Archive for the 'History' Category

Defining History

It’s all about perspective. My kids got a map in mail, a map of the area a bit north of here with points of interest marked to encourage daytripping over the summer. It’s a cool map with great photos of marinas, wetlands, artwork, theatres, kayaking, scuba diving, lighthouses — lots of different categories so that everyone is likely to find something that they’d want to do. It’s published by a new (to me anyway) organization called Waterfront Trail, a registered charity “committed to the completion, enhancement, and promotion of the [Lake Ontario] Waterfront Trail and Greenway.” I was browsing it while taking a water break from gardening.

I’ve always been a stickler for appropriate use of icons. They should be meaningful, clear, easy to interpret, simple, scalable, and non-discriminatory. Looking at this map I thought about “history” and how through my studies of social history, women’s history, history of technology, etc, I’ve really broadened my understanding of the field of history.

There are many records of our histories. Cookbooks, diaries, storybooks, medical charts, songs, clothing, artwork — these all tell stories of our past. History is more than just the records of battles, leaders, and number of wounded. In fact, this information doesn’t really give us information about how people lived. We should not neglect the histories of the many people who were not soldiers, and remember that these people also had full lives outside of who was killing who when. We can also study people who lived their lives in city or country or both (and why they moved), about how they fed themselves, how they grew up, how they grew old, how they celebrated, how they grieved — these pieces of history are rich.

This is how I think of history and how I will study it when I start the MA history program this fall. This is why I was surprised to see that historical places on the Waterfront map are represented by an icon with a cannon. I don’t think the acceptance of social histories in academia has made it that far into the general population just yet. It is just as relevant (and for most people probably much more engaging) when we consider the lived experiences of our histories. There are more and more historical fiction novels for kids (Dear Canada, and Royal Diaries come to mind. Maybe as these become more popular the next generation will grow up thinking history is more than war.

Man the maker, Woman the consumer

Ruth Oldenziel (2001) argues that producers and consumers are linked and that the mythology that distinguishes men as exclusively “makers” and women as solely “consumers” is false. Consumers shape what is produced, just as producers create what will be consumed (p. 143).

Telephones were originally intended only for short, efficient business calls (Martin, 1998). When women began to use them to connect socially, telephone companies realized women were a potential market. Marketing changed and the telephone was reconstructed as a useful social tool in order to increase sales and profit. Women participated in the production of telephone technologies, but they are credited only with consumption.

Often women are producers in areas not regarded as “technology.” Women’s inventions for the domestic sphere like those related to needlework (Oldenziel, 2001, p. 131) often did not received patents. Without this formal recognition, women’s production goes unrecorded, unacknowledged, and therefore unvalued. Because of this, women who produce are not recognized as such. This strengthens the mythology of women as consumers rather than makers. Without formal examples, it is easier to disregard women’s contributions. It is important to recognize that the ways that this formal recognition is given is through systems developed by men.

Women’s modification of ‘male’ technologies has also been invisible. Women who converted car engines into refrigerator generators have not been credited as producers of technology (Oldenziel, p. 134). Instead, women are constructed as not interested in new technologies (Oldenziel, p. 133). This simplification does not recognize that women lacked funds of their own (Oldenziel, p. 133) and that their dependence on reliable, simple, durable, and easy to repair machines (Oldenziel, p. 134) drove their decisions, not irrationality, obstinacy (Oldenziel 132-133) or rejection of technology. As women became involved in production so that products matched needs, women embraced labour saving devices and other technologies.

Martin, M. (1991). “The Culture of the Telephone.” In Patrick D. Hopkins (Ed.), Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology (pp. 50-74). Indiana: Indiana University Press.
Oldenziel, R. (2001). “Man the maker, woman the consumer.” In A. Craeger,
E. Lunbeck, & L. Schiebinger (Eds.), Feminism in twentieth-century science, technology, and medicine (pp. 128-148). Chicago: University of Chicago.

Winter Projects

I turned in my application to the MA history program with an exciting proposal to collect oral histories from the last women to give birth on Pelee Island,Ontario, back in the 1950s. By then most women were relocating to either mainland Ontario (Leamington or Windsor) or to Ohio to give birth. Pelee Cottage SunsetI’m excited because there’s a personal connection – my grandmother was one of the last women to give birth at home on the island (to my father). Even though she died over 10 years ago from breast cancer, I feel connected to her through this project. It also means I’ll get to go to Pelee to talk to people and talking to the older generation of islanders is always a hoot. (photo credit Jonath, Click the image to go to the photo’s flickr page.)

