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Minds of Our Own

Inventing Feminist Scholarship and Women’s Studies in Canada and Québec, 1966–76

Edited by Francine Descarries, Margrit Eichler, Meg Luxton, and Wendy Robbins
Subjects Social Science, Women’s Studies, Ethnography, Education
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Paperback : 9781554580378, 414 pages, May 2008
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554587742, 414 pages, August 2009
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554581238, 414 pages, May 2008

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Minds of Our Own: Inventing Feminist Scholarship and Women’s Studies in Canada and Québec, 1966–76, edited by Wendy Robbins, Meg Luxton, Margrit Eichler, and Francine Descarries
Women’s Organizations (before 1960)
Women’s Changing Social Position
The Women’s Movement of the 1960s and 1970s
Women in Post–Secondary Education
Feminist Scholarship and Women’s Studies
Creating a Tradition of Canadian Women Writers and Feminist Literary Criticism | Clara Thomas
Mother Was Not a Person, So I Became a Feminist | Marguerite Andersen
Fanning Fires: Women’s Studies in a School of Social Work | Helen Levine with Faith Schneider
Feminism: A Critical Theory of Knowledge | Marie–Andrée Bertrand
Women’s Studies: A Personal Story | Dorothy E. Smith
Contributing to the Establishment of Women’s Studies and Gender Relations | Anita Caron
Feminism and a Scholarly Friendship | Jill Ker Conway and Natalie Zemon Davis
Midwife to the Birth of Women’s Studies at McGill | Margaret Gillett
How the Simone de Beauvoir Institute of Concordia University Grew from Unlikely Beginnings | Maïr Verthuy
Moments in the Making of a Feminist Historian | Alison Prentice
Doing Feminist Studies without Knowing It | Micheline Dumont
A Matrix of Creativity | Frieda Forman
Transforming the Academy and the World | Deborah Gorham
Reminiscences of a Male Supporter of the Movement towards Women’s Liberation | Leslie Marshall
You Just Had To Be There | Greta Hofmann Nemiroff
The Second Wave: A Personal Voyage | Sandra Pyke
A Lifetime of Struggling to Belong | Vanaja Dhruvarajan
Once Upon a Time There Was the Feminist Movement | Nadia Fahmy–Eid
Women’s Studies at the University of Alberta | Rosalind Sydie, Patricia Prestwich, Dallas Cullen
Women’s Studies and the Trajectory of Women in Academe | Annette Kolodny
Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, 1966–76: A Dialogue | Andrea Lebowitz, Honoree Newcombe, Meredith M. Kimball
Nascent, Incipient, Embryonic, and Ceremonial Women’s Studies | Linda Christiansen–Ruffman
To Challenge the World | Margrit Eichler
From Male and Female Roles to Gender Relations: A Scientific and Political Trajectory | Danielle Juteau
Second Wave Breaks on the Shore of U of T | Lorna Marsden
Surviving Political Science ... and Loving It | Jill Vickers
Blood on the Chapel Floor: Adventures in Women’s Studies | Kay Armatage
Genesis of a Journal | Donna Smyth
The Saga | Marylee Stephenson
Coming of Age with Women’s Studies | Meredith M. Kimball
Doing Women’s Studies | Pat Armstrong
Pioneer in Feminist Political Economy: Overcoming the Disjuncture | Joan McFarland
Women’s Studies at Guelph | Terry Crowley
Women’s Studies: Oppression and Liberation in the University | Meg Luxton
Reflections on Teaching and Writing Feminist Philosophy in the 1970s | Susan Sherwin
From Marginalized to “Establishment”: Doing Feminist Sociology | Maureen Baker
“To Ring True and Stand for Something” | Wendy Robbins
Socialist Feminist and Activist Educator | Linda Briskin
My Path to Feminist Philosophy, 1970–76 | Christine Overall
Women’s Sight: Looking Backwards into Women’s Studies in Toronto | Ceta Ramkhalawansingh
The Patriarchal Context
Countervailing Social Movements
Intersections of Gender, Race, Class, Sexual Orientation
Inventing a New Scholarship and New Structures
Disciplinarity and/or Interdisciplinarity
Student–Teacher Relations
Personal Impacts
Interesting Times
Appendix A. Alphabetical List of Authors
Appendix B. List of Authors by Discipline


