Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Still the Women's West?


Tenured Radical leads a discussion of what makes a good blog post -- and much of it is about "curated" or "edited" blogs, where you only get published if you conform to the standards of the blog owners.  Howzat?

I have never thought of this as a curated or edited blog, for sure. Except... when a potential contribution is sent to me out of the blue, I suppose I do have the choice to run it or not. On the whole, if it looks like it came from a real person and it's relevant to this blog's themes, I'll stick it in. As with this contribution from Russ Chamberlayne, an occasional commenter otherwise unknown to me, which riffs on an archival item he unearthed from precisely one century ago.

Russ Chamberlayne, "Still the Women's West?"
"The last west is the woman's west. Nowhere else in the world is the evolution worked by the great femininist (sic) movement of the last century, demonstrated more strikingly. Nowhere else may women find the perfect conditions under which to work out a destiny in accord with modern ideals." http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/bibliography/3871/5.html 
This is the lead in a brief opinion piece published 100 years ago, June 12, 1913, in the Western Standard. It's in a special issue of the Calgary newspaper put together by that city's women's press club. It goes on to recommend Calgary, Alberta and the West to the modern woman as the most free-thinking, progressive and advantageous place to realize her professional and entrepreneurial dreams. The editorial's buoyant optimism is a pleasure to read, but how has its vision held up in the century since?
 The writer would not be surprised by the century's progress in living standards, in women's attainment of once male-only employment, and in the acceptance of women as breadwinners and community leaders. Would she be dismayed by the poverty of so many single-parent and senior women, by the glass ceiling in the corporate world, by the image conventions set out for women? And would she see western Canada as still (or again) the best place for women to find career fulfillment?
 We can readily point to the high-profile achievements of Alberta women in politics and the law, from Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy and others of the Famous Five, to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, to the premier's office and the federal cabinet. There are no doubt other outstanding examples to celebrate in other fields. But as Alberta has evolved since 1913, has the pioneer openness that the writer noted in its attitude to women continued? Has the "average" woman benefitted more in the province's development than she might have elsewhere? Does she today consider her region the best locale for her success? And to what extent, with the rise of mobility and connectivity through technology, can anywhere claim to be best?
Thanks, Russ.