Trail Status of Women Council’s first executive. From left: Arlene Burwash, Virginia Clover, Diane Edmonson, Susan Charlton and “Bubbles.”

Recognizing Trail Status of Women Council, 50 years later

PHOTOS: This group of women leaders established the first daycare in Trail

The 50th anniversary of the Status of Women report in Canada was quietly observed in March.

After COVID-19 threw the world in a tailspin that month and quashed any sort of in-person gatherings, this milestone for women in Canada almost slipped by unnoticed.

In Trail, anyway.

However, an original member of the Status of Women Trail group contacted the Times to remind the newspaper of this critical movement that, in the city, was started in 1972 and fully revved up the following year.

“We did have a very vibrant group in the community though not many of us are left now,” retired teacher Virginia Clover explained over the phone. (The Times office was closed to the public)

“Getting a daycare was the first priority of our Status of Women group, so the biggest concrete change for our group was the opening of the Trail daycare centre,” she explained. “We also did a lot of public events, educational outreach and more, as we were able to take advantage of government grants offered in response to the national Status of Women report.”

As far as the first daycare, a staff of three was hired and, for the first time in the city, low-cost care was provided to mothers in-need.

“My daughter at the age of three was in the first group of kids,” Clover explained. “It was a learning edge in those days in Trail for a middle class mum to work full-time, or to resort to daycare facilities which were meant more for single parent working class and working mums,” she said. “Now folks sign up for daycare at the birth of a child.”

Such care is costly today, Clover pointed out, saying that advocates are still fighting for low-cost daycare for needy families, as well as for properly paid and well-trained childcare workers.

As a whole, Clover says women’s status has vastly improved over 50 years.

And while significant advances have been made, there’s still further to go, as the pandemic has so recently shown.

“The most disadvantaged women remain those in the working class, especially single parent women,” Clover said. “Covid has shone a brilliant spotlight on the economic plight of our so valuable lowly paid female workers, as well as the continued need for daycare, a guaranteed living wage, and subsidized housing.”

How the women’s movement began

The 1960s was a period of dramatic change and upheaval in Canada, as it was in most western nations. As the civil rights and peace movements gained momentum, so too did the second wave of the women’s movement, bringing with it pressure to advance equality for women. The post-war boom had seen a growing number of women choosing higher education and paid employment over traditional roles, while others were demanding recognition for their work in the home and greater sharing of responsibilities between women and men.

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was created in 1967 and given the mandate to “inquire into and report upon the status of women in Canada, and to recommend what steps might be taken by the federal government to ensure for women equal opportunities with men in all aspects of Canadian society.”

The groundbreaking Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, tabled in Parliament on December 7, 1970, included recommendations on updating the legislative system and addressing such critical issues for women as poverty, family law, the Indian Act and the need for a federal representative for women.

The first Minister responsible for the Status of Women was appointed in 1971. Initially established within the Privy Council Office, Status of Women Canada became a departmental agency of the federal government in 1976.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which outlaws discrimination based on sex and a number of other grounds, was enacted as part of the Constitution Act in 1982.

The lives of Canadian women and girls have changed and improved dramatically since the days of the Royal Commission, and while the need for improvement in some areas remains, evidence of critical progress abounds.

Today Status of Women Canada continues to promote gender equality and works with its many partners to advance women’s and girls’ full participation in all aspects of Canadian life.

Status of Women in Trail

A story in the Trail Times, written in October 1973, titled “Status of Women Council working for ‘equal status’” summarized the recommendations women in the Trail area took from the report and how they were going to work toward betterment.

“Equal status is the aim of Trail’s recently-formed Status of Women Council,” the story begins.

“Formed as a result of a need and desire expressed at the Status of Women conference held at Selkirk College in September, the council plans to promote action of the report of the Royal Commission of the Status of Women in Canada. The council plans to foster public knowledge of the rights and status of women in Canada and to facilitate communication between individuals and groups concerned about the status of women …

“The Trail Status of Women Council was the initiating and organizing agency for the creation of daycare in Trail. As a result of these efforts there is now an active daycare board of directors and society whose aim is to make daycare a reality in Trail by the fall of ‘73,” vice president Susan (Wallach) said.

(Wallach) said the Trail council is also helping to organize a course at Selkirk College called About Women. History of the movement, Women in the Labour Market, Sexual Stereotyping Through the Media, Women and the Law, Women in public life, The Psychology of Women, Women and Poverty, The Population Explosion, and Birth Control (were) topics of the lecture series.

Trail’s council is a very active organization., Wallach said. More women (were) encouraged to attend the meetings, held the last Tuesday of each month.”

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Virginia Clover today. (Facebook)

Trail Times clipping of Trail Status of Women Council. (Date unknown)

Celebration of the first day care centre in Trail. (Trail Times photo,1974)

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