Why Are They Difficult Women?

Difficult Women is the name of a series of portraits by Canadian artist Tony Scherman. Scherman uses an ancient technique called encaustic for his paintings creating them from hot wax and pigment. The current exhibition of Tony Scherman’s work at the Winnipeg Art Gallery features five portraits of women from Scherman’s Difficult Women series.  I tried to figure out why each of them might be called difficult.   Britain’s first female prime minister (1979-1990) Margaret Thatcher found her entry into politics difficult. The first two times she ran for Parliament she lost.  It was difficult to unseat her once she became prime minister.  She is the only 20th century British leader to serve three terms in office.The Soviets dubbed Margaret Thatcher The Iron Lady because of the difficulty of negotiating with her.  It was difficult to get the better of her. When Argentina tried to take the Falkland Islands from Britain in 1982 she sent her troops to get it back. When the miners of Britain went on strike in 1984 she refused to give into their demands. The Irish Republican Army tried to kill her in 1984 by bombing a hotel where she was staying.  Margaret survived! The police wanted her to go into hiding for a time after that but she refused.  Margaret was a difficult woman who knew her own mind.  To her things were black and white.  “I want to end the conflict between good and evil in the world,” she said with bravado. “Good will triumph.”Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of the famous author Ernest Hemingway, had such a sad and difficult life. She was a movie actress and a super model who secured a million dollar contract to be the face of Babe perfume for the Faberge company. But she struggled with many difficult addictions and took her own life at age 42 as did six other people in her famous family.  Margaux had epilepsy and was dyslexic.  She was sexually abused by her father and godfather. Margaux was famous and wealthy. But to say her life was difficult is an understatement. Simone De Beauvoir made things difficult for men who thought they were superior to women. She is often called The Mother of Feminism. Simone wrote a book in 1949 called The Second Sex that became extremely popular and questioned why women had let men dominate them for so long. Simone argued that women were just as capable as men of making wise choices. They needed to be independent and equal human beings. In 1928 she was one of only a handful of French women to receive a university degree. Although deeply religious as a child Simone had difficulty with the offensive patriarchy of the Christian church and became an atheist. Her father trying to understand his difficult child once said,  “she thinks like a man.”Mary Magdalene has sometimes been a difficult Biblical character for the Christian church to deal with.  She is mentioned in 65 passages in the Bible and took a leadership role in Jesus’ ministry, supporting him financially and emotionally. She stood at the cross when Jesus died and along with other women was the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection. The western church with its patriarchal leadership has sometimes tried to downplay her role in Jesus’ life by depicting her as a prostitute, although there is no evidence for that. The Gospel of Mary, a religious text discovered in the mid 1800s portrays her as a very wise woman who acted as a spiritual counselor to Jesus.  Some scholars even suggest she was Jesus’ wife or lover which would of course be difficult for many Christians to accept. She is portrayed that way in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and in the novel The Da Vinci Code.  Throughout history Mary Magdalene has been a difficult Biblical character to figure out. Rosa Parks is a key figure in the American Civil Rights movement.  One day she made things very difficult for the driver of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. She was arrested and caused difficulty for the police when she refused to pay her fine.  Rosa’s actions inspired a bus boycott by black passengers which made things very difficult for the white owners of the bus companies.  The boycott eventually led to the Supreme Court of the United State declaring that the segregation laws in Alabama were unconstitutional.  The difficult fight for equal civil rights for black citizens of the United States continues but the difficult and resolute Rosa Parks inspired some huge steps forward in that fight. 

The Difficult Women series represents just a fraction of the collection of amazing paintings by Tony Scherman now on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. You won’t want to miss seeing them. 

Other posts…….

The Famous Five

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

International Women’s Day

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Why Are Most Canadian Prime Ministers Old White Men?

prime ministers of canada

Poster of Canada’s Prime Ministers available from Teacher Tools.

In a grade five and six class I have been visiting the last couple of weeks the kids and their teacher have worked out a kind of rap with actions to learn the names of all of Canada’s prime ministers.  

For Sir John A. MacDonald they hold up one finger since he was Canada’s first prime minister.  They make a sun over their heads for Wilfred Laurier because his catch phrase was  ‘sunny ways’.  They make the peace sign for Lester Pearson because he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

They make a curly French moustache for Pierre Trudeau because he was responsible for making French the official second language of Canada.  While they say the names of the prime ministers and do the actions the kids look at a poster that pictures all the prime ministers. One day the student teacher I was supervising asked the students what questions they had about the prime ministers of our country.  Here are some of the things they wanted to know.  

