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Who We Are

The Feminist History Society is a project of the Women’s Education and Research Foundation of Ontario Incorporated (“WERF”), a registered charitable organization in Canada.* The members of the volunteer steering committee for the project are: Beth Atcheson, Constance Backhouse, Lorraine Greaves, Diana Majury and Beth Symes.

In February 2008, a group of feminist activists from across Canada met in the Senate Room of the University of Ottawa to discuss how we could describe, document, preserve and celebrate the work and character of our times, of the women’s movement in Canada over the last 50 years, since the founding of the Voice of Women (now the Voice of Women for Peace). We took as one of our inspirations for this journey the six-volume history of the American suffrage movement, written by the women who participated in it, and published in a beautiful hardcover edition.

Although it was very wintery outside, we warmed to our task with our usual analytic give and take, laughter and reflection. In attendance were: Marguerite Andersen; Beth Atcheson; Constance Backhouse, Monique Bégin, Mary Breen, Susan G. Cole, Margaret Conrad, Shelagh Day, Francine Descarries, Magrit Eichler, Lorraine Greaves, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Danielle Juteau, Linda Kealey, Michele Landsberg, Meg Luxton, Diana Majury, Nancy Ruth and Judy Steed.

Attendees at Symposium 2008

Attendees at the 2008 symposium in Ottawa

We unanimously agreed about the value of creating a broad and deep written record, not one “official history” but an open, inclusive and honest series. Of course, we were concerned about all the things we would need to take into account in order for it to be a true reflection of all that we are and all that we did. Francine, Sylvia, Constance and Beth agreed to take the next steps, and they were joined by Tracey Lindberg.

We announced the project and issued an open call for participation shortly thereafter, distributing it through PAR-L and as many organizations and individuals as we could find. It was called Capturing Our History: Feminisms in Canada and Québec 1960 -2010 and Retracer notre histoire: le movement féministe au Canada et au Québec 1960 á 2010.

Once it was determined that the project could indeed be undertaken by a charity as had been discussed at the meeting, WERF created the Feminist History Society/ Société d’histoire féministe.

We thank the Trudeau Foundation and Nancy’s Very Own Foundation, who underwrote the costs of the January 2008 workshop. We are very grateful to two feminist activists and philanthropists, Shirley Greenberg and Nancy Ruth, for making signifcant donations to support the start-up costs of the Feminist History Society. We took heart from our earliest individual donors, who believed in the project and gave it momemtum.

Mission

The Feminist History Society has been created to publish a multi-volume collection of books showcasing and documenting feminist activity in Canada and Quebec between 1960 and 2010.

There will be many different authors, as individuals and organizations who participated in the movement are encouraged to contribute. There will be a variety of formats, including autobiographies, biographies, single- and multi-themed volumes, edited collections, plays and novels.

In order to succeed, the Feminist History Society and its publishing project must be membership-based. Most of the books we hope to publish are unlikely to be of interest to a commercial, for profit publisher. By having our own publishing platform, we can self-publish books, or we can co-publish books with other publishers if they are of broader appeal. Membership dues will create a modest pool to support outreach to contributors and members, book publication costs and informal events to bring us together to enjoy and celebrate our community and our effort.

Every member of the Feminist History Society will receive a hardcover book every year, bound with uniform covers and spines that mark each one as part of a larger “collection.”

Why 1960 to 2010?

Feminism has a history that predates the 1960s and will continue long after 2010. However, historical documentation has to start and end somewhere.

We picked the 1960s as a start date because that decade ushered in an unprecedented upsurge of feminist activities that have been characterized as “the second wave” of feminism (following the “first wave” of feminism from the late 19th to the early 20th century.) The 1960s witnessed the founding of the Voice of Women, the appointment of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, and the creation of a large number of “women’s liberation” groups across the country.

We selected 2010 as an end date, not because we think the activities of the “second wave” will be complete then, but because this marks the 50th year of our movement’s collective history, and it seemed a natural “pause” point for documentation. With the death of one of feminism’s most celebrated activists, Doris Anderson, in 2007 we have been reminded of the urgency of compiling our recollections about this important and transformative social movement before others who have been centrally involved die or forget what transpired.

What will the books cover?

The diversity of feminism, including the complexities of gender, race, class, geography, culture, dis/ability, language, sexual identity, and age are central to the project.

We intend to publish 20+ books between 2010 and 2030. The topics we hope to cover will include:

  • the history of feminist organizations (local, regional, national, direct service, topical etc.),
  • autobiographies/memoirs/biographies of individuals who have been involved in the movement,
  • feminism in politics & the public service,
  • feminists in business, the professions, the workplace, unions,
  • feminism in art and sports,
  • feminism in social and human sciences,
  • feminism in reproductive issues and health,
  • feminism in education, religion, science, international affairs,
  • feminism and the media,
  • and a host of other issues as suggested by potential contributors

Our long term goal is to ensure that our ideas and experiences are as widely accessible as possible, their publication and distribution made possible by our community’s participation in the Feminist History Society.

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