West Kootenay feminism project launched

The West Kootenay Women’s Association’s Digital History Project is launching the audio and video components of its digital archive

The West Kootenay Women’s Association’s Digital History Project is launching the audio and video components of its digital archive, just in time for International Women’s Day celebrations.

Festivities will take place on Sunday March 11 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Touchstones Nelson. There will be light refreshments and a presentation of the new material on the archive. Everyone is welcome.

The website KootenayFeminism.com is an award-winning, publicly accessible digital archive of the history of feminism in BC‘s West Kootenay. It documents 40 years of women’s festivals, conferences and forums. This archive illustrates the efforts of women in this vibrant region in working towards an equitable society.

The Nelson Women’s Centre is the oldest running rural women’s centre in Canada, and West Kootenay feminists were at the forefront of the feminist wave with some of the first women’s festivals and conferences in the country. Activists published 85 issues of the impactful IMAGES newspaper between 1973 and 1991. Since 2009, much of this rich textual history has been available online.

“The website is fully searchable and contains a multitude of historical documents,” says Dr. Marcia Braundy, who has spearheaded the digital history project since its inception. “It is available for local historians and researchers, and anyone who wants to learn more about the many issues that rural feminists have raised in their attempts to create a more just, joyful, safe and supportive society. Academics and women’s groups from across Canada have also taken note of the work that has been done.”

Dr. Braundy won the 2011 Barbara Roberts Award from the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women for her vision and work on this project.

As of March 7, audio and video recordings documenting this rich and important history will also be available on the website. Video highlights include Kootenay matriarch Audrey Moore speaking about the challenges of being the area’s longest serving female mayor. The digital archive also celebrates the prodigious talents of Kootenay women writers, poets and musicians performing at the women’s festivals.

“I think my favourite clip is when Margaret Fulton tells us like it is. She says that there will never be true equality until women’s work is recognized in the GDP,” says cinematographer Miriam Needoda.

As the director of Small Town Films, a Nelson-based production company, Needoba is the project’s audio/video technician.

“I also love the women in trades videos, like the one called What Happens to Women in Tradesland. The experiences of women working in male-dominated trades really make us think about how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.”

Needoba and Braundy continue to oversee the job of digitising, editing and uploading the audio/visual content for the archives, ably assisted by web programmer Blair Altman and graphic designer Jai Sequoia. Many wonderful volunteers have donated their time and energy to the project as well.

Young feminist and project volunteer Jessica Pignataro says, “this is really important information for today’s young women. The issues are incredibly current for us today.”

The West Kootenay Women’s Association’s Digital History Project is funded in part through the BC150 Heritage Legacy Fund, the Barber Historical Digitization Program at UBC, and the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance.

“This digital history presents our efforts to create a 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 in community contribution,” says Braundy. “While 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, KootenayFeminism.com is a testament to the work undertaken during the past 40 years.”