Can you envision a world in which women had no rights – they were ruled by their husbands or their fathers. They owned nothing – everything belonged to their man – first the father then the husband. WHOA —- mind blowing to most of us in this present day and age.
Women have throughout the ages sought equal rights with men. The Women’s Suffrage movement campaigned successfully for women’s right to vote . In the late 1930s and early 1940s women entered the work force in large numbers as a result of men being away fighting World War II. Although some women remained in the work force at the end of World War II, many returned to the home in the fifties leading to the great “baby boom” generation. Some returned to work part-time to support the family while their husband’s furthered their education. In the sixties we saw the birth control pill, hippies, free love and communes. Feminists such as Betty Friedman (author of “The Feminine Mystique”) and Gloria Steinem were active in women’s rights during this period.
Women’s rights were changing in Canada . Significant events included:
- Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson commissioned the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1968. The report in 1970 led to recommendations to provide for equal opportunities for men and women.
- In 1972 the National Action Committee on the Status of Women was formed.
- The Canadian Human Rights Act, 1977 gave basic rights to all humans. Among other rights, it stated that there is “equal pay for work of equal value”.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was part of the Canadian Constitution established in 1982, included equality of sexes.
- Bertha Wilson was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court in 1982.
These were significant events to women of the day. I in fact have a framed copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms hanging in my office. As we celebrate “International Day of Women” with various events throughout this week, we should take a moment to thank those women who came before us. They took a stand to make the politicians and lawmakers see that the rights of women needed to be changed and made those changes happen. We are reaping the benefits of their actions. Take a moment to talk to those women you know who are now in their 60s , 70s, or 80s. You will be amazed at the stories they have to tell of difficulties they encountered in the work place back in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. Watch “The Working Girl” a movie showing the difficulties in the workplace in the 1980s. Hopefully we too are continuing to make a difference so that the women of the next generation will continue to reap the benefits.
Keep an eye out for an upcoming series on the progression of Family Law from the 1960s to today.