COLUMN: Rebel women rock

Opening doors is an ongoing journey

Although this column will appear the day after International Women’s Day, the importance of recognizing women — from issues of equality to contributions to society — does not end when the calendar turns. Luckily, there are opportunities to explore the myriad faces of feminism all around us, all the time.

Folks wanting a look at those issues and contributions locally would do well to check out the Touchstones Nelson exhibit “She. We. They: The Women Show” in Gallery A. It’s a multimedia survey offering insight into the ways in which women shaped—and continue to shape—our region and our world.

For those for whom admission is a barrier or who would just like to check out all Touchstones has to offer, the Library has a Touchstones Membership Card available for a three-week loan (we also have membership card for the Kootenay Gallery of Art in Castlegar). All it takes is your Library card. “She. We. They: The Women Show” runs until May 27.

The Library has a great selection of books on women’s history, politics, innovation, and change, from local to global. Merna Forster’s 100 Canadian Heroines and the followup, inventively titled 100 More Canadian Heroines offers a survey of all the people you knew, and maybe should have known about, in a series of thoroughly engaging entries.

The women’s suffrage movement in Canada (and elsewhere) has been the subject of numerous books, as well it should: it was 1940 before women in Quebec could vote provincially, so it was a long and arduous journey indeed. Read about suffrage champion Nellie McClung in books for all ages and in both official languages.

The story of women as political movers-and-shakers is not over; it’s still being told afresh, whether through new historical spotlights, such as Frances Welwood’s Passing Through Missing Pages about BC politician and social reformer Annie Garland Foster, or by highlighting contemporary voices such as in Anne Edwards’s Seeking Balance: Conversations with BC Women in Politics, and even closer to home: Donna Macdonald’s Surviving City Hall.

Our children’s section has loads of information; Courageous Women Rebels by Joy Crysdale profiles edgy female change-makers worldwide—including Attawapiskat First Nations children’s health and education activist Shannen Koostachin. A new picture book by Chelsea Clinton, She Persisted, introduces small feminists to thirteen inspirational American women who never took no for an answer.

History is one thing. Young women must surely be challenged by the barrage of media mixed messaging coming at them in the here and now. In the teen section, #NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale is one antidote; fiction-lovers might find inspiration in Moxie, in which rebel girls use social media to start a revolution in their high school.

Magazines that take on women’s challenges and triumphs include Room (formerly “Room of One’s Own”, after the essay by Virginia Woolf), a Canadian literary journal that features the work of women and genderqueer writers and artists; Herizons magazine (billed as Canada’s answer to Ms. Magazine), and Ms. Itself, and American feminist magazine co-founded by sociopolitical activists Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Gloria Steinem.

Ms. is available for sponsorship, and you can be of any gender to pay the annual subscription, receive a charitable tax receipt, and get your name on the cover—cooler than being on the cover of the Rolling Stone, from a feminist perspective. (You can also sponsor a year of Rolling Stone and be cool from a rock-and-roll perpective. Please ask about the full list of magazines available for sponsorship.)

Libraries are by their nature egalitarian institutions, open to all. We are upholders of courage, champions of change, and most of all, openers of doors. And we all need open doors.

Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.

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