13. Women of Courage: Herstory
* * * * * * * * * * by Anne Moore and the * * * * * * * * * *
Women's Group of
ANNE MOORE and the Women's Group of Action Read in Guelph, Ontario have been working together for the last four years. In 1995 we published Growing Bolder: A Workbook on Growing Older and Herstory for Women in Literacy Programs. This chapter is adapted from that book. The group members that helped to write the workbook were: Shirley Almack, Bela Banerjee, Lucy Carere, Bonnie Ford, Rosemary Meadus and Annette Priest.
photo: Ben Barclay
This chapter came out of some themes that developed over the four years that the group worked together. We felt strongly that we wanted to share what we were finding out about women from the past. The women in the group thought that women at any level would find this material interesting. As we did our research we found that it made us feel differently about who we were and what we were struggling with in our daily lives.
The women felt most comfortable with a workbook format that spoke directly to learners. We wanted the book to be handled by learners themselves, and not to be a resource book only for teachers and facilitators. While we talked and wrote, we were thinking of the women who choose not to be part of a group, or have not got that option, and women in many community programs. And we were thinking of small women's groups, although there are not many around.
We wanted our book to be as useful as possible. The entire chapter (except for the photos on page 217 - page 219) is a student handout, and may be reproduced for educational purposes. It is taken from our book Growing Bolder. We invite you to adapt this material in any way necessary to make it work in your situation.
With basic learners most of the chapter can be done orally. The tutor or learner can read the material out loud, discuss it and use the questions for writing exercises. The questions were written with the hopes that there would be a good discussion first. We hope you do not shy away from this material because it is too advanced. We found that women at any level enjoyed the stories of other women and enjoyed thinking about new ideas.
If you work in a class, you could use the chapter in several ways, with some or all of the learners in the class. If the reading level seems right for them, you might give it to one or two learners to work on independently, checking on them as needed for discussion of the ideas. These learners may want to present their writings to the whole class, and may want to involve the rest of the class in some of the activities.
The material best lends itself to a small mixed-level group. The group can read the text out loud, discuss it together, then pair off to support each other in the writing exercises. If the group is ready for it, they can be invited to do their own research on local women's stories and herstory. It may lead to interviewing the elders of your communities, taking a field trip or publishing a book. The possibilities are endless. We know because this is how our book got written!
One last note: The exercises at the beginning of the chapter were sparked by one of the women seeing a movie about Columbus, where he was portrayed as the father/discoverer of a new land. This began months of discussion and research on ideas of First Nations' rights, racism, gender and oppression. We discovered that Columbus is important because he helps to tie all these themes together very clearly. Two resources on Columbus listed at the end of this chapter were especially helpful. 1996 marks the 500 th anniversary of Cabot's arrival on our eastern shores. Many ceremonies, theatrical productions and re-enactments are planned. There may be material in these events to spark similar ideas. Please feel free to expand the discussion.