I’m working on a directed study this semester, cross-listed between the Women’s Studies and History departments about how the emerging technologies of blogs and user-generated media have changed the form and content of communications between mothers and information about mothering. I’m not a mommyblogger but I’ve followed the flurry with interest since BlogHer 2005 where it was identified as a radical act by Finslippy. I’ve watched La Leche League change from a personal mother-to-mother organization for breastfeeding help to an organization with a strong emphasis on online helping and information sharing – including providing mothers and health care professionals with links to Dr. Jack Newman’s video clips for help with latch and positioning and the online Community Network for leaders, and forums for mothers. It’s still mother-to-mother, but it’s changed. Online communities help with the sense of isolation mothers can feel after having a baby, but the technology changes the style and who has access to helping. The project is still too large and it’s hard to cut out pieces of the research in order to make the project more manageable, but it’s getting there.

I’ve begun writing a summer project grant that will (hopefully) allow me to make podcasts of historical Canadian texts in the public domain. I’m excited about it and hope to work with Toronto’s Mitchell Girio for production quality and also hoping for some original music from Mitch and some local Windsor artists. I’ve had some skeptical response to the idea from traditional historians who wonder if people would actually be interested in downloading and listening to Canadian history on an mp3 player — but I see it as a great way to encourage interest in our past — and to give attention to works that maybe haven’t been included in the traditional canon of what is Canadian History. I think it’s incredibly exciting and of course, you never know until you try. I know I would do it, and I know my kids would be into it too. That’s enough for now, for me.

Actiongirls is getting busy too. We’ve planned a pile of Stitch n Bitch sessions with more to come. This project is slowly attracting community interest. There was a reporter from the Windsor Star at our meeting yesterday who asked plenty of baited/leading questions. No doubt there will be an article filled with misquotes in the paper on Monday. /sigh/

So… I’ve discovered that there are places where people with ideas like mine gather and brainstorm and plan and Norther Voice Banner develop and change the world. One of the conferences I’m trying to get to is later this month: Norther Voice 2007. They’re offering a travel subsidy (deadline today, Feb 2 at 12 PST). I never considered that I might be able to go to this since travel across Canada is crazy expensive but when I found out about the funding assistance I decided I should try. With the bursary I could get there and learn and contribute my experience as a women’s-studies-history-IT-student-mom-activist-artist-geek. Without it, there will be nothing but homework and dishes and laundry for me until I save more pennies. Maybe it will help me sort out where I’m headed, trying to combine computer science, history, feminism, activism, and art. Either way I’d get to see the Rockies.

And today is December 6

Today is December 6, 2006. It is 17 years after the day a gunman shot and killed 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Thirteen were students and one was an employee of the university. Today we remember these victims of gendered violence and reflect on women everywhere who are victims of gendered violence. The Montréal Massacre was not an isolated event. There are many women suffering today for the sole reason that they are women. For some it’s because of war, others face sexist laws, religions, and customs. Some are somewhere at the wrong time, like the women who were in class and on campus on December 16, 1989. Others are victims of repeated violence in their homes, at work, and in their neighbourhoods, by family and people they know. Think of them all today.

The Fourteen Not Forgotten

Geneviève Bergeron b. 1968 – civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan b. 1966 – mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau b. 1966 – mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault b. 1967 – mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward b. 1968 – chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick b. 1960 – materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière b. 1964 – budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
Maryse Leclair b. 1966 – materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay b. 1967 – mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier b. 1961 – mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard b. 1968 – materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault b. 1966 – mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte b. 1969 – materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz b. 1958 – nursing student

Bonnie spoke for Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter back in 1989 following the Massacre, “Many women have paid a high price for equality and liberty in our struggle. We call on men to tell each other that you have no permission to commit any act of violence against women.”

Please, remember these women, and what Bonnie said. It is needed as much today as ever.

Revised to add: You can read last year’s memorial post here.

To the Death: A Historical Snapshot of Feminists Who Took it to the Extreme

Margaret Sanger. Ethyl Byrne. Genora Johnson Dollinger.

There are women who have dedicated their lives – even risked their lives – for the cause of the women’s movement. Publishing, speaking publicly, and hunger strikes are some of the ways that feminists have placed the greater good of many before their own needs.

