Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If an Unmarried Man is Called, ‘Bachelor,’ then an Unmarried Women is called a…?

By Laura Love
Today, March 8th 2016, is considered an international day of the celebration for all women. There is a wee bit of disagreement on when exactly the first International Women’s Day occurred. According to the United Nations this day was celebrated first in the United States in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York City. On this day, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, and better pay, along with the right to vote.

Throughout the 108 years since this first demonstration took place, we have seen the societal role of women change dramatically, as well as the terms used to describe these women. Historically, ‘Spinster,’ and ‘Old-Maid,’ have been used to describe women who had reached a certain age and were considered no longer desirable for marriage. There obviously could be many reasons why a woman historically wouldn’t wish to be married and still live a fulfilling life outside of traditional societal expectations.  Today, single women of any age are seldom referred to as ‘spinster’ or ‘old maid’, society having moved on from defining a woman’s status in society based on whether or not she is married. When describing an unmarried woman, ‘independent’, ‘single’ or ‘bachelorette’ are much more suitable and have fewer negative connotations associated with them.

As a community museum, we have a duty to highlight women’s contributions to our area, as much as men’s. For every man in history, it is important to recognize that he likely had the support of some strong female as an influence in his life – a mother, sister, wife, friend. This is evident even in our own community. In Peace River Remembers, many of the family histories highlight the role women played, though usually behind the scenes. The Quinn’s are a perfect example: “Mr. and Mrs. Quinn ran a bake shop…Ed was the baker, and his wife looked after the merchandising.” Aleda Evans Taylor recalls her uncle Thomas P. Evans, “with the invaluable assistance of my aunt, established his own grocery business.”  Without further research, we are hard pressed to know who those women were.
This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is acknowledging how women’s roles have evolved throughout history. There have been great strides made in many different facets of life by working women, both inside and outside the home. Therefore, for this year’s campaign, the IWD is having a call to action! #PledgeForParity is calling everyone, men and women to consider how they can “take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias.”

Mrs. Cruickshank (on the right) and Mrs. W.G.N. Johnston (on the left) with their gardening tools, a shovel and pitchfork. Peace River. ca. 1940s. PRMA: 1973.531.043

Alberta is doing great things for gender equality in the province! Yesterday, Alberta’s Status of Women Ministry, being Canada’s ‘only stand-alone ministry for the status of women ‘laid out a plan to improve gender equality! “We cannot build a stronger, more prosperous province if we leave women behind,” Premier Rachel Notley said in a media release. More information about this can be found here: http://globalnews.ca/news/2562191/albertas-status-of-women-ministry-unveils-mandate-ahead-of-international-womens-day/

The Federal Government announced today that the image of an iconic Canadian woman will appear on the next issue of bank notes, expected in 2018!! More information can be found here:

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