The Kootenays have historically been a hotbed of feminist activity. In fact, the Women's Institute brought Nellie McClung to the area in the 1920s! But there was something in the air in the late 1960's and early 1970's, something that held enough weight to induce Parliament to set forth a Royal Commission on the Status of Women; something that emerged from the grass roots across Canada, from small towns and villages to large urban centres; something that said: all is not right with our world, when more than half the population is being demeaned, underpaid, undervalued, overworked and overcontrolled.
The notions developed from that root emerged along four major vines in the West Kootenays: Status of Women groups which focused primarily on the need to change antiquated and oppressive laws; Consciousness Raising groups that met to educate themselves and reflect upon the social relations and social fabric woven to keep them in their place, as well as to determine ways to move out of those roles and practices; Service organizations that emerged to serve the needs of women and others who were experiencing the challenging impacts of this growing social movement. Lastly, there were the story tellers, those of us who, from early days, saw the need to communicate with each other, our sisters and the world, in a public forum: to set out the issues, and describe the struggles engaged to live feminist lives in rural British Columbia, Canada.
Such groups, and the women who organized and participated in their activities, made a significant contribution to the political, social, cultural and economic landscape of West Kootenay communities, our province, and our country.
These pages tell the stories of many of those groups and individuals, through posters, news articles, photographs, video interviews, music, minutes, letters of rant and praise, proposals and final reports. We learn of the oldest rural women’s centre in Canada, still operating with a large membership and extensive community activities; other organizations grew, initiated and completed their work, and faded away; still others grew to serve a local need, and morphed into provincial and national organizations. Their artefacts here tell these stories. In some cases, those still living have added today’s reflections on their experience of living those stories. We hope the tales and details provide a frame through which to view feminism. Whether it is 2nd, 3rd or 4th Wave Feminism, we will leave to the academics to play with and study upon.
The West Kootenay Women’s Association (WKWA) is a non-profit organization promoting and supporting the welfare, social and economic equality of all women.
The West Kootenay Women’s Association was formed in 1974, as a society which could apply legitimately for funding support for activities as a charitable and educational organization. As one of its main projects, it would take on the administration of the Nelson and District Women’s Centre, which had been active since 1972 as a feminist activist support organization in the area. The objectives of the organization have been to promote equitable treatment of women, in the belief that every woman has the right to control over her social, economic and physical circumstances; to work together with women of every race, class, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, age, size spiritual or political belief; to supply and render services of a charitable and educational nature to women; to establish resources for women, and to co-operate with other organizations which have objectives similar to the objectives of the Association.
Since that time, projects and programs of a widely diverse nature have been fostered under that umbrella, and spun off into social, economic and cultural initiatives that have enriched our communities. You will find many of these documented on this website, a digital timeline of the development of 2nd Wave Feminism in the West Kootenays.
The West Kootenay Women's Association is proud to present kootenayfeminism.com, a digital history of efforts of West Kootenay women to create a more just, joyful, safe and supportive society where women and girls are valued for their contributions, and have access to real choices regarding how they live their lives, earn their livings and find their rightful place. We have not yet achieved this goal for all women across Canadian society, and too many are still falling through the deep cracks of poverty, violence and injustice.
The Kootenays is home to Canada's oldest rural women's centre, and hosted Canada's earliest Women's Festivals. We organized and struggled to change archaic laws and practices, and began the stuggle for child care that continues to today. The preservation of these stories, and others, their challenges and successes, is an idea whose time has come. We can learn from the past and achieve more in the future.
WKWA's growing interest in honouring and celebrating the historical contributions of local women young and old came together at just the right moment with someone who had the same idea, and the skills to do the job.
The lead for this project is Marcia Braundy, active in the West Kootenay women's movement since 1972, InterProvincially qualified construction carpenter, community development worker, feminist activist, catalyst, curriculum developer, WITT advocate, now having achieved a PhD in Technology Studies from the Faculty of Education at UBC. In February 2011, she received the Barbara Roberts Award from the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW) for her work on this project.
