By the time she became a syndicated columnist in the 1930s and '40s, however, her view had darkened considerably. She vehemently supported Jewish immigration to Canada and challenged the government on its internment of the Japanese, but the optimism of her early years was gone. Even her novels reflect this; where once she would have attempted to rehabilitate her criminals, in her last novel she simply blasts her villain with a bolt of lightning. "Enough!" she seems to be saying," I don't want to put up with you anymore."
Would that we were all novelists and could dispense with our enemies so quickly! We are not, though, and as we look back it is instructive to note that even strong women of passion and justice like Nellie McClung could get discouraged-and still continue to fight.
Progress may not be "inevitable," as McClung hoped. It may well be that every gain we make, whether legislative or attitudinal, will have to be constantly defended to be preserved. We may never have the luxury of taking any of it for granted. This is an exhausting, daunting thought. Yet we are sustained: even through time, by women like McClung. We are fighting the same battles, for education, for recognition of our labour in the home and out of it, for safety from male violence, for justice in a caring world. Her greatest disappointment was that women fell away from one another and were seduced by dreams of individual fulfillment in a world still run by men. Were she here today, the rich and complex texture of the fabric which we weave through our lives as women together would bring her the greatest joy.
Randi Warne is Program Director for Continuing Education and Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at St. Stephen's College, University of Alberta. She is an active feminist and currently working on a book on Nellie McClung.___________