Penney Kome's The Taking of Twenty-Eight : Women Challenge the Constitution

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George Victor
Penney Kome's The Taking of Twenty-Eight : Women Challenge the Constitution


George Victor

Has this 1983 work ever been reviewed here?

[ 24 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Maysie Maysie's picture

I believe this thread belongs in the babble book lounge, so I'm moving it there.

George Victor


The back cover describes it as "The dramatic story of the most successful grassroots lobby ever organized in this country."

"In 1981, unknown to most Canadians, thousands of women rallied in support of Clause 28, an addition to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that would for the first time assert equality of the sexes as a basic tenet for the nation.

The Taking of 28 presents an insider's view of how this unexpected victory was achieved. It details the process from beginning to end, focussing on the specifics of organizing, strategies used, manoeuvering done and introduces a cast of characters that includes politicians, bureaucrats and a broad spectrum of dedicated women from across Canada. In total, The Taking of 28 is an incisive account of a faro-reaching moment in history, the implications of which are only now being explored."

I offer it up not just because my Dutch-born, rabble rousing spouse gets honourable mention, but because a vast array of young women have no idea of the battles that their taken-for-granted rights were born in.

Matter of fact, perhaps a majority now shrink from identifying with the "feminist" movement that bought them a formal equality, because the guys look down on such things.

Some work still to be done, methinks.

[ 17 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]



Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]Has this 1983 work ever been reviewed here?[/b]

Looks to me (from a basic yahoo! search) that the book has never been reviewed at rabble.

Digiteyes Digiteyes's picture

It was important work that these women did.

I grew up reading the Want-Ads in the Gazette and Montreal Star. There were two columns: "Help Wanted - Men" and "Help Wanted - Women". There is nothing so dispiriting as reading that jobs that are interesting are forbidden to you because they belong to men only.

I fought to have girls allowed to be servers in my (Anglican) church. One church woman responded with a rolling of eyes and a plaint that "next you'll be wanting women to be priests"

OK, so I should have given up on the church :-)

I used to argue with my priest that the parent who earns more should continue to work, while the parent who earns less should stay home with the children, if desired (this was the '70's). He had problems with that, because his wife, a dietitian, earned more than an Anglican priest.

Did I tell you I should have given up on the church?

Especially when, over coffee one morning after the service, one of the men said that it was a shame that my really good friend was going into engineering -- that signalled that she was just trying to be "one of the boys" -- instead of going into a program that is more suited to delicate young women.

But you know, at this point, I was still going to church and trying to make a difference. I hadn't yet given up on the church.

Until I came home at Thanksgiving (I was going to university 400 miles from home) and the assistant priest turned his back on me because I hadn't been there for six weeks. Obviously an apostate.

So at that point, I did give up. On the church. It took another 25 years for me to give up on religion completely.

George Victor

You will love Christina McCall's My Life as a Dame. And not just Part 111, "Feminist in Arms"(her background was Presbyterian).

Part 1V is The Drama of Politics", which Christina considered "mens' territory" when she broke into journalism and broke the story assignment mould. And of course "How Mel WAtkins Brought Socialism to the NDP" (Saturday Night, September, 1970), will bring all oldtimers to their feet shouting about missed opportunities - and leave newcomers shaking their head at that same thought.

I look forward to reading the full review of this entertaining and instructive work in "the lounge" soon, and you might want to put your name on the waiting list at your library. But perhaps it's also a buy (Anansi, $32.95) to keep for reference.

We live in even more chaotic and interesting times now, nearly four decades later, and the crowning of investment capital to meet everyone's dreams in old age can have only one outcome - change!

I think that the remnants of the Womens' Movement of the 70s and 80s should make it a project for 2010 to deliver another printing of The Taking of Twenty-Eight. Give some shape to what is now a disorganized response to churches about control of one's own body and life and such.

In fact I read something by or about Penney Kome not very long ago so I suspect she is still "extant", and maybe has lots of copies on hand. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 20 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 24 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor


Christina actually pooh poohed the struggle celebrated by Penney Kome;..."Penney" it is

In Chapter 19, "Women and Political Power: What's Holding Us Back" (Chatelaine, December, 1982)

"I get it. I hear you saying, she's talking aout networks. Well, women have networks too now. Yes, I know they do. But from my observation, and from the observations of several women who view the three major federal parties from within, they're not the same as male networks. The bulk of them are comprised of "supportive" or "survival" groups that grew out of the women's movement and that still operate outside the mainstream of political life, gathering their forces periodically for the occasional guerrilla raid, like the two mounted in 1981 with so much publicity and so little effect over the question of the Constitution and then falling back without consolidating their gains."

But, then, Stephen Clarkson has done some bad editing here by not pointing out that in fact, the native peoples of Canada used the 1981 intercession to bring forward their demands for inclusion, so that by 1985, the 1981 struggles DID have real effect, for everyone.

Or does my memory serve me wrong?

I know that Clarkson, biographer of P.E.T. has the political moxy to know just what he is doing here - he was one of the course supervisors during my graduate time at U.of T.

But apparently, that year, Stephen was recovering from the Adrien experience and was "dispatching flowers" to Christina's "various hotels" during her tour of Europe with Premier Peter Lougheed's mission in search of capital for Alberta. They were hitched the next year.

