Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day



March 8 is International Women's Day, the highlight of International Women's Week. Each year at this time, we celebrate progress toward equality for women and their full participation, reflect on current challenges and consider future steps in achieving equality for all women, in all aspects of their lives. International Women's Week 2010 wraps up on Saturday, March 13.

The Government of Canada's theme for 2010 is Strong Women. Strong Canada. Strong World. For Canadians, equality means women and men sharing in the responsibilities and obligations, as well as in the opportunities and rewards, of life and work. In Canada, leadership is key across society from the private sector to governments to the general public. Leadership is important, so that people of all origins, generations and backgrounds can participate fully in our country's economic, social and democratic life, and ultimately, in improving the state of the world.

The above statements were selected from the Status of Women Canada website, and were followed by some statistics which reflect the progress that has been made by women in many categories of life and work. However, we must not forget that, although great strides have been made since the days when young girls were told that they didn’t belong in an engineering program at university, not every barrier has been totally broken down. The average pay for women too often still lags behind men for work of equal value.

Today I am thinking about some of the strong women I have known who have influenced me, or those women that I admire from afar who provide inspiration. Both of my grandmothers worked long hours to care for large families, one on the farm, the other in the city. They had to make ends meet through the Depression years. I never heard them complain about their circumstances, instead they were intent on providing a caring, nurturing environment for their families. My mother, raised in the city, became a farmer’s wife near the end of the Dirty Thirties, and provided a strong example for her four children. I also had women teachers who encouraged and served as mentors to me in my early school years.

Moving forward to more recent times, I draw inspiration from all the fine women writers that I know. For instance, it was only a little more than a year ago that five writers set out to create a blog that would provide daily food for thought for other writers, and so Prairie Chicks Write Romance was born. Their ranks have grown to nine, plus a guest blogger every week. When the opportunity arose, I thought it would be a great learning experience for me, and I am very appreciative of the encouragement that I get as I continue to learn the ropes as a writer and a blogger on the Prairie.

There are published authors in the associations and groups I have joined, and their dedication and commitment to their craft sets a good example to those of us striving to get to their level. Take a bow, Jana (one of the original Chicks), Connie, and Lesley Anne McLeod (an SRW member and Honorary Chick) for the books you have had published! Also, Suze, a former Chick, one of the originals, who has publishing credits for short stories and magazine articles.

I am continually impressed by the stories our guests have to tell in their Saturday posts. Some have suffered many rejections, but stayed strong and never gave up. Others came out fast from the gate, showing us that anything is possible if you have put your best effort into a good story.

One of the women writers that I especially admire is a member of the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild. Sharon Butala is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. A recent book by Verna Reid in which she discusses Butala’s work and that of three other women, two artists and another writer, illustrates why she is held in such high regard. Women Between: Construction of Self in the Work of Sharon Butala, Aganatha Dyck, Mary Meigs, and Mary Pratt is published by the University of Calgary Press. “All four came into prominence in middle age, doing their most significant work in their mature years. They, along with the author, are members of a transitional generation of women, occupying the space between the traditional world of their mothers and the postmodern world of their daughters. The multiple roles they have played are reflected in the strong autobiographical content present in their work.”

Other women writers that I admire include Elizabeth Hay, Louise Penny, and the late Carol Shields, all of whom began writing later in life after leaving other careers or raising a family. I would also include Lorna Crozier (a poet), and Margaret Atwood who have both had long and illustrious writing careers.

So, these are some of the strong women that I celebrate on this day. I look upon them as influences on me in my efforts to achieve some level of success with my writing. What women have been strong influences in your life? Who has either been a mentor or has inspired you to greater achievement in your writing life specifically?

10 comments:

Karyn Good said...

Very inspirational post today, Helena! On Saturday night I attended Honour and Give: A Tribute to the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day put on by The Prairie Lily Feminist Society. It was a fabulous evening that included Buffy Sainte-Marie as Keynote Speaker and a digital photo gallery presented by the University of Regina Women's Center called a 100 Years 100 Women. It was a wonderful and inspiring evening because a you say, we have more to accomplish.

One of my greatest writing influences has to be Margaret Laurence and her works which include The Diviners and The Stone Angel remain among my favorites.

Helena said...

Hi, Karyn! I'm so glad you attended the event. I heard that Buffy Sainte-Marie was in Regina (and Swift Current, as well?) this week. I listened to a brief interview with her on CBC Sunday morning. She is amazing.

I was struck by one thing she said when asked about her journey through her life and careers. She said she celebrated being a woman, because women are uniquely equipped with the ability to communicate and to approach life in a non-confrontational way. She has done so much to build bridges between the aboriginal and white cultures, though she also admits there is much remaining that needs to be done.

I thought of Margaret Laurence, too. She had such deep insight into the worlds that women create for themselves or those into which they are thrust by circumstances beyond their control.

So glad you stopped by this morning.

Janet said...

Great post, Helena - hats off to women around the world, and especially to women writers as they usually juggle family, writing, AND another career to make ends meet.

You've mentioned one of my all time favorite authors - Carol Shields. The world lost a wonderful writer when Ms Shields passed away. The Stone Diaries was the first book I read of hers - and then I tore through her lists and waited not too patiently for subsequent work to be published.

As for inspiration closer to home, and mentors, I have to acknowledge the writing groups - both published and unpublished women authors working toward a goal that many see as 'pie in the sky'. The determination and persistance keeps me struggling forward in my quest for publication. Thank you to those women (you know who you are).

Anita Mae Draper said...

Umm about women writers... one of my favorite women writers turned out to be a guy using a pseudonym. LOL

I'd have to give credit to the wonderful writers over at www.eharlequin.com who took me into their folds as one of their own and offered help and advice when I only whispered my plea.

After a couple years with them, I gained enough confidence to join the Sask Romance Writers and here I am. :)

Very uplifting post, Helena. Thank you.

Joanne Brothwell said...

We've come a long way, baby! Thanks for the post on an important day for women.

My inspiration is my mother, who always told me I could do whatever I wanted if I just put my mind to it! When I told her I had written a novel she said "Well, I'm not surprised!"

Jana Richards said...

Inspiring post today Helena. I have to say I've always been inspired by the writers at Saskatchewan Romance Writers, who took me in and told me it wasn't crazy to want to write romance. Their generousity and kindness have sustained me many times over the years.

Jana

Helena said...

You're right on, Janet, when you pay tribute to the women who are able to juggle writing AND raise a family, maybe even have a job outside the home. My hat's off to them -- I wasn't able to do it. I sometimes think an unintended side effect when opportunities opened up for women was the high expectations that we set for ourselves. Please don't beat up on yourselves if you can't do it all. That's what setting priorities is all about!

I read everything by Carol Shields that I could get my hands on, too!

And like you, I also value the groups I belong to for support and encouragement.

Helena said...

Anita, there's not too much we can do about pseudonyms -- but just be glad that we are past the time when a woman had to use a man's name to be accepted in the writing world.

So glad you found SRW!

Helena said...

Right on, Joanne. Isn't it great to have the support of our family (parents, spouse, children)?

I kept hearing the same message from scriptwriters and film makers last night at the Oscars!

Helena said...

And the payback part is that other writers now look to you for that same kind of support, Jana! I am inspired by your dedication and commitment to your writing.

Thanks for always being there!