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The Women’s Press (also known as the Canadian Women’s Educational Press) was founded in 1971, by a subgroup of the Toronto Women’s Liberation Movement, one of the first feminist political organizations in Toronto. The initiative for a feminist press grew out of a dissatisfaction with the mainstream publishing community which had rejected Women Unite!, the first compilation of Canadian contemporary feminist writing. Their mandate was to provide an alternative means of making feminist ideas widely accessible and continue their involvement in the growing Canadian women’s movement. The Canadian Women’s Educational Press, more commonly known as the Women’s Press, was started officially on a grant from the Toronto Local Initiates Project (LIP) as a socialist feminist collective publishing feminist fiction, non-fiction and non-sexist children’s books.
In 1988 the Women’s Press began public discussion of an internal dispute regarding a proposed anti-racist policy. The discussions ended in a split within the Press with some original members departing to form the ‘Second Story Press’.
Women’s Press is Canada’s oldest English language feminist publisher. For over forty years, Women’s Press has played an integral role in the proliferation of high-quality Canadian writing in the fields of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies
Wendy McPeake was involved in the creation of cultural products, including museum exhibits, revenue-generating publications and products, promotional publications, and commercial operations. She obtained a Bachelor of Art in English Literature from the University of Ottawa in 1971 and also studied at the Université d’Aix-en-Provence in 1972 and 1973, as well as completing courses in management publishing. In the late 1970s, Wendy McPeake was involved in various groups and organizations working on women's issues. She was very active in the Ottawa Women's Centre, frequently sitting on the Policy Committee. She was involved in organizing various events, including a musical fundraiser in 1977 with the artists Angele Arsenault, CT & April, and Ellen McIllwaine, as well as another concert fundraiser that featured Rita MacNeil.
Wendy McPeake founded and was a very active member of the Political Action Collective, renamed the Feminist Action Collective in 1981. She worked as a marketing manager at the National Museums of Canada (1980 to 1984), as Assistant to the Director of Publishing at McClelland and Stewart publishing house (1984-1985), as Director, Publishing and Product Development at the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology Corporation (1985-1995), and as Director Commercial Operations at the Canada Museum of Science and Technology Corporation (1994-1998). She is currently a freelance publishing consultant and editor.
Valerie Overend was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1953. During the 1990s, Valerie worked as a Red Seal Carpenter on commercial construction projects in the Regina area with the local Carpenters Union. Valerie had never met another woman on a construction site and knew that she wanted to do something to change that situation. She knew that women wanted to work in physical, creative, well-paying jobs but that they were limited by opportunity. She took advantage of her role as a summer instructor and moved into creating other programs for girls and women, maintaining the focus on career exploration in trades and technology. For the next 25 years, Valerie made her living expanding on that role until to her retirement.
In the 1970s, Saskatchewan Women in Trades & Technology (SaskWITT), a provincial organization that promotes and assists in the recruitment and training of girls and young women in predominantly male fields, was established. In the early 1990s, Valerie represented SaskWITT on the Board of the WITT National Network. That organization also developed programs to guide women into careers in trades and technology occupations. Valerie was on the team of WITT instructors from across Canada who met to develop National Standards and Guidelines for WITT programs in Canada. These were updated and revised again near the end of the decade to reflect changes in the landscape of trades and technology occupations. This work was fundamental in the development of curriculum resources that were introduced in all provinces and territories in Canada, many of them still in use.
In 1991, Valerie was approached by the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) to teach summer camps to introduce grades 7 and 8 girls to careers in trades and technology. With Valerie at the helm, SIAST campuses delivered summer Girls Exploring Trades and Technology Camps, GETT Alumnae workshops for high school girls, weekend Kids in the Shop Programs, a Kindergarten project where role models visited 60 classes each year, Women in Trades and Women in Technology Exploratory Programs, Career Fairs and variations of all of these for Aboriginal girls and women.
In 1995, she co-founded the Women’s Work Training Program in Regina, Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Valerie sat on numerous Boards and Committees representing tradeswomen. These include the Saskatchewan Education Council, Saskatchewan Carpenters Trade Board, Saskatchewan Provincial Apprenticeship Board, the Saskatchewan Labour Market Initiatives Committee to the Canadian Construction Association, and the Women’s Reference Group to the Provincial Labour Force Development Board. Nationally, Valerie represented Saskatchewan as a Director of the Canadian Vocational Association, WITT NN, and CCWESTT. Through her involvement with these organizations, Valerie held Director positions with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum and the National Women’s Reference Group on Labour Market Initiatives.
Aside from working directly with girls and women, Valerie began to work with employers and unions to resolve some of the barriers that conspired to keep women out of jobs in various industries. She worked both as a private consultant and as a consultant with WITT NN on various Employment Equity and Retention projects throughout the decade. Valerie’s work often involved travel, primarily in Canada. Over time, Valerie worked not only with the Construction Industry but also with Oil and Gas, and Mining Industries. She had contracts in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, and all of the Western Provinces and Ontario. As well, Valerie’s work once took her to Malawi in Africa.
When WITT NN dissolved in the early 2000s, Valerie was invited to work as a consultant to a project by the Canadian Coalition of Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT). This resulted in the formation of the WinSETT Centre, a mechanism established to expand and support women’s participation in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology. Valerie became the Trades Consultant for the organization and worked to establish a pan-Canadian presence among unions, employers, and employer associations through delivery of programs and services.
Valerie has received both local and national recognition for her work. In 1992, she was awarded the Governor General’s 125 Medal for community volunteerism and she also recognized by the YWCA Regina as a Woman of Distinction. In 2005, Valerie received the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal. These awards recognize her dedicated work as a role model inspiring young women in non-traditional fields.
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Voice of Women began in 1960 when women across Canada were alarmed about the threat of nuclear war and how nuclear testing was endangering their children’s lives. Lotta Dempsey wrote columns in the Toronto Star asking women to write to her if they were willing to “do something” about this imminent danger. Hundreds replied. Four women, Jo Davis, Dorothy Henderson, Helen Tucker and Beth Touzel met with Lotta Dempsey and shortly thereafter “The Voice of Women” was established. Within months, thousands of women joined VOW that began to receive newsletters urging women to form small local groups to keep in touch with one another and to encourage all their female friends to join and unite for world peace.
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) is a non-partisan Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) comprised of a network of diverse women with consultative status at the United Nations ECOSOC. For 55 years, VOW has tirelessly advocated for a world without war. An accredited NGO to the United Nations, affiliated to the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), VOW was the Canadian lead group for peace at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Members have been active in follow-up activities, including writing the chapter,”Women and Peace” in Take Action for Equality, Development and Peace.
They continue to exist today as part of a growing and select number of NGOs that provide women the opportunity to appeal to national government and international diplomats, attend conferences at the United Nations including the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and to write and present briefs and statements to political heads of state and nations worldwide on women and peace issues. They respond to calls for guidance and research on peace and women’s issues locally, nationally, and internationally. VOW is a non-partisan, non-religious organization that values women in all their diversities.