Recollections of early 1970s feminist activism in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
In the years around 1970-74, a small group of women in the Sault Ste. Marie community gathered together to agitate around issues of access to abortions and birth control in the north. They spoke at the local high school and Sault College as guests of sympathetic teachers. They also distributed, outside the high school, the McGill Handbook on Birth Control. These actions met with resistance in the local community. One supporter recalled:
“The significant event with respect to the birth control issue, as I recall it, was the seizure and destruction of a large stack of the pamphlet produced at McGill, the Birth Control Handbook. I have come to know most of the women who initiated it and kept its free production flowing. The stack had been placed near the entrance to our beautiful Butler Building campus at the periphery of Cambrian College, as it then was, later Sault College. I think I was part of the team which did this and I do not remember if we had asked permission from Ian Brown or any other authority at Algoma. Some authority at Cambrian deemed it illegal, so was apparently unaware of the legal change of 2 or 3 years earlier when Pierre Trudeau was Justice Minister under the Pearson government. Maybe whoever destroyed them was just a rabid RC pro-lifer. I think the legalization was part of an omnibus package on a number of sexual issues, dramatically changing the Criminal Code on them. I am quite sure that was the spring of 1971.”
For several years after that, the group offered birth control counselling to women in the community.
In the summer of 1971, a group of women from Women’s Liberation in Sudbury came to town to meet with their Sault Ste. Marie counterparts. The sessions were held at Algoma University. Joan Kuyek was one of the Sudbury speakers.