Submitted by Sheri Selway

Our lives have changed during the last 6 months, no matter which age group we are in.  It is interesting to me how many things I have taken for granted in the past that I am now thankful for!  One of the things that many of us are thankful for is “Front Line Workers”.  When I am out for a walk, I often see signs in neighbour’s windows thanking Front Line Workers or “I am Staying Home to Support Front Line Workers”.

We are all appreciative of our health care workers, not to mention the lab technicians, scientists looking for a cure, postal workers, teachers, clerks, cleaners, truck drivers, bus and taxi drivers, too many to name them all! So many have been taken for granted  until now.  Shopping for groceries has changed for me.  I don’t go “shopping” except to buy what I need and I don’t “browse” or look around.

October is Women’s History Month so it is also a time to not only reflect on how women have made an impact, but to reflect how women workers are affected during this time.  More and more analysis is pointing out that women, particularly low-wage workers in non-unionized jobs are being hit hard with job loss; particularly women of colour.  In addition, with children at home and their grownups working at home, women often bear the brunt of caring for small children while trying to work from home.

October is a good time to honour those in the past who have paved the way for women workers today.  The Government of Canada has a great website with a section for parents/educators to help spark interest in our youth. There are crossword puzzles, reading lists, and ideas for group study or individual projects.  Below are some of the Women of Impact in Canada.

Dr. Emily Howard Stowe was the first Canadian woman to practise medicine. Since Canadian medical schools did not admit women, Emily went to medical in New York and graduated in 1867.  She returned to Toronto and opened a medical practice but was not licensed until 1880.  She worked to ensure women could study medicine and is credited with founding the Suffrage Movement in Canada.  Emily’s daughter Dr. Ann Augusta Stowe-Gullen was the first woman to earn a medical degree in Canada and was also a suffragette.

Dr. May Cohen continues to advocate for gender equality and challenges the way the medical profession responds to the health of female patients.  Dr. Cohen joined the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University and founded the Women’s Health Office, the first of its kind in Canada.

Dr. Jennifer Gardy decided to become a “disease detective” when she was a teenager. She is author of the children’s book “It’s Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes” which is at the Hamilton Public Library.  You can also see her on The Nature Of Things “Myth of Science 3: You are What You Eat” and  several more episodes.  (free on CBC Gem).

The Honourable Ellen Fairclough, was a politician and the first woman to serve in Federal Cabinet. She introduced a bill for equal pay for work of equal value and was a strong advocate for women’s rights. The 18-story building on King Street and MacNab is named after her!