Blast from the Past - U of Manitoba 40 years ago
By Cathy Carlyle-Geordge
Linda Gibson, 22, and Mary Jensen, 23,
are University of Manitoba students with a
goal in common : to liberate women from
traditional roles and to help women relate
in new ways to one another.
Both are members of the "women's
liberation movement" of Winnipeg - a
movement which aims to free women from
their present roles.
During an interview this week at the Fort
Garry campus, Miss Gibson said the liberation
group refuses to admit men at its regular
meetings, "not in retaliation to men's groups
that don't admit women, but so women will
learn to organize and plan and work together.
They won't do this if men begin attending
meetings. The women would probably be
back in the same old syndrome of fetching
coffee while the men discuss plans." They
would also prefer that the press not attend.
Miss Jensen, a third year English student,
explained special meetings will be held for
men to attend and speak to the group or
just listen to its views.
About 20 women comprise the movement
in Winnipeg and Miss Gibson estimated two-
thirds are students. A woman professor be-
longs in the group and the rest are housewives
or business women.
The group, which meets in people's houses
about once a week - although meetings have
been cancelled until after Christmas - began
two months ago. It doesn't elect an executive
or charge membership fees. Occasionally,
money is collected to pay for literature con-
cerning the liberation of women.
The only woman with a designated po-
sition in the group is a librarian who takes
the movement's pamphlets and books to
"So far we haven't made any effort to
formally recruit members. Women going to
the meetings now found out about the group
through individual contact," said Miss Gibson,
a second-year sociology student.
Both students stressed the group is open
to women of any age, "though we have trouble
contacting older women and housewives," said
When asked if the group had definite plans
for "liberating" women, Miss Gibson said it is
at present trying to "define itself and analyze
the problem. Study must be done."
Members have spoken to a sorority and
political science seminars and sold literature
about the Canada and United States-wide
What has the reaction of various groups
been to the women's liberation movement of
"Well, everyone at the seminars asked
questions and agreed that women were usu-
ally 'stuck' as housewives, that there was a
double sex standard and that women had less
chance than men of getting ahead in their
jobs," said Miss Gibson.
"But they cited isolated cases and didn't
seem to realize all these things were tied
together and related to the social structure."
Miss Jensen added : "Yes, society has
preconceived ideas about our group. We want
more day care centres for any woman who
wants to put her child in one ... But people
think we just want to shove every kid into one
and forget about him or her. We think women
should be free to choose whether or not they
put their children in day-care centres. Natur-
ally we're concerned about the quality of care
Said Mss Gibson : "Accepted myths came
out into the open at the sorority we spoke to.
The women felt that all women were naturally
mothers .... and that love of caring for chil-
dren was a feeling exclusive to women ...
And to deviate from this role, a woman was
evil and a monster."
She and Miss Jensen said there are barriers
among women themselves that must dissolve -
barriers stemming from sexual competition.
"Here women learn to trust each other
and become convinced that they are equal to
men and can have power, then our group will
use strategy to get women into higher job
positions," Miss Gibson explained. "We've been
to political conventions selling our literature,
that comes from various women's liberation
movements, and as issues come up that need
acting on, we'll do so. We don't want to be a
group that talks and doesn't act."
Miss Jensen said the Winnipeg movement
had planned to operate a day-care centre but
feared it would become strictly a "social ser-
"Now we're going to try and put pressure
on agencies that should be solving the prob-
lem. The government ought to be taking
action and so should factories that employ
a large number of women. They should
provide free day-care centres. The point
we're trying to make, really, is children
should not be the sole responsibility of
mothers. People's attitudes will have to
change about women. They must realize
women are not innately passive and docile."
Both students thought that by the time
most women agreed they are equal to, and
have the same potential as men, the whole
society will have reached the same conclusion.
"But it'll be a long, slow process ... I wouldn't
even like to speculate how long," said Miss
On the subject of jobs, the students said
women have been a source of cheap labor
"for a long time."
"It's not much good saying 'equal pay for
equal work' when women aren't often given
the chance to hold top jobs. There's a reason
for not letting women get ahead," said Miss
Jensen, "and that's because, traditionally
women are expected to follow their husband
when he changed jobs or is transferred -
and it doesn't work in reverse if a wife is
transferred. So it's 'good business' to keep
women back in lower positions. Until the
whole social structure has changed that's
the way it will be."
Miss Gibson claimed that in books used
in commerce courses at the University of
Manitoba students read it isn't wise to
When women realize they themselves
are as intelligent as men who knows what
will happen, said the students.
"Some women still believe they are
inferior to men - because these ideas
have been instilled in them since they
were children," said Miss Gibson. "Several
women who came to our meetings out of
curiosity got really excited. They were
surprised to know other women had the
same problems as they and that women
could talk intelligently. For them, the
meeting was liberating, in that it freed
them from their own ideas about other
She said literature about women's
liberation movements can be purchased
at the Dimension book store, Osborne Street.
The store is operated by a New Democratic
Party constituency association, although the
Winnipeg liberation group isn't affiliated
with any political party, said Miss Gibson.
WINNIPEG (MANITOBA, CANADA) FREE PRESS
DECEMBER 13, 1969 WOMEN'S NEWS
PAGE TWENTY-ONE COLUMN ONE