[ 24 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 24 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 24 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture


Originally posted by jrose:
[b]Looks to me (from a basic yahoo! search) that the book has never been reviewed at rabble.[/b]

And a search using the babble search engine, and the correct spelling of her first name ("Penney"), confirms this.

She did, however, write a [url=]great rabble column[/url] shortly after September 11, 2001.


Hi --

I'm Penney Kome, and delighted for George Victor's interest in my second book, The Taking of Twenty-Eight. These days, I am the Editor of and webweaver for [url=][/url] which celebrates the 25th anniversary of the women's constitutional conference, and compares Sec. 28 and especially Section 15 (which women's groups greatly modified during the public hearings on the Charter) with gender rights in Rwanda, Afghanistan and (I think) South Africa. I put The Taking of Twenty-Eight on because every once in a while some researcher contacts me and wants a copy urgently -- and the book is out of print, even though I hear regularly from students who had to read it (or portions of it) for their women's studies courses. The political significance of the women's lobby dissipated when Brian Mulroney defeated John Turner. The legal significance of gender rights in the Charter, and the made-in-Canada definition of gender equality, is recognized around the world.


Ooops, sorry. Some squatters grabbed so I changed the domain name to But the website's still there.

George Victor

Hello Penney. Alida is not able to say hi (she appears on p. 90 of your compact tome), but would likely want to ask your opinion on the generational backsliding toward acceptance of things like under-representation of women in the legislatures.

That is, there is not the militancy demonstrated in the media, letters to the editor, etc., that marked the 70s and 80s in this and in other ways.

What happened besides the ascension of lyin' Brian?


Hi George;
Thanks for your response. I think that Brian Mulroney's regime was the beginning of a huge backlash against feminism, which was called "the f-word" in his circles. David Frum, who gained prominence here and in the US, opined that feminism was almost as dangerous as communism. Conrad Black's National Post hired on half a dozen vocal anti-feminist women columnists. As a journalist who specialized in covering women's issues (I wrote the Woman's Place column in Homemaker's Magazine 1976-1988) and who published six books on women's issues, I can tell you that the market for that kind of coverage practically disappeared. I co-wrote the "A Woman's View" column in the Calgary Herald 1990-94. When Conrad Black and Paul Demerais bought a controlling share in Southam, the Herald let go all of its three feminist columnists. Feminists haven't gone away or given up. The stories are still out there. Women's groups have suffered major funding losses and many have shut their doors. But feminists are still organizing, still winning important victories, still recruiting young women. You asked specifically about women losing ground in Parliament. Doris Anderson led the campaign for proportional representation, and many women are still dedicated to that issue (see ) is another group that's still active, still winning court challenges.

Hope this is helpful.


BTW, I'm sorry to hear that Alida is "not able" to say hi. The K-W women played key roles in the campaign.

George Victor

Hello again Penney.

Has the Palin "feminist" phenom been convincing for more than "Real Women"?

The public take on her appeal might be an interesting sign of what's happened in the past few years. Or was the real feminism of the 70s and 80s limited, even then, to a vanguard?

George Victor

And while on the subject of feminism, Penney. Do you find the concept "feminism" somewhat "abused" these days?



George Victor

Somehow, Penney, the original goals of the feminist movement seem to have been maintained in U.S.politics. Even in the face of a collapsing economy.

Looks like a grass roots movement within the Democratic Party. Impressive.


From today's NY Times:

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Friday to give women powerful new tools to challenge sex discrimination by employers who pay women less than men for the same or substantially similar work.

The action shows how Congress, working with President-elect Barack Obama, intends to make a swift, sharp break with civil rights policies of the Bush administration.

“In the first week of the new Congress, this is the legislation we are putting forward: pay equity, fairness to women in the workplace,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. “These are our priorities. This Congress has heard the message of change in the election.”

The House passed two related bills on Friday. One, approved 247 to 171, would give workers more time to file lawsuits claiming job discrimination.

The bill would overturn a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court that enforced a strict 180-day deadline, thwarting a lawsuit by Lilly M. Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at the Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. Three Republicans voted for the bill.

The other bill — passed 256 to 163, with support from 10 Republicans — would make it easier for women to prove violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which generally requires equal pay for equal work.

President Bush threatened to veto both bills, saying they would “invite a surge of litigation” and “impose a tremendous burden on employers.” Congress will not give him the opportunity.

Mr. Obama is eager to sign the bills, and it appears he will be able to do so. Supporters of the legislation said they believed they could come up with the 60 votes needed to ensure passage in the Senate, after two vacant seats are filled.

The United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposed the bills. Jeri G. Kubicki, a vice president of the manufacturers group, said the bills would “open the floodgates to unwarranted litigation against employers at a time when businesses are struggling to retain and create jobs.”

George Victor

Again from invigorated progressive lawmakers in the U.S., legislation overiding a 2007  Supreme Court Decision denying women equal pay... 

NYTimes, Jan. 29.:

"Michelle Obama stepped into the public-policy spotlight as first lady for the first time on Thursday, hailing a new law that will give women greater power to challenge sex discrimination in the workplace.

Standing below a portrait of Lincoln in the State Dining Room of the White House, Mrs. Obama described pay equity as “a top and critical priority for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, older women, younger women, women with disabilities and their families.’’

Mrs. Obama said the legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday, symbolized her commitment and her husband’s to ensure that policies are put in place to “help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic security at risk."