This book of personal essays by over forty women and men who founded women’s studies in Canada and Québec explores feminist activism on campus in the pivotal decade of 1966-76. The essays document the emergence of women’s studies as a new way of understanding women, men, and society, and they challenge some current preconceptions about “second wave” feminist academics.
The contributors explain how the intellectual and political revolution begun by small groups of academics—often young, untenured women—at universities across Canada contributed to social progress and profoundly affected the way we think, speak, behave, understand equality, and conceptualize the academy and an academic career. A contextualizing essay documents the social, economic, political, and educational climate of the time, and a concluding chapter highlights the essays’ recurring themes and assesses the intellectual and social transformation that their authors helped set in motion.
The essays document the appalling sexism and racism some women encounter in seeking admission to doctoral studies, in hiring, in pay, and in establishing the legitimacy of feminist perspectives in the academy. They reveal sources of resistance, too, not only from colleagues and administrators but from family members and from within the self. In so doing they provide inspiring examples of sisterly support and lifelong friendship.


Certainly, the personal accounts of the people involved in the early Women's Studies movement are central to this book, but the introduction and the conclusion should be essential reading for anyone connected with Women's Studies. For those who were not there, or are too young to know, these sections emphasize that there was a time in Canada and Quebec when women could be denied employment or fired if they married, when birth control and abortion were illegal, and as Sandra Pyke tells it, when a married woman could only get credit in the name of her husband, when the ideology of marriage and motherhood had a powerful hold on women, when pay discrimination based on sex was legal, when women's education was narrowly defined, when Aboriginal women's experiences were all but ignored, and a time when sexual orientation was openly viewed as deviant. For those who were part of the Women's Studies revolution in the ten years covered here or who came to the discipline in its early years, these two chapters allow us to reflect on the many limitations women accepted. The emergence of Women's Studies shows that some women were willing to challenge the status quo.

- Margaret Kechnie, Laurentian University, Historical Studies in Education, Fall 2010, 2011 January

A vision and courage--that's all it took for a feminist revolution in academia! This is a book to remind people how this resolute group pulled it off. It will be an inspiration to young feminists as they face the future in our education institutions.

- Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Simon Fraser University, 2008 May

The aptly named Minds of Our Own is a page-turner. An opening chapter sketches the social, political, economic, and academic conditions under which the first Canadian Women's Studies projectts were launched. The conclusion outlines a series of themes that emerge across the core of the volume, comprise of more than forty brief but telling first-person narratives, some co-authored, all about ‘inventing feminist scholarship’ at various sites throughout the country between 1966 and 1976.... The gathered narratives are as compelling as the tale of editorial collaboration behind the work emblematic of growing networks among scholars in the field. Three parallel efforts to document Women's Studies' early years are brought together in this text, which offers an archive of personal reflections on a process of academic inquiry that continues to unearth the complexities of knowledge politics. The project is indebted to similar collections by American feminists but emphasizes the Canadian situation as unique. It acknowledges that anglo- and francophone environments for Women's Studies in Canada have remained distinctiv, that finding and generating locally relevant materials for study was both daunting and an on-going revelation from the start, and that there were and still are gaps in shared awareness about how diversely felt and situated the experiences of different communities of women remain in Canadian and international contexts. Graced by a cover that presents in textile art, a bitten pomegranate with at least one seed airborne off the page, the book invokes a time when enough critical mass had formed to defy western cultural interdictions against women's power to know in public and counterpublic ways.... Minds of Our Own lends itself to qualitative analyses that would unpack some of the affinities and contradictions that surface among and within accounts. In advance undergraduate classes, one could place selected narratives beside the galvanized feminist voices that took on poorly informed critiques of Women's Studies in the national media recently, or the untenable claim that gender equity has been achieved in Canada, even as the gender-based disparities abroad become a cornerstone of foreign policy. Minds of Our Own makes a useful contribution to the project of Canadian Women's Studies by detailing some of the groundbreaking strategies that formalized feminist academic inquiry in the mid- to late twentieth centuries. It points at once to past challenges and accomplishments, and the broad spectrum of critical work that remains to be done.

- Marie Lovrod, University of Saskatchewan, Labour/Travail, 2010 March