Margaret Sanger

In the excerpt from My Fight For Birth Control (in Women’s America, 370-378), Margaret Sanger reflects on her decision to give up her work as a nurse and turn instead to a life of disseminating information about birth control (375). She recalls Mrs. Sach, who died due to a self-induced abortion and how had this woman have available contraceptive information this likely would not have happened to this mother and many others in similar circumstances. She wished to improve the lives of struggling families. Following this, Margaret Sanger committed herself to researching, developing, and sharing birth control information.

In 1918 in New York State, Section 1142 of the law made it illegal to give information to prevent contraception (375). Although Section 1145 allowed physicians to provide this advice, Sanger was unable to find a physician willing to work with her to challenge this law. Challenging the law was inherent with risk. Margaret and her supporters faced arrest and imprisonment and eventually a police squad raided their Brownsville Clinic and plain-clothed officers took Sanger and an associate to prison (376).

Ethyl Byrne, Margaret’s sister, was not at the clinic at the time of the arrests. Her arrest followed the others (376) and it is her commitment that I consider here. Byrne, a trained nurse who shared the work of “advising, explaining, and demonstrating to the women how to prevent conception” (376), took her dedication to the issue further than the others did. Upon her arrest, she declared a hunger strike (377). Jeopardizing her own health and ultimately her life, she realized that drastic measures would offer the issue the attention required to bring change to this section of the law. Byrne believed that the greater good for all women, and hence their families, would be served by her sacrifice. After four days of refusing food, the court ordered her forcibly fed (378).

Sanger quotes Byrne (via her attorney) saying, “With eight thousand deaths a year in New York State from illegal operations on women, one more death won’t make much difference” (377). Illegal abortions were taking a real toll on the lives of women. News about Byrne’s condition was reported on the front page of the newspapers (377), achieved the effect of gaining attention to the outdated law, and garnered support for the cause.

Byrne’s condition deteriorated to critical and Sanger negotiated her release. Byrne was prepared to die for what she believed in, a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her body.

Other women also risked their lives for the cause of the women’s movement. Genora Johnson Dollinger wrote an account of her experience in the 1930s with the Women’s Emergency Brigade. Workers suffered from difficult working conditions and their attempts to unionize were not well received. Dollinger was compelled not only to join the strikers but also to organize actions that she felt used her abilities and contributed to the movement to unionize. Dollinger began a sign painting department, faced police against tear gas, clubs, and gunfire, fought alongside the men with “rocks and car door hinges” (433) and inspired other women to join the fight (434). Her motivational words rallied the women. This increase in strength and numbers was the force that won success for the strikers that night.

This had been a dangerous undertaking: Dollinger describes the gunfire around them and the serious injuries received by some of the strikers. In spite of this, Dollinger refused suggestions that she retreat to safety with the other women (434). (Hear interviews thanks to Sherna Berger Gluck and the Women’s History Project here) Following this success Dollinger organized the Women’s Emergency Brigade. The women in this unit were fundamental to the successes of the strikers. With song, a wall of bodies, and intelligent arguments as distraction for the police, the women of the Emergency Brigade saved the gate and allowed the union to close “the huge and valuable Plant 4 with another sit-down strike” (435). The action that night set the stage for negotiations between the union and General Motors, and the eventual “[recognition] of unions in GM plants across the nation” (435).

Byrne and Dollinger were both willing to risk their lives for their causes: Byrne for women’s reproductive rights, Dollinger for workers’ rights to unionize.

Hunger strikes were among the tactics used by both British and American suffragists. Hunger strikes were a prisoner’s way of having some control over her circumstances and showed her dedication to the cause. The unanimous decision to go on hunger strike upon imprisonment showed the suffragists commitment and their willingness to persevere until women won the right to vote. Not only were there obvious risks of dehydration and starvation, there were also serious risks associated with force feedings.

Byrne and Sanger grew up with the ideology of Victorian womanhood. Domesticity and childbearing were considered the ideal roles for women. Most women lived their lives in service, according to the desires of their fathers, and later their husbands. A woman’s own desire was considered equivalent to what was good for the family and her community/society. As women were considered morally superior, their engagement in community charitable acts developed to include assisting prostitutes and the poor, and joining the abolitionist, temperance, and suffrage movements. Growing up at this time, the two sisters, Byrne and Sanger, would have been greatly influenced by this and likely encouraged to help others. Both took training as nurses. Both would have been aware of the socially constructed responsibilities that, as women, they held for the welfare of those around them. Possessed with the idea of women’s right to control their own reproduction, it is reasonable that these women would seek to help those who did not access to contraception. Upon arrest, Byrne had several options. She could (i) give up the fight, (ii) go willingly to the workhouse and continue the fight upon her release, or (iii) dedicate herself further to the cause, at the risk of her life. Although extreme, Byrne’s choice was automatic. Byrne recognized that many women were dying from unsafe abortions and knew that this would continue until women had access to safe and reliable birth control. Socialized to consider the needs of others, her choice was not radical for her times.