  1.  What makes a good prime minister?  
  2. What makes a bad prime minister? 
  3. Why are most of Canada’s prime minister’s old white men? 
  4. Why was Kim Campbell only the prime minister for such a short time? 
  5. How did Justin Trudeau get so popular? 
  6. How old do you have to be to be a prime minister? 
  7. What does a prime minister do anyway?
  8. Which prime minister made the first law? 
  9. Do you have to be rich to be the prime minister? 
  10. What does a prime minister do when they aren’t the prime minister anymore? 

I thought these were great questions!  I’d like some of them answered myself!  

Other posts. ……

Who Should Be Prime Minister? 

I Sat in the Speaker’s Chair

The Famous Five

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The Beauty of Looking Down

I fell last December, broke my wrist and was in a cast for a month. Ever since then I have been more mindful of looking down when I walk. On Friday morning it had just snowed when I was making my way to a school to visit one of my student teachers so I was checking out the sidewalk carefully with each step. That’s when I saw these leaf imprints in one of the sidewalk blocks on Agnes Street. The sidewalk there is a jumble of cement slabs that have been repaired and reconstructed over time but in this one there were tiny little works of art. I had to stop and take some pictures.  Some leaves must have fallen into the cement after it was poured before it was dry and they had left all these delicate prints almost like fossils in the sidewalk.  It was lovely!  

No one is really happy when it snows in the middle of April but the ice and snow on Friday morning had me looking down carefully.  What a bit of beauty I would have missed if my eyes had been up! 

Other posts…….

Life Lines

A Pool of Possibilities

Leaves

 

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Art in Bloom

Vallee by Jean-Paul Riopelle – flowers by Pam Simmons – Coreniche Consulting Inc.

On Thursday night I was privileged to attend the gala opening of the Art in Bloom event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Portrait of a Lady by Sir Henry Raeburn- Flowers by Joan Todd- Petals West

The heady aroma of  thousands of flowers wafted over me the minute I stepped through the door.

Now There Goes A Pipe With A Man by Peter Doig – flowers by Hennie Corrin and Rachel Nedelec- WAG Board of Directors

I had such fun chatting with other guests, talking about the art and the flowers with my companions for the evening, sipping wine and enjoying the delicious dainty sandwiches and bevy of desserts.  

The Story by George Reid -Flowers by Peter Hargreaves and Ed Becenko – Spurnik Architecture Inc.

I was intrigued by the many different ways talented members of the community had created floral works of art.

Flowers with Zinnias and Dahlias in a Bowl by Herni de Fantin-Latour -Flowers by Erlyn Andaya- Academy Florist

Their designs served to compliment and enrich and sometimes even prompt viewers to reinterpret the paintings and sculptures on display in the galleries. 

Sounds Assembling by Bertram Brooker- Flowers by Dawn Ormiston- Petals West

Believe me it was hard to pick the Art in Bloom photos I wanted to feature on this blog post.

In The Orchard by Dorothea Sharp- Flowers by Marisa Curatolo- Marisa Curatolo Culinary

Hopefully it will be enough to whet your appetite and to entice you downtown either today or tomorrow to see all the marvelous works of art that are part of the Art in Bloom event. It may not feel like spring outside but it looks and feels like spring inside the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts……….

Women in Bloom

Farewell to the French Moderns

A Serendipitous Coincidence

Mummering- David Blackwell

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Where Do The Crawdads Sing For You?

I heard about the novel Where the Crawdads Sing watching an interview with its author Delia Owens on the show  Sunday Morning on CBS.  The book has spent 29 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list thanks at least in part to Reese Witherspoon selecting it for her book club. Witherspoon will also be producing a movie based on the book. You need to read it before that happens!

Set in rural Georgia where the author grew up, Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of a girl named Kya who through an unusual set of circumstances ends up living all alone in her family’s dilapidated and secluded cabin in a marsh.  The book has a murder mystery angle, but is also a romance, and a story about how time spent living close to nature can bring a person healing and hope. 

Owens named the book after a phrase her mother used when she urged her daughter to deal with worry or woe by riding off into the woods on her horse and spending some time immersed in the natural world. “Go way out yonder where the crawdads sing,” Delia’s mother would say. Owens has since learned that crawdads can’t really sing but she still thinks her mother was wise to encourage her to find solace in nature. I think one message of the book is that no matter the climate or landscape of where we live, we all need to find a place ‘where the crawdads sing’ for us, where we can experience the nurture of the natural world. It may be by a lake or river, in a forest or a park, or it might even be in our own backyard. 

Where the Crawdads Sing is full of poetry and interesting facts about plants and animals and their habitats, and although set in the past deals with some issues that sadly are still current like domestic abuse and racism. 

