minds as they made the long journey to England to fight for their legal person-hood? They were intelligent and educated but because they were women; they were not “persons”. The prospect of failure must have seemed grim indeed. They took the chance and fought for themselves and for future generations.


Canadians pride themselves on their ingenuity and self-reliance. I find it appropriate that, in many ways, Canadian feminism bears the same traits. We have had national feminist’s organization such as the National Action Committee. Yet, those very organizations can create tension when facing issues surrounding the effects of colonialism and racism. Events such as the Meech Lake Accord reveal these tensions which exist within the larger national feminist context.


woman-with-speech-bubble-mdTraditional history holds that Canadian Feminism has had three waves. Each wave focused on a particular set of issues or concerns. The problem with this traditional view is that it excludes women who have had a different experience. One of the main focuses of the second wave is a woman’s right to work. Black Canadian females had always worked outside of their home. They also worked at significant lesser wage than their female, White counterparts. Thus, they did not experience “solidarity”; rather they continued to experience racism. Other minority groups such as Aboriginal Canadians and the Quebecois have also experienced the fight for equality differently than their White counterparts within Canada. Canada is simply too diverse to have a single, unified experience. Individual experiences, however, have combined into one whole that has had a major effect upon Canadian society.


I will explore the history of these individuals and their effects upon Canadian society in future posts. Please describe your experience of Canadian Feminism in the comments below. I look forward to continuing my education in Canadian Feminism.




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