On March 8 of every year, women are celebrated all over the world. It is a day to not only celebrate women and their achievements in history but, to acknowledge many of the issues that women around the globe still face. Issues range from education, reproductive health, violence, and equality. Women have fought to secure rights that we once did not have before.
However, in Canada, we have a lot of women to celebrate, and we would like to acknowledge some of them.
Kenojuak Ashevak was born on October 3, 1927, in the Northwest Territories. She was a pioneer in Indigenous art and one of the best known Inuit artists. Ashevak was also the first woman to be involved with printmaking in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. Her artwork The Enchanted Owl was featured as a stamp on Canada Post.
Although graphic art was what she was known for, Ashevak designed blankets, murals, and carved too. In 2008 she was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and later appointed to the Order of Nunavut in 2012.
Viola Desmond grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and was a businesswoman. In the late 1940s, Desmond was having trouble with her car so she took it to a repair shop and attended the movies while she waited. She bought a ticket on the main floor and was later confronted by the fact that the main floor was reserved for only people of white colour. Police spoke to Desmond, and she refused to leave her seat. They dragged her out the theatre and put her in jail overnight, she was later charged with defrauding the Nova Scotian Government for the difference between the balcony and ground floor seats, which was 1 cent.
Clearly aware that this matter was about the colour of her skin and the racist policies of the theatre, Desmond fought the charges and brought awareness to segregation in Canada. In 2018, her portrait was illustrated on the Canadian ten dollar bill, for her fight against racial segregation in Canada.
Doris Anderson was a well-known Canadian author, journalist and women’s rights activist. As the editor of Chatelaine Magazine, Anderson used her platform to address issues during the 1960s and 1970s that we now are able to discuss with ease. Some of the many issues she tackled were: abortion, birth control, child abuse, and divorce laws. In 1977, Anderson resigned her job as editor of Canada’s known magazine and published several novels, including a book about the status of women.
Throughout her career, Anderson continuously fought for women’s equality. She pressured and supported the making of a Royal Commission on the Status of Women, eventually acknowledging women's equality rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Pauline Johnson is recognized as Canada’s literacy figure who contributed to Indigenous and Canadian culture and history. Johnson was a poet who focused on creating poetry and stories about Indigenous culture, specifically on women and children. She was the daughter of an Englishwoman and Mohawk chief, which during that time, mixed raced parents were criticized. Nonetheless, Johnson reached success through several poems she published, including Flint and Feather, Canadian Born, and The White Wampum.
To commemorate Johnson’s contribution to Indigenous and Canadian history, a monument in Stanley Park was placed. In addition, Johnson was awarded as Person of National Historic Significance in Canada.