Without a fight herself, Dollinger would continue to live under difficult working conditions. The strikers had everything to gain and in comparison, nothing more to lose but their lives. For Dollinger, this risk was worth it.
There are differences between the strategies and their actors. Dollinger was a working-class woman. Byrne and Sanger were middleclass women with certain privileges. Their status would have placed great pressure on them to display the expected social behaviour for women of their class. This would have had some influence on their choice of strategy – and their potential alternatives. Non-violent action was expected of them. Dollinger was a working class woman, and her action came twenty years after Byrne. She lived under slightly different social conditions, but her reality, that of a working woman, placed different pressures on her behaviour (although values of Victorian womanhood were still pervasive). Each woman’s strategy considered her opponent and the most effective means of persuasion under the circumstances.

These women seem to have acted altruistically. In doing so, they perpetuate the idea of women as selfless, caring, nurturers, willing to sacrifice their very beings for others while showing at the same time that women are certainly not weak and defenseless. While selfless giving seems to be a good strategy for fighting injustice, it is problematic because of the stereotype of women as martyrs that it creates. It is important, however, to recognize the lengths to which women will go to fight for justice.

Works Cited

Kerber, Linda. 2004. Women’s America, 6th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Further Reading

Scholarship about feminist ‘martyrs’ is not easy to find. Because of this, the following annotated bibliography focuses on resources that contribute to the understanding of Byrne’s and Dollinger’s passions and the challenges they faced, as well as information about other women who took on similar challenges. It also includes some sources to encourage further thought about women leaders, particularly who steps forward and why.

Commire, A., ed. 1999. Women in World History: a biographical encyclopedia. Volume 13. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications: 778-785.

This reference work provides details about Margaret Sanger, beginning with her childhood and education. It provides background to her later activism regarding women’s reproductive rights and provides dates that were missing in her own recounting of the Brownsville Clinic. It also provides information about what later followed the police raids on the clinic: her activism in organizing birth control clinics around the world and her activity as the first president of Planned Parenthood. It was very difficult to find information about her sister Ethyl Byrne, beyond what Sanger wrote in My Fight for Birth Control. As they worked together to open and run the clinic, inferences may be drawn between the lives of the sisters until information about Byrne, independent of her famous sister, is found.

Crane, V. 2001. “The Very Pictures of Anarchy: Women in the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike.” Wisconsin Magazine of History 84 (3): 44-59.

Women’s roles as street fighters in the Oshkosh strike parallel that of Dollinger and her associates and provide another example of women challenging the ideals of Victorian womanhood to improve working conditions for themselves and their families. Women in the Oshkosh Woodworkers’ Strike acted as strikers, strikebreakers, and in support of the men in their families but the strongest action came from the group who organized as a “mob” to harass scab workers as they entered and left the mill. The women fought with eggs in handkerchiefs, with pouches of sand, with sacks of salt and pepper, and with clubs. This article shows that Dollinger and the Emergency Brigade had predecessors whose struggles and successes were inspirational to the efforts of future women.

Dollinger, G. 1987. “I Want to be a Human Being and Think for Myself.” American Socialist. March 22, 2006.

Dollinger gave this speech at the 50th anniversary of the strike. In it, she reflects on how the women’s contribution was devalued following the success of the strike by authors like the previous speaker, Henry Kraus, who she challenges for misrepresenting the women of the Emergency Brigade. Dollinger reminds us of the influence of those who record history and calls for recognition of women’s contributions here and elsewhere. This piece shows how the risks women took were ignored and forgotten once the union had its demands met. It also provides further details regarding what took place and what the Emergency Brigade accomplished in 1937.

Falcon. 2003. “Only Strong Women Stayed: Women Workers and the National Floral Workers Strike, 1968-1969.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 24.2&3: 140-154.

These women combine elements of the histories of Dollinger and Byrne. Like Dollinger they protested their working conditions, but instead they chose non-violent methods of demonstrating in ways similar to Ethyl Byrne, chaining themselves to a fence to form a picket line. Their experience with tear gas, and their willingness to jeopardize their lives show again women’s willingness to fight against injustice. This example, from 1968, shows that women continue to endanger themselves for their causes, and that causes continue to present themselves.

