Saturday, October 31, 2020

Elsie fact #30: Women in STEM

Women in science, technology, engineer and math or STEM have met many challenges. There are a number of blockades that they encountered throughout their education and professional lives, with some disciplines being more problematic than others.

It took Elsie a long time to come to terms with the idea that there was discrimination within engineering, in part because she had never really stopped to assess her own experience. When she did, she realized that she had face discrimination and that she needed to advocated for women in this regard as well. 

One thing that she was completely against was the idea that she was a "woman" engineer. She would make it quite clear to anyone who was surprised that she was an engineer that that was their problem not hers. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Elsie fact #29: International Women's Day

The United Nations declared 1975 International Women's Year (IWY). Elsie continued her feminist activism and used the momentum of this year to advance a number of her projects. She delivered speeches and encouraged women to seize the potential this year offered for women's advancement. 

It was during this time that she really started to reflect on the challenges for women in engineering. 

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.