Friday, December 30, 2011

The glorious heritage of Saskatchewan women (1952)

Honouring Canadian women through thirty years of glorious struggle

National Affairs
May 1952
From the Socialist History Project

Excerpt from the full article...

Annie Buller addressing a crowd before the Estevan Riot

Here is a chapter that was written in the blood of our people. Who can ever forget the three murdered miners in Estevan? Who can ever forget the women and children of Bienfait-Estevan during the strike, the parade and the trials? During the parade in Estevan the women were in the front lines, fearless and defiant, fighting for the lives of the men. They saw the miners shot, they saw their blood, and they were determined that the battle was not to be in vain. The miners and their wives could not be bought. They did not turn Judas and did not give evidence against the strike-leaders during the trials. It was not because they were not approached and that every effort was not made to corrupt and demoralize them.

These courageous people who suffered so much at the hands of the coal companies and the authorities turned out to our trials and defended every one of us in a courtroom that was full of police and stool pigeons. Their understanding of capitalist class justice was enhanced at those trials and they knew which side they were on. We salute these splendid women on the anniversary of our Party. (Editor's note: Comrade Buller's heroic part in this struggle should not be overlooked. A glimpse of it can be caught in her account of the Estevan strike in NAM, May, 1949.)

Since those days Saskatchewan has made tremendous strides. The Women's Labour League played an important role in its day and laid the basis for work among women in Regina and Saskatoon. During the unforgettable On-To-Ottawa Trek and the attack on our boys, July 1st, 1935, in Regina, the women came to the forefront in organizing a mothers' committee to help the boys who were arrested. Florence Theodore was its secretary.

Dorise Nielsen was elected as a unity candidate in the federal elections in 1940 in the North Battleford constituency. Her speeches in the House of Commons were an inspiration to the whole nation. She was fighting every inch of the way. She said:

Democracy is a living thing. If you seek to bind and chain democracy, if you seek to keep it for a while without letting it live and without permitting it to exercise itself, democracy will wither, it will die.

The right-wing CCF leadership worked for her defeat. She was indeed welcome when she joined the Labour-Progressive Party in 1943.

Not only did Saskatchewan elect a woman to the federal house to fight for the Canadian people, Saskatchewan also elected a woman as the Party leader. Comrade Florence Theodore held that post from 1942 to 1945. Comrade Theodore understood the role of the Party and courageously brought that understanding to the people of Saskatchewan. She was a tireless worker who earned the respect and admiration of wide sections of the people of Saskatchewan.

The province of Saskatchewan had its share of political prisoners during the dark days before the war took on a real anti-fascist people's character. Flo Theodore was arrested and sentenced to six months. Gladys McDonald spent a year in Battleford jail and another year in Kingston penitentiary. Ella Gehl of Saskatchewan spent 10 months in Portage La Prairie jail in Manitoba. She was released the day that I entered that jail and became a guest of the government and joined Margaret Mills who had already spent several months there.

The work of the women of Saskatchewan in every walk of life was outstanding. Our Party, in the forefront of the progressive people's movement, was decisive in breaking the strangle-hold of the old-line capitalist parties in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan today is in the lead in the struggle for peace and the women are playing an inspiring part.

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