State of Struggle: Feminism and Politics in Alberta
Contains Bibliography, Index
W.J.C. Cherwinski is a professor of history and Canadian Studies Program
supervisor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is the co-author
of Lectures in Canadian Labour and Working-Class History.
To some extent the development of modern feminism in North America
parallels the evolution of large-C Conservatism in Alberta. Both began
in the early 1970s, but it was the latter that placed the popular stamp
on the province as being the home of right-wing political and social
attitudes. State of Struggle was written to correct this impression and
to demonstrate that despite extreme difficulty, the rights of women in
the Wild Rose Province have been firmly established, with considerable
hope for an even better future.
University of Alberta political scientist Lois Harder argues that the
women’s agenda should have been moved ahead considerably during the
prosperity associated with the oil boom of the 1970s, but instead there
was only resistance from the conservative provincial administration,
which pushed family over women’s interests. With the end of the oil
boom in the 1980s, things improved, as women became a source for votes
for federal Conservatives, thus also bringing their perspective and
concerns to the provincial level. Consequently, the provincial
administration became more amenable to providing state structures for
the advancement of women; however, the significant gains made were
diluted by fragmentation in the women’s movement itself.
Ralph Klein’s accession to the premier’s office began another
period of stress, not least because financial cutbacks targeted groups
needing assistance as well as political groups seeking to promote the
women’s agenda (the Alberta Status of Women Action Committee, for
example, became one of the victims in 1997). Harder concludes on an
optimistic note, however, by drawing attention to the resilience of the
women’s movement and the promise that the struggle will continue.
As a critique of one major aspect of political and social life in
Canada’s only real “have” province, this volume should be of
considerable interest both to those advancing the feminist cause and to
Western Canadian political junkies. Although the book’s ponderous
style limits its appeal considerably, those with initiative and patience
will be rewarded.