Freedman, E. 2002. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. New York: Ballantine Books.

Freedman’s book is useful because it provides a history of feminism, including background to both the issue of reproductive rights and of women in labour unions. From page 257, in a section called “The Sexualization of Western Cultures” Freedman describes the characteristics and responsibilities of Victorian Motherhood that would have been a strong influence, especially for Byrne and Sanger. In Chapter 8, “Workers and Mothers: Feminist Social Policies,” Freedman delves into the history of women’s involvement with labour unions, from mill girls in the US to lace workers in Great Britain. She includes some global perspective, also including experiences of women in Germany, France, and Russia, China, and South Africa.

Polnick, B. et al. 2004. “Groundbreaking Women: Inspirations and Trailblazers.” Advancing Women in Leadership, No. 17, Winter.

Polnick et al. investigate the characteristics of women like Sanger, Byrne, and Dollinger who become female leaders. By studying female groundbreakers, they hope to address the needs of women in today’s leadership roles. They identified several characteristics common to the women of their study, including courage, resilience, self-efficaciousness, vision, passion, a belief in family first, and advocacy for the under-represented. Sanger, Byrne, and Dollinger are no exception to these characteristics. Understanding the characteristics of groundbreakers gives insight into the personalities of historical figures. This article helps the reader identify and draw parallels between important women in history.

Richards, C. and N. Van Der Gaag. November 2004. Women Who Have Moved Worlds. New Internationalist 373. March 22, 2006.

This website shows that women around the world continue to jeopardize their lives for justice. The list includes Medha Patkar, who, like Ethyl Byrne, almost died during a hunger strike. This website shows that women continue to sacrifice themselves as an alternative to directing violence outward at others. Links to more information about these women would make this site more useful.

Yalom, M. 2001. “A History of the Wife.” New York: Perennial.

Chapter Five in Yalom’s book describes the Victorian woman in America and chapter Eight includes discussion of Margaret Sanger’s work. Yalom’s work shows how the efforts of Byrne and Sanger influenced relationships, particularly the emerging concept of companionate marriage, and the idea of women as sexually passionate individuals.

Solitude of Self

We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us; we leave it alone under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. ~Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from Solitude of Self, Address delivered before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress, Monday, January 18, 1892.

And no two people are the same, nor can we understand what goes on inside another’s mind. Empathy and support are ‘kind’ and ‘good’, but ultimately, we are alone. Not only do we need the knapsack of tools and the skills with which to navigate; we also need the knowledge that we ourselves must take initiative for the courses that our lives take.


I have slept most of this weekend. I am in the midst of midterms and struggles with life, work, love and have no energy for any of it. I’m ready to quit it all and crawl in my hole (yet again) until I’m stronger.

But of course, I don’t get that choice. The exams require my presence, the jobs must be done, and you can’t not deal with life just because it’s hard. It’s just not fair.

This week, for the first time since I started this degree, I considered not handing in a paper. I figured one mark a day is the usual penalty and a quiet weekend to work on it would make it a much better paper than the draft I had so far…but then I checked the syllabus: “papers handed in after the due date will not be accepted.”. Of course I started to cry and then worked until 3:30 a.m. at which time I fell asleep in the chair for a few hours. I woke up at 5 to finish it and then at 9 a.m. handed in probably the worst paper of my career. The paper wasn’t difficult which is why it makes it so much harder to take. It came down to not having had sufficient time to work on it. Sufficient days, yes, if I didn’t have other responsibilities, but not with the life I currently lead. (Hence the previous post about having to Cut Cut Cut from my list.)

Did I mention the uti? Read more »

December 6 Memorial: Fourteen Not Forgotten

Yesterday was December 6. It was the sixteenth anniversary of the Montréal Massacre that took place at École Polytechnique in Montréal, Québec, Canada. On this day, 14 women were massacred by a man with a semi automatic because he believed they had taken what should have been his place as a student in the faculty of engineering. Thirteen of these women were engineering students. One was a staff person in the budget department. Other people were injured and there were suicides in the days that followed. It was tragic.

Have you heard about this before? Does anyone else mark this horrible happening?