The book reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine because both have a lonely young woman with little human connection as their protagonists. 

photo of delia owens

Delia Owens on her ranch in Idaho

This book was inspirational to me because Delia was 70 years old when her first novel was published!  She worked on it for ten years. So there is still hope for me!

Other posts…….

Stranger in the Woods

Educated

Becoming 

Miriam Toews Has A Complicated Relationship With Her Home Town

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The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

I cried often during the movie The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. It’s the story of Dr. Anne Dagg, a Canadian who went to Africa in 1956 to study giraffes for a year. She observed them for ten to twelve hours a day making copious notes, keeping charts, filming and photographing them. Anne was 23, just out of university, and had been in love with giraffes ever since seeing them in the zoo as a child.  Anne went to Africa before Jane Goodall had begun her research with primates and so there was no precedent for a young woman doing such a daring thing.  But Anne’s mother encouraged Anne to go and follow her dream.

Anne came back to Canada after her time in Africa. She married and had a family.  But she was determined to return to Africa to further study her beloved giraffes. The only way to do that was to become a tenured professor and get a research grant.  So while raising her three children she obtained a PHD in animal behaviour.

Some of Anne’s books about giraffes

She wrote a textbook about giraffes and had dozens of articles printed in prestigious science periodicals.  But when in 1972 after a very successful teaching stint she applied at Guelph, Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier universities for a tenured position she was rejected despite her numerous academic awards and ground breaking research, because she was a woman. One university told her she should be looking after her husband and children, not teaching science.

Her dream to go back to Africa and study giraffes seemed doomed but Anne, appalled by the way she had been treated because of her gender, became an activist, writer, speaker and advocate for women’s equality in academia.

Almost unbeknownst to Anne her books and articles continued to be the ‘bible’ for scientists interested in studying giraffes. In 2010 Amy Phelps, the giraffe keeper at the San Francisco Zoo decided she was going to track Anne down and invite her to a conference for giraffe care professionals.  At the conference Anne was thrilled to be the first recipient of an award for giraffe research named in her honour. Anne started communicating with other scientists and was delighted to be making new connections with giraffe devotees all over the world. 

Director Alison Reid wanted to write and produce a movie about Anne’s life so arrangements were made to film Anne in Africa visiting her beloved giraffes once again.  Anne was in her 80s but her dream to revisit Africa was finally realized. While in Africa Anne was saddened to learn how the giraffe population has been reduced by 70% since her first visit in the 1950s.  The future of the giraffe is bleak. So Anne has begun another crusade- speaking, writing and fundraising to save the giraffe. 

Anne’s story moved me to tears. I loved her independence and passion. I loved the way her mother supported her.  I loved it that she fought for herself and that she used her experience as inspiration to fight for other women.   Mostly I loved that in her eighties her contributions were recognized, her dreams realized, and she had the courage to tackle new challenges.  It makes someone like me who is in her sixties realize that many good and exciting things might still await me on life’s journey. 

In February of 2019 the University of Guelph hosted a screening of The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. They invited Anne and gave a public apology to her for the way the university had treated her.  They also announced they were establishing a Dr. Anne Dagg Scholarship for research to be awarded annually.  Way to go Anne!

 Other posts……….. 

Animal Wisdom

Finding the Elusive Quetzel in Costa Rica

The Matilda Effect

 

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Siblings

Twin sisters who were my grade five students in Hong Kong and invited me to watch them play tennis one evening.Me with the same twin sisters when they graduated from high school seven years later. My grandmother Annie Jantz and her sister Marie in 1902

With my sister outside a restaurant in St. Boniface.

My father-in-law Cornelius Driedger and his two brothers Abe and John

Sisters in a Palestinian refugee settlement near Bethlehem. 

My mother and her siblings in the 1930s.

The children of our guide in Siem Reap Cambodia who took us to visit his home.

With my two brothers at a family event in 2000.  My grandmother Margaretha Peters is far left. She sits with her sisters and sisters-in-law at a family reunion. 

My husband Dave and his brother Paul on the golf course. Two sisters walking on a beach in Borneo. Brother and sister in Malaysia on the dock leading up to their house on the water. My father with his five sisters. 

A watercolor that was on exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Inuit artist Pitaloosie Salia. It shows Pitaloosie and her sister Aqsatunnguaq.  My grandfather and his brothers.  My grandfather is right in the middle. 

Twin sisters at a Wushu competition in Hong Kong eating lunch. 

Other posts of photo collections………

On a Boat

Waterfalls

Trees

The Magi

Churches

 

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