Today is the one-hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day. The first International Women’s Day was observed on 19 March 1911, following a call by the Socialist Party of America. In 1977, its celebration was encouraged by the United Nations General Assembly.
|Margaret Fairley, painted by Canadian artist Frederick Varley|
It has been suggested that we mark the day by signaling the contribution of great women. I would like to mark the life of my maternal grandmother, Margaret Fairley, who campaigned for social justice in many contexts, including for the equality of women.
Margaret was born in
Britain and studied at for a degree. I believe she would have completed the degree exactly 100 years ago. But Oxford did not give degrees to women then. Margaret was offered a position at the Oxford , where her credits would be recognized in exchange for some service to the institution. Needless to say, my mother, my sister and my wife and my daughters did not have to go to such lengths to receive their degrees. This is thanks to the struggles of those who went before, including Margaret. University of Alberta
One of my early memories of Margaret, who died when I was a teenager, is of her interest in decolonization in Africa. I believe she saw this as an event of colossal importance, and she managed to communicate to me her enthusiasm for the liberation of the continent from colonial rule. Margaret kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings on decolonization, and soon I was doing the same.
On my recent visit to
, I was very struck by the profound engagement of women in the democratic revolution. At the seminar I attended, perhaps have the participants were women. Those who seek reform in the Tunisia Middle East must understand what a potent force can be unleashed (and has already) to the extent that women see recent developments as a means to achieving greater freedom.
our recent election returned a pathetically low number of women parliamentarians, about 15% of the total. It is a national disgrace. Yesterday, one of my students asked if perhaps there were not enough qualified women. All I can say is that the men have made an enormous botch-up of the country, and that anything would be an improvement. With our proportional representation system this should be an easy thing to fix. Our electoral districts return several candidates based upon a complex formula of preferences and transfers. All we need to do is require that each district return one or two women, depending upon its size, and the problem will be solved. Ireland