Category Archives: History

Thank Goodness for the Battle of the Sexes

battle of the sexesIt was far more than a tennis match! Dave and I went to see the movie The Battle of the Sexes. It tells the story of a famous tennis game between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. Bobby Riggs an aging tennis professional claimed that men were far better tennis players than women. To prove male superiority he challenged Billie Jean King the reigning star of women’s tennis to a publicity match. Billie Jean accepted and won! At the end of the match Riggs said “I underestimated you.” In 2009 Billie Jean King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her role in achieving greater pay equity and enhanced recognition for female athletes. Her activism brought attention to the need for gender equality in many areas of society. 


Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs before their match in 1973.

I had just gotten married in 1973 when the famous Battle of the Sexes match was played and the movie reminded me of  how far women have come since that time.  

In 1973………

American women could not apply for their own credit card.  Employers did not have to grant maternity leave.  Women couldn’t run in the Boston Marathon.  Women could not get a legal abortion. The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) guaranteeing equal rights for men and women only passed for the first time in some American states in 1972.  But it would be 1982 before every state ratified the amendment. 

And Canada wasn’t much different. 

In 1973……………

The RCMP did not recruit women. Women could not fly planes in the Canadian Air Force and Air Canada had no female pilots. Women’s incomes were 60% lower than mens. Pregnancy was reason for dismissal by an employer and sexual harassment was not legally wrong. Women had no guaranteed property rights after a divorce. 

The Battle of the Sexes tennis match was symbolic of what was going on in the 1970s as women fought to gain a more equal footing with men.  Billie Jean King was just one of many, many women who took on the fight for greater recognition and rights for women.  I’m so grateful for their courage and bravado!

Other posts…….

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote? 

The Bechdel Test


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Filed under History, Sports

She Always Found Time for Creativity

The Lost Diaries Of Susanna Moodie

I just finished reading The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie in which author Cecily Ross provides a fictionalized account of the life of one of Canada’s first authors.  Susanna Moodie’s book Roughing it in the Bush was published in 1852.  

Susanna left her comfortable home in England to  accompany her husband John as he set off for Upper Canada where he was convinced their family would have a great future.  While he pursued one money-making scheme after another, none successfully, Susanna was often left alone with her small children to manage a household, crops, gardens and  livestock and to deal with blizzards, fires, illness and injury.  Yet despite her endless days of grinding work and demanding child care she somehow found time to write poetry, make journal entries and paint water colors. 

Her need to write and paint was no doubt partially motivated by the fact that she was sometimes able to sell her work and use the small amounts of money she received to help her family survive, since her husband was so woefully inept as a family provider.  But I think her creative work was also a way for her soul and spirit to survive the physically harsh and endlessly demanding life in her adopted country. She is an inspiration to those who might think they don’t have time to explore their creative self.  

Other posts……..

When Did You Stop Drawing?

When Do We Have Time? 

Creative Students


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Filed under Books, History

Thomas Times Two

This coming Sunday I will be giving the sermon at the United Church in Steinbach.  I will be looking at two saints of the church who share a first name- Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More.  Thus the title of my talk and this blog post- Thomas Times Two.  The reason I’ve chosen that title is because I have to speak the following Sunday in my Winnipeg church and that’s the topic they gave me.  I wanted to use the same sermon in both churches.  Each Sunday in summer our congregation Bethel Mennonite is looking at the lives of two saints and examining what we can learn from them for our own lives.  

thomas more by Hans Holbein the Younger

Thomas More

I won’t give away too much of my talk just in case you are planning on hearing it at either location, but I will tell you I’ve learned lots of interesting stuff about both Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More as I’ve researched their lives.  Like the fact Thomas Aquinas was a gifted musician as well as a famous thinker and writer.  And that fact that Thomas More aside from serving as an advisor to King Henry VIII, loved animals and lived with a house full of interesting creatures.  

thomas aquinas

Thomas Aquinas

I didn’t know Thomas Aquinas was best friends with Saint Bonaventure or that Thomas More has more than a hundred  educational institutions named after him.  I also gleaned plenty of good life advice from the two men named Thomas. 

I do wish at least one of the saints I had been assigned to speak about was a woman. They are sadly neglected in the church’s catalogue of saints, but I have learned a whole lot as I have studied two men who lived the most interesting of lives, one in Italy and the other in England almost two centuries apart. 

Other posts………….

