Women Unite Relaunched!

Rise Up! is pleased to announce the relaunch of Women Unite, a new collection that includes over 25 video interviews with Toronto-based feminists about different experiences from the 1970s to the 1990s. These firsthand accounts feature a wide range of feminists—in individual or group interviews—recalling the debates, activism, mobilization, and struggles in which they were involved.

The initial rollout of Women Unite in early April was delayed following important concerns about the collection not including Black feminist voices. This was brought to our attention by community members, and Rise Up! took down the interviews that had been uploaded, and circulated an apology. We have since been working towards a more representative relaunch. The complete Women Unite collection will include several interviews with Black feminists—two are now complete, with two more in the works. Thank you to all those whose labour, resistance, and support helped us do this work. 

The interviews in the collection address issues such as Indigenous women’s status rights, reproductive rights, violence against women, anti-racist organizing, disability rights, immigrant women’s organizing, and justice for women in federal prisons, just to name a few. As project hosts, Rise Up tried to create a space for interview participants to tell their stories the way they wanted to tell them. 

Over the coming summer and fall, we will continue to highlight the different interviews in our newsletter, on the website, and through social media. We’ve started already…

Photo of Mary Cornish with quote “laws are important, legal approaches are important, the Charter challenges were important, but you don’t get any of those things without the struggle of people to get them”

The Struggle for Pay Equity Legislation in Ontario

Organizations such as the Equal Pay Coalition of Ontario led the way in fighting to obtain legislative change that would enforce not just equal pay for equal work but also equal pay for work of equal value. In this interview, Mary Cornish and Laurell Ritchie, two of the founders of the Equal Pay Coalition of Ontario, speak with Sue Colley about their activism and the passage of the Pay Equity Act in Ontario in June 1987.

A still from the video with a quote by Zanana Akande - "It's very hard to fight because no one sees themselves as being discriminiating... you endure things that you know are ridiculous"

Zanana Akande: Trailblazer

In September 1990, Zanana Akande was elected to the Ontario legislature and became the first Black woman cabinet minister in Canada. In this interview, Zanana Akande speaks with Sue Colley about her path to power and her time in office. The interview covers her youth growing up in Toronto, her work starting Tiger Lily: A Journal by Women of Colourand her efforts toward the passage of groundbreaking employment-equity legislation in Ontario.

Still of the video with quote by Meg Luxton - "I loved the learning. I loved the sense of solidarity. I loved that I could do women's stuff"

How did you become a feminist?

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that recording our interviews in person wasn’t going to be possible and we would have to proceed via Zoom. We resolved to do a “test” interview to practice. The interview revealed such interesting stories about how some of the women who founded our collective became active in the women’s movement in the 1980s and 1990s that we made it part of the collection!

Thank you…

This project has been made possible in part by Library and Archives Canada’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program.

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