Thursday, October 29, 2020

Elsie fact #28: The RCSW Report

The Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women was tabled in 1970. It was considered in one media report to be a "bomb". Assessing the report today, there are many gaps that stand out, but when looking at it within its proper historical context, it was a revolutionary document.

Elsie spent an extensive amount of her time after the report was table to see its recommendations implemented. She gave speeches and worked with existing and new women's groups to advocate for the changes needed. She realized that the report was not the end of the work, only the beginning. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Elsie fact #27: Abortion

One issue that Elsie really championed during The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was a woman's right to abortion. While the RCSW was working abortion was illegal in Canada, and Elsie was against that. In the final report, she supported the recommendations regarding abortion, but took issue with the fact that they did not go far enough. She wanted to see abortion completely decriminalized and made a private matter between a woman and her doctor. 

For more information on the context and issues around abortion in the 1960s see The Abortion Caravan by Karin Wells.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Elsie fact #26: Stop the sex-typing of education

Elsie MacGill was interested in every aspect of The Royal Commission on the Status of Women, even the behind the scenes work required for its administration and coordination. Some of the issues that stood out for her included education. Specifically, she was concerned about women having opportunities to go as far as educationally possible. To do this, she realized that society needed to offer them better support, and provide models for them to emulate in textbooks etc. 

Elsie would continue to advocate for the development of women's full potential throughout her life.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Elsie fact #25: The Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW)

 In 1967, the Government of Canada established The Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW). Elsie MacGill was one of the commissioners selected to serve on this important commission. Why was she chosen? A number of reasons:

-she was a business and professional woman and could represent their voices,

-she was a self-declared feminist (the only one at the start of the commission),

-she had significant leadership experience in business and as a social activist, and

-she was originally from Vancouver, British Columbia providing some important regional representation.

The Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women was tabled in parliament in 1970, and it was was an extremely important document for its time. While it missed a lot of important aspects from our perspective today, and was even challenged by some of the commissioners who who helped produce it, within its proper historical context it represents an important aspect of Canadian social history.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Elsie fact #24: BPW National President

Elsie Gregory MacGill was elected National President of the Canadian Business and Professional Wome's Clubs in 1962 for a two-year mandate. Her organizing skills as an engineer came into play in a major way and she worked hard to achieve a long list of resolutions from the club members. For instance she led two delegations of members to present their briefs tied to these resolutions in meetings with Canadian prime ministers.

Elsie also completed a cross-country tour giving speeches at a range of different clubs and supporting their efforts to advance the cause of women within the country. This role provided her with extensive media coverage and strategically positioned her for future feminist service.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Elsie fact #23: BPW Ontario President

Elsie MacGill served as the Provincial President of the Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ontario from 1956-1958. Of her many different objectives, one of the most notable was calling for the recognition and full integration of "womanpower" within Canada. From her perspective, it was a seriously overlooked resource, that if properly engaged could change the province and the country in fundamental ways.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Elsie fact #22: A woman Prime Minister

Elsie did not waste time before reaching out to the larger circles of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs. Indeed, before long she was attending provincial and national events and participating actively. During the 1954 national convention, she gave a keynote address entitled "A Blueprint for Madame Prime Minister", where she argued for the importance of a woman prime minister and deftly outlined the key points of her agenda. 

This speech demonstrates her ability to have and sustain visions of how she thought the world should be even when no current example existed. Elsie was arguing of the need for a woman Prime Minister 39 years before The Right Honourable Kim Campbell would become the first to hold this position of leadership in 1993!