More Visible But Not Equal

My Husband and the Pope Are On The Same Page

Sunday Morning Worship with Quakers in Costa Rica

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Filed under History, Religion

Giving Slaves a Modern Humanity

turner and prbhai

Did you know slavery was legal in Canada til 1834?  The ad above was one of many placed in Canadian newspapers by owners looking for their runaway slaves.  In the Art Gallery of Ontario ‘s exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai have tried to restore humanity to these runaway slaves by dressing them up and photographing them in modern day costumes that compare to the 1800s style clothes the slaves are described as wearing in the ads.   

photo turner and prbhaiThis woman is sheathed in a calico gown, holding a silk hankie and wearing a dress hat just like the runaway slave described in the ad.  But the black woman in the photograph is free and no one’s slave. Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai hope portraying the runaway slave this way will make people more aware that slavery was part of Canada’s history. 

Other posts………..

A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife

Jamaican Slavery

A Black and White Religion


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Filed under Art, Canada, History, Toronto

A Century is Only a Spoke

louis riel quoteDeeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours, a century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time.  – Louis Riel

This quote in the shape of a wheel is displayed as a touchstone at the heart of a groundbreaking exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario called Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood. Louis_Riel public domainLouis Riel who spoke the words that make up the wheel design was a Metis leader who fought to preserve Metis culture and land rights. He was accused of high treason by Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald, convicted and hung. 

Entrance to the Every. Now. Then. exhibit -Art Gallery of Ontario

This year Canada celebrates its 150th birthday.  The Art Gallery of Ontario wanted to give voice to groups like the Metis in Canada who might feel they have little to celebrate.  The exhibit Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood gives Metis, First Nations, black, Asian, transgender and other marginalized Canadians a place to tell their story.  

Métis_and_Red_River_carts public domain

Metis men with a Red River Cart, a mode of transportation for the Canadian prairies invented by the Metis. Could this be the kind of wheel Louis Riel was envisioning when he talked about the spokes in the wheel of time?

I spent an enthralling afternoon in Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood and will be doing blog posts about what I saw and learned in the coming weeks. One hopes the exhibit and others like it will help to speed up Riel’s one wheel spoke forward a century pace towards greater inclusion and equality for all Canadians. 

Other posts………

A Controversial Statue

Treaty One Land

Manitoba is Metis

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Filed under Art, History, Toronto

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

I saw the play The Doctrine of Discovery on Wednesday night. It used drama to explain why those of us whose families immigrated to North America from other countries, must look at our history on this continent from the perspective of the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before we arrived.
I found two contrasting scenes in the play particularly powerful. One tells the story of a widowed Mennonite woman coming to North America as a refugee from Russia. During her harrowing march across Europe to freedom she loses three of her children. She is so relieved to finally arrive in her new home. Now she can begin again on her own land. What she doesn’t realize is the property she acquires in North America once belonged to indigenous people who have been forced to move to a reservation.
A subsequent scene tells the story of a First Nations woman evicted from her ancestral lands and forced to take up life on a reservation. On her trek to her new home the indigenous woman says over and over again, “and the children die.” There is sorrow and hardship awaiting her family as they are forced to adjust to a very different life governed by the harsh rules of colonizers.
Both women have made difficult journeys…  both have lost children… but one woman’s hopeful story comes at the expense of another’s tragic story.

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn. Indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg. 

The play prompted me to do more research on The Doctrine of Discovery. It was a 15th century edict that said Christians could lay claim to any lands they discovered that were not already inhabited by Christians. If that land was home to ‘pagan’ people, attempts could be made to convert them. If these conversion attempts failed the ‘pagans’ could be made slaves or killed. The impact of this horrific doctrine is still being felt today and has been cited in court cases within the last decade. 

The Doctrine of Discovery made slavery or death the only options for indigenous North Americans who didn’t convert to Christianity.

In July of 2016 the national body of Mennonite churches to which I belong, voted to officially and publicly repudiate or divorce itself from this doctrine.  The play The Doctrine of Discovery is one way to help church members think about our participation in the enactment of that doctrine and to consider what steps we can take towards repentance, truth, and reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours. 

Other posts……..

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

Story Sticks

A Different Perspective


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Filed under Canada, History

Like Father Like Son

I have been spending most of my time in the last couple weeks working on a history book about my husband’s parents and not getting too much else done.  I am discovering many interesting things about my in-laws as I comb through family photos, diaries and records. I learned that both my husband’s father and grandfather did alternate military service in a lumber camp. 

opa forestry service (1)

Abram Driedger is to the far left in the back row.

Dave’s grandfather Abram Driedger served in the Asov Forestry Camp in Ukraine in 1913 just prior to World War I.  

logging camp

Cornie Driedger is in the centre.

Dave’s father Cornie Driedger worked in a lumber camp in Montreal River Ontario during World War II.  

Other posts………..

Luxury Car A Family Story

Family Picture

So Many David Driedgers

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Filed under Family, History