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Women’s History Month 2020: “Valiant Women of the Vote.”

OPSEU Provincial Women's Committee - SEFPO Comite provincial des femmes logo
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October is Women’s History Month in Canada. OPSEU/SEFPO is encouraging everyone to celebrate the accomplishments of women through the past decades and commit to doing everything possible to make sure that the best is yet to come.

“Valiant Women of the Vote” is the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month. OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says this year’s theme is an important reminder to recognize and support women in their chosen fields and to celebrate their accomplishments. 

“I am pleased to say that OPSEU/SEFPO has taken a leadership role in creating conditions for women to thrive,” said Thomas. “Our membership is more than two-thirds women and we currently have a record number of women elected to the Executive Board. We know that when women win, we all win.” 

October was chosen to mark Women’s History Month because of a landmark court ruling on October 18, 1929 that allowed women to take a huge step forward in Canada.   The Constitutional case, also known also as “the Persons Case,” established the rights of women to hold appointments in the Senate. Novelist and activist Nellie McClung and four other women from Nova Scotia, known as “the Famous Five,” challenged a section of the British North America Act (BNA), which technically withheld the right for women to be recognized as “persons.”  “The Persons Case” saw the section of the BNA overturned, giving women the same rights as men in the political arena. 

In the years since, women have fought for and have won numerous positions of influence in fields like medicine, finance, government, science and labour. More women senior positions with multi-national corporations around the world and women are fixtures on the front lines of marches and rallies fighting for equality and all forms of social justice. 

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says it has been inspiring for him during his working career to see women getting the opportunities they deserve. 

“I am always encouraged when I see women standing up and accepting leadership roles, both inside and outside of OPSEU/SEFPO,” said Almeida.  “Even before society told them that they were ‘capable’, women have led in ways that make life better for everyone.” 

During Women’s History Month, we also remember prominent Black women who were trailblazers in the fight for equal rights for all women.  These women include Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist born into slavery and activist in the movement for women’s suffrage. Jean Augustine, who in 1993, became the first Black Canadian woman elected to the House of Commons.  While in office, Augustine was also responsible for championing legislation that designated February as Black History Month in Canada.    

Everyone will remember 2020 as the year of many challenges. Each day has been a reminder of why it is so important for our society to stay positive and work together in the face of COVID-19.  This year has also drawn long overdue attention to the ongoing struggles of the Black community for acceptance and the right to live. Many women have joined the voices on the frontline in the fight asking for acceptance and love. 

Dianne Clarabut, chair of the Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC), says “Valiant Women of the Vote” is a particularly fitting theme for this year. 

“The world needs strong leaders in these very tumultuous times, and we are reminded of women like the Famous 5 who fought to give us the right to occupy places which historically were denied to us,” said Clarabut.  “We are thankful for them, and to women like the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the many years she fought for the rights of women. We see strong women like former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, using her influence to encourage eligible voters to get out and vote in the upcoming U.S. election.”

Canadians have a lot to be proud of and to celebrate this Women’s History Month, Clarabut added, noting the impact of prominent young Canadian women like poet Rupi Kaur, a feminist whose work has done a lot to revive the literary genre for younger generations, and comedian Lilly Singh, an LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights activist.

“We have many inspiring, influential women in this country. I look forward to seeing how much further the next generation of women will take us.”