HD 41 C750
The Woman Speaks
ST- F. .X. Hi
Two addresses given at Staff Conference St. Francis Xavier Extension Dept.,
Antigonish, N. S., August, 1942
The Woman Speaks Her Mind Two addresses given at Staff Conference St. Francis Xavier Extension Department
Antigonish, N. S., August, 1942
The Importance of Working With Women In The Co - operative Movement
By Sister Marie Michael
. I have 'been wondering what the reaction would be if one of the gentlemen in the audience were to get up and give you a talk on the importance of men in our program of adult edu-cation. You would likely conclude either that he was trying to be funny or that somehow the whole matter had gone to his head. "Why," you would say, "if we didn't have the men we wouldn't have the program." Exactly. But yet, even at this stage in our educational work, we must still convince our-selves that women play a necessary and important part in the movement.
Before I go any further, let me make sure that there will be no misunderstanding. A year or two ago I made some remarks of a similar nature in this room. When I had finished the chairman said, possibly by way of soothing ruffled mas-culine feelings, "That's nothing! that's only what I hear from my wife every day!" I hope that what I have to say will not be interpreted as merely the outpourings of a suffra-gist. What I shall try to do is to define the reasons why I believe that women are an important factor in our program.
I think we will all agree that there are in Canada several women's organizations that exercise a considerable influence for good within a national scope. But J venture to make the criticism that the thinking of many of these organizations is to too great an extent influenced by the outlook of the pro-fessional and business classes. These are the people who are least likely to be effective in bringing about a reform in the social order for the simple reason that their interests are too closely bound up with the present set-up of society. There are, of course, notable exceptions but, for the most part, even those who do see the necessity for a thorough reconstruction of our economic and social system seldom have the courage
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to compromise their own immediate interests. As long as this is. the case women's organizations will never be able to realize their full potentialities for good. They will be limit-ed merely to binding up the wounds inflicted by economic in-justice upon society, whereas their chief role should be a pre-ventive one. The women who are best qualified for this pre-ventive role are the farmer's wife, the fisherman's wife, and the industrial worker's wife; but in the presence of those women whom they regard as more highly educated and more capable they are likely to be apologetic and inarticulate.
It is not fair to blame this state of affairs on the class which I have just mentioned which supplies most of the lead-ers in our women's organizations. The fault rests with our-selves because we are not educating the wives of co-operators to go out and take their places as leaders. Many of our most outstanding workers in the co-operative movement are men who, ten years ago, perhaps had never made a public utter-ance in their lives or exerted any marked influence outside their own immediate circle. Give our women as broad an educational program as these men have been given and that means give us the workers with which to do it and you put into their hands the instruments with which to do their share in the creation of a better society.
The Family Undermined
There is another and more fundamental reason for en-listing the support of women in our co-operative program. Whether we realize it or not, the ultimate result of our whole movement is the protection of that most important and basic of all institutions, namely, the family. When the family de-teriorates, society deteriorates. Co-operation, by bringing about a more just social system, makes for an environment in which family life can flourish. Now let us see what big business is doing to the family. It is 'bringing about the centralization of industry and the consequent urbanization which gradually kills family life. It is exploiting the work-er so that he cannot get a decent living for himself and his family; in fact, so that he cannot even take upon himself family responsibilities. Worst of all, it is creating that false sense of values which is perhaps more than anything else re-sponsible for the breakdown of our rural communities. .
What is the connection between all this and the partici-pation of women in our educational program? Just this: that women must be made to understand the forces that threaten to destroy all those values which they hold most sacred. Some may say, "What have women to do with this ? Their place is in the home." Of course it is. But we must remember that on account of the growing complexity of soci-
TBE WOMAN SPEAKS HER MIND 5
ety the time is past when a woman can consider her duty done when she centers all her concern on her immediate home and family. She must do her share in building a society that will provide a full and abundant life for her sons and daugh-ters.
In a group such as this there is no need to enlarge upon the means by which she can do this. I think it was particul-arly well expressed in an article by George Tichenor, editor of THE COOPERATOR, that I read not long ago. He told of a little old lady whom he often visits down in Pennsylvania. This old lady is an ardent co-operator, and she always buys co-op brand food because then, as she says, she has the satis-faction of knowing that with every mouthful she eats she is taking a bite out of the capitalist system.
Since women do by far the greater part of the spending in the home, and since those dollars that they spend are, in effect, votes cast either in favor of co-operative business or of private business, you can see how important it is to win their support. But they won't give their wholehearted sup-port to something they don't understand; and they won't understand it unless they study it; and they won't study un-less they are organized; and we can't organize the.m unless we have the workers with which to do it. So it is mostly a question of financial means.
You may be inclined to think that this matter will take care of itself. If a man has shares in a co-operative store his wife will automatically deal there. But a woman is not going to deal at the co-operative store when, to her way of thinking at least, she can get a better bargain at another store, no matter how many shores her husband may have in the co-op. Let me tell you what has happened in a fishing village in this Province. Owing to the war many of the men have gone from the place. A private merchant in the vicinity hit upon the bright idea of placing his car at the disposal of the ladies of the village, and the wives of many good co-operators now deal at his store. While this war lasts our co-operative or-ganizations are going to be more and more in the hands of women, so it is highly important that they should be well or-ganized.
At the Credit Union convention held this week mention was made of the necessity for sacrifice and idealism in the co-operative movement. I hold no brief for the unselfishness of the individual woman, but I do say that women's organiza-tions are characterized by these two spiritual qualities. Just consider the extent to which women are used in raising money
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for various worthy causes. May it not very well be that this particular contribution would furnish the missing link in our co-operative organizations that something which seems to prevent them from bearing full fruit, and for which you have been searching since this conference began? At least, let us seriously consider the possibility that some of our fail-ures have been because of the fact that we have not given women their rightful place in this movement.
So far I have stressed only the necessity for the study of economic matters on the part of women. A long period might be devoted to the importance of handicrafts, but I feel that this is a matter which is very well understood by this audience. It will undoubtedly be of interest to you to learn that the Department of Industries and Publicity is planning to initiate a province-wide handicraft program and they are now looking for someone to head up this work.
More Women Workers
It should be evident that all this requires workers de-voting their full time to the carrying on of an educational program among women. I hope we can look forward to the time when the Co-operative Educational Council will have a field worker devoting her entire time to the promotion of women's work. Meanwhile, is it too much to ask that we should have in every county someone who would duplicate for the women the work done for the men by the agricultural representatives? After all, this is only to ask for something we should have anyway.
Dr. Coady has said very picturesquely that the common man must climb into the driver's seat and get his hands on the throttle of his own economic destiny. We are going to need the combined1 effort and enlightenment of everyone if this big, unwieldy machine that we call the social order is to be safely steered through the crisis that lies ahead. So, when you take your rightful place in the driver's seat, make room for the women beside you at the throttle.
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What Can Be Done In The Future
Mrs. Ida Delaney
We are now to continue the discussion on wome