Celebrating 125 years of women's progress in Amherst

Darrell Cole
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Internatioanl Women's Day celebrated Friday in Amherst

International Women's Day celebrations were held at the Lions Club in Amherst on Friday. The day centered around celebrating the gains made by the women's movement since 1889.

AMHERST – Men and women of all ages came together on Friday to help inspire change during the annual International Women’s Day celebration at the Amherst Lions Club.

More than 100 people were on hand for the event that included the singing of Bread and Roses that has become the rallying cry of the women’s day events, while Clare Christie performed her one-woman dialog of former Amherst resident and women’s activist Grace McLeod Rogers.

“The main message Grace McLeod Rogers would want to get across is that women have a very important role to play in society. Particularly educated women should not take their education for granted. They have a greater obligation to make a contribution to society,” Christie said following the 90-minute luncheon that also featured chili and soup.

Terri Cove of Autumn House said she’s proud that Amherst does so much to acknowledge the importance of the day by showing up to celebrate women’s accomplishments.

In preparing for Friday’s celebration, Cove said the organizing committee wanted to celebrate Amherst’s 125th birthday and the contribution women have made to the community.

Amherst women in 1889 would have experienced life in much the same way as most of their North American sisters. Cove said elementary and high school education was available to women but only 18 per cent of the workforce was represented by women.

She said women fought for the right to vote in the early 1900s and went to work in the factories when men went to war in the 1940s, while they were forced back into the home in the 1950s when the men came back from fighting in Europe.

She said the women’s liberation movement followed in the 1960s and shelter movement in 1980s allowed women to safely leave their abuser.

“The past 20 years women have been working on changing the laws to better protect women who have been assaulted by their intimate partners. We have been gaining in numbers in the corporation boardrooms and in political arenas,” Cove said.

In spite of all the achievements, Cove said, women still need to work hard for further change since they are still seen by many as the “fragile gender and therefore, somehow less valuable.”

She said it’s her hope that by the time Amherst celebrates its 150th birthday in 25 years that true equality will have arrived.

Amherst Deputy Mayor Lisa Emery said women’s day is an opportunity to celebrate women’s history in the community since 1889.

“Women have been through a lot both good and bad. There have been a lot of ups and downs,” Emery said. “We need to celebrate our past because for a long time the world was run by men. The women stayed at home and cooked and cleaned and looked after the children.”

Emery said significant gains have been made and more women are running for political office. She is hoping that continues with the election of more women to seats in Parliament, the provincial legislature and town council.

It was in 2012 that Emery became the first woman town councillor in more than a decade for Amherst.


Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Amherst Lions Club, Autumn House, North American

Geographic location: Amherst, Europe

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