"During my time in academia, I came across many who referred to themselves as 'feminists,' some of whom had engaged actively in some of the kinds of organizations mentioned above, and many who had approached the subject of feminism from an academic perspective, where it seemed requisite to divide the world into smaller and smaller bits to be examined and analyzed from a theoretical perspective. What that meant in terms of the ways in which people lived their lives was not at issue. But in the worlds from which I had come, prior to academia, the way you lived your life was an essential aspect of the integrity of your (small p) political life. It did not matter whether you or others defined you as a 'liberal' feminist, a 'socialist' feminist, a 'pre' or 'post' feminist, what really mattered were the choices you made and the actions you took on the roads of relationship, work, education, marriage, family, and self. What interests you took in the way women lived their lives in other parts of the world, and what that meant here at home, sweat shops, pornography, violence, your community, your legal rights, lesbian relationships, cultural institutions, health, reproductive rights, child care, the environment and using tools. Some of these issues were confusing, and required continual debate, others meant continual discussion and re-education; still others forced you to learn to live in new ways: The ways you live your life.
I have lived for many years in the Kootenays, and shared in many of the initiatives described on this website. Many took place without my knowledge or presence as I came and went with the rest of my life. But the element that stands out for me has always been the integrity of the ways in which women of the Kootenays lived out their principles in their daily lives. I felt it was something important for others to know, and to be able to see the ways in which these lives contribute to the incredible social fabric that exists in the West Kootenays, the mountains and valleys of southeastern British Columbia, Canada. And so I thank the BC150 Heritage Legacy Fund, and the Irving K. Barber Historical Digitization Program for their support in bringing these stories to light here, and the West Kootenay Women's Association for their continued presence in our communities, their thoughtful evolution and their commitment to feminism in all its forms."
While some may want to go to specific periods of time that can be accessed on the Timeline page, others may be particularly interested in one or another organization which can be found on the Categories page. It is also possible, through the magic of Xapian, our open source search engine, to search, from the search page, throughout the sites graphics and pdfs for words, names or topics. We will continue to load text and photos over the next year, and will launch the audio and video components of the website during the week of International Women's Day events in 2012 hopefull at the Touchstone Museum of Art and History in Nelson, BC, and at the Kootenay Gallery of Art, Science and History in Castlegar. We will continue to add material til the end of May, 2012. We are deeply indebted to the folks at the University of British Columbia Archives for their technical assistance and moral support in seeing this site to fruition.
Note: If you do not see the woman-sign slider bar at the bottom of the page, hold down Ctrl and hit the (-) sign to reduce the size of the page graphics. You may also do this with the (+) sign to enlarge the type for easier reading; e.g. If the text on the page is too small, press control and (+), the image will grow larger; If the graphics or text are too large, press control and (-), and the image will get smaller.
Thanks to the Irving K. Barber B.C. Historical Digitization Program at the University of British Columbia for their ongoing support of this project, the BC150 Heritage Legacy Fund for the initial hardware and software that has allowed it to go forward, and thanks to the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance for their support of the Video Mentoring component of this work.
Shawn Lamb, Founding Archivist, Touchstones Museum of Art and History; Ron Wellwood, Retired, Librarian at Notre Dame University, Selkirk College, and David Thompson University; Sandra Hartline, WKWA liaison, author and community contributor, and Judy Deon, Selkirk College Librarian.
Deep appreciation to the volunteers who worked on this project. We are delighted that they ranged in age from 17-65. They are, in no particular order: Josée Corrigan, Jo Heatherington, Bonnie Baker, Judith Ceroli, Nancy Janovicek, Verena Smith, Sherolyn Haakstad, Vita Luthmers (Storey), Paige Kutzner, Sandra Hartline, Linda Lee Crossfield, Jessa Koerber, Kate Storm Guthrie and Sam Stevenson for scanning and and Optical Character Recognition work, Judy Deon and Shawn Lamb for archival sorting, Barbara Brown of Raven Creations for artwork, and Jessica Pignataro and Shannon Lanaway for video volunteering. Wonderful thanks to those who were paid for some of their work and gave way beyond for the project: Bonnie Nilsen www.BLNdesign.com for web development research and framework, Blair Altman for web development and functioning, Jai Sequoia www.sequoiadesign.ca for the wonderful graphic interface and Miriam Needoba for deeply appreciated video training and work. Thanks also to KICS for free web hosting. This project could not have been accomplished without all. Dr. Marcia Braundy is the Project Manager.
Deep thanks go to Jai Sequoia for her donation of the exquisite mandala graphic that forms the logo for this website, and all the additional volunteer time that she has put in on the project. It has been a great pleasure working with her.
Miriam Needoba of Small Town Films Inc. in Nelson has joined the project as Video Mentor extrordinaire. She has been training and assisting Marcia and the volunteers in video formatting, processing, editing and uploading, for all the incredible original historical audio and video material that will be incorporated onto the website over the next year. We also thank Nancy Rosenblum for her vision, skill and time to colour correct amateur video footage.