I remember when it happened. I was a high school senior and I remember being in shock. I remember hearing that women had been killed but I don’t remember really understanding the killer’s reason – that they were all FEMINISTS and for that they would be murdered. I don’t remember making the connection that there was more to this murder – I live near Detroit, I heard about murders all the time – or – so – I – thought. Nobody explained it to me. No one talked about it. All we said was holy – oh – my – uggh – wow – awful – NOOOOOO and then carried on. It was just another murder, right? What was feminism and what did it have to do with dying?

Shortly after this I changed my plans from aerospace engineering (I had wanted to design rockets until I hit grade 12 and discovered Art…. ) but I wonder if the Montreal Massacre was an influence on that decision. When I think back, I can’t remember that well, but I know I certainly didn’t want to be in a position of danger. I had never thought of non-traditional choices as being life-threatening but this was proof that life as a woman was dangerous. Really really dangerous.

It’s important to me to remember these women and this event each year now, since becoming more educated about the interlocking issues of what happened that day. It’s not just about women in engineering. It’s not just about men’s anger and frustration about losing privilege and power. It’s not just about women being victims of violence. It’s not just about women’s access to the World. It’s about all of these.

So this week I participated in a drive to raise funds and donations for a grassroots women’s homeless shelter as they work toward ending violence against women. In one of my classes I listened to The Wyrd Sister’s This Memory , and last night I went to the vigil on my campus.

I don’t know what happened with the planning this year because I don’t know the organizers but I’d really like to make a couple of points that I believe are very very very important regarding this event.

  • Please say the women’s names correctly. This is very important.

You dishonour them by not learning their names. If you are not able to pronounce the French, please find someone who can. If no one can be found then please do your best but don’t laugh when you stumble over them. It’s not funny. Please practice.

  • Please include a moment of silence. This is very important.

Yes it’s cold here – that’s why it’s called Canada – but to stand outside for one minute of silence out of respect to these and all the other women who have died in senseless murders because they are women is what makes the ceremony a memorial. Please don’t turn this event into a show without substance.

After the reading of names outside at the memorial we returned to the reception. Walking back, the group I was with figured the moment of silence must be planned for indoors – and that an error had been made on the program. When we finally realized that the moment had been forgotten we pulled a group together and returned outdoors to the memorial for an improptu vigil. We made a circle between the 14 pillars representing these 14 women and held hands while one woman read the list of names. We had a minute of silence and then went on our ways, sad, but warmed.

  • Please – and this is very important, so very very important you wouldn’t believe – please don’t say his name.

Four times in the service they said his name. The women’s names were read once. By saying his name you immortalize him. What he did was wrong – so very wrong – don’t do him the honour of allowing his name to be remembered. Let him be forgotten and let the women be remembered. And don’t you see that saying his name presents this massacre as a random act? Like he was one psychopath with a gun who did something awful but that it could never happen again? He said on his suicide note that he knew what he was doing, that he was not a mad killer. Do you see that it could have happened anywhere, those women could have been any of us? Women are victims of violence every day. Women are at risk in their own homes, from their supposed loved-ones. This is NOT an isolated event. This man killed these women but violence against women happens every single day. This is gendercide.

I’m glad there was a memorial held and that I was able to attend. Some of the speeches were well spoken, particularly Brian Masse who pointed out that Canada still has much progress to make in terms of making itself safe for women. It seems that these criticisms overshadow the positive aspects of the service. It is only my intention that the critique help with planning future memorials.

The women’s names are below. Please read them as best you can, and please take a moment to reflect on why they died, and the potential that has been lost, now going into what would have been a second generation. Consider also those 13, including 4 men, who were injured but survived the massacre, and those women who attend the École Polytechnique’s engineering program today. Think about the families and friends that were also affected, and the community, and the country. Think about your own life, and the violence you have experienced or been witness to and think about what you can do so that it ends. And then, please, do something.

The Fourteen Not Forgotten

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.

Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master’s degree.

Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.

Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

Michèle Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.

Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

The Myth of Mammy in The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts

The novel The Bondwoman’s Narrative recounts the journey of a fugitive slave woman named Hannah, from enslavement in North Carolina to freedom in New Jersey. She struggles through a life filled with cruel masters, lost-and-found-again friendships, and basic physical survival. Readers will find her positive outlook inspiring, but the amount of coincidental good fortune Hannah encounters sometimes makes the novel less than plausible. Of particular interest is the novel’s representation of Mammy. The Bondwoman’s Narrative has many illustrations of this cultural icon, particularly the main character Hannah. Careful examination reveals however, that the people who stand in Hannah’s path to freedom or who contribute to her oppression frequently become victims of misfortune themselves.

Read more »

« Previous Page