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Sara Diamond fonds
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Lake Cowichan Group

File consists of 3 video interviews with Mrs. Atwal, Mrs. Maan, Mrs. Johal, and Mrs. Gill (first names excluded for privacy reasons). Subjects include: Immigrant experience; lives of Indo-Canadian women in 1940’s Lake Cowichan ; women’s contributions to the union; arranged marriages; forest industry safety; budgeting working class wages; benefits of trade unionism.

Mrs. Atwal, Mrs. Maan and Mrs. Johal were all born in India and immigrated to Canada and settled in the Lake Cowichan and Duncan areas on Vancouver Island where they raised their families. Mrs. Gill was born and raised in Victoria and moved to Lake Cowichan following her marriage. Their husbands all worked in the logging industry.

Interviews

This subsubseries consists of the Women’s Labour History Project oral histories, conducted by Sara Diamond through the 1970s and 1980s. These interviews document the experiences of working class women from the 1920’s through the 1950’s, and in some cases, beyond. The interviewees talk about their lives as children, working women, housewives, and trade unionists. Their personal biographies span many countries and provinces, however, the focus of the interviews is on their activities in British Columbia from the Great Depression to the immediate post-war period.

Segments of the video interviews were incorporated into Diamond’s docudrama television series Keeping The Home Fires Burning (1988). Combining original Canadian wartime propaganda, interviews with working class women, original film footage, photographs, musical soundtracks and dramatization, Keeping the Home Fires Burning explored Canadian women’s working and domestic lives during and after World War Two.

The subsubseries is divided into files, titled after the interviewee.

Buker, Nancy

File consists of 2 video interviews with Nancy Buker. Subjects include: Immigrating from Scotland to Saskatchewan; working at the Vancouver shipyards and Burrard Dry Dock; being shop steward with the steamfitters and plumbers union; Humphrey Creek logging camp.

Nancy was born Agnes McCormick, 1902, in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1913, her father, a ship carpenter, died. Her widowed mother decided her daughters would have a better life in Canada, so in 1920, Nancy and her two sisters immigrated under the Saskatchewan government assisted passages program for farm labourers and domestics. Nancy paid off her passage by working on a farm for a year before moving to Saskatoon where she lived at the YWCA, working as a waitress and clerk for several years. She relocated to British Columbia with her daughter around 1929 following her first husband’s death. She worked in Vancouver’s shipyards, joined the steamfitters and plumbing union, and eventually became shop steward. Nancy later worked in a logging camp with her husband and steam engineer, Clarence Buker (1896-1981). By the early 1980s Nancy was living in Clearbrook, B.C.

Bullock, Ruth

File consists of 4 video interviews with Ruth Bullock. Subjects include: Early life on Salt Spring Island; domestic work; the Great Depression; injustices faced by women and girls; reproductive rights; the CCF; canning industry; assembly line work; union factionalization; women’s auxiliaries.

Ruth Bullock (nee Fraser) was born 1909 in Trout Lake, West Kootenay District, B.C. Ruth was a feminist dedicated to reproductive rights education and advocated for legal abortion. In 1934, she joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) a social democratic party. She met her husband, Reginald Walter Bullock (trade unionist, CCF member, boilermaker) in 1938. The Bullocks left the CCF and Communist Party during WWII in protest of the organizations’ support for the war effort, subsequently joining the Canadian Trotskyist movement in Vancouver until the branch disbanded in 1985. When Socialist Challenge/Gauche socialiste was recognized by the Fourth International Ruth declared her support and remained an active supporter. In her later years, she managed Vanguard Bookstore, a distributor of radical literature. Ruth died 1994 in North Vancouver.

Dalskog, Marge

File consists of video interviews with Marge Dalskog. Subjects include: Life in BC logging camps; injury and death on the job; unionizing the forestry industry; IWA Ladies‘ Auxiliary; chauvinism at work and home; single motherhood; how the Auxiliary benefited the union and women.

Marjorie “Marge” Elizabeth Dalskog nee Stock (1912-1998) was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan into a farming family. By 1920, they had moved to North Vancouver where her father worked as a cooper. Marge married William D. Croy, a gas shovel operator in 1930. Their first home was a tent in a small Vancouver Island logging camp. The Croys subsequently moved to two acres of farmland on Lulu Island. This is where Marge first joined the IWA Ladies’ Auxiliary. Following the couple’s separation in the mid-1940’s, Marge returned to North Vancouver, taking menial jobs to support her children and continuing her Auxiliary work. She was elected Secretary by 1947. Marge married her second husband, IWA District boss Karl Einer “Ernie” Dalskog (1904-1982), in 1949 following her divorce and his release from prison. He had been jailed as the result of a dispute with the local IWA. Dalskog had broken away from the local to head a new union – Woodworkers’ Industrial Union of Canada. Ernie was blacklisted and spent some years logging for small outfits, including on Cortes Island, and Marge went back to work to help make ends meet. The couple retired at Fanny Bay, Vancouver Island.

Fordham, Elizabeth

File consists of 3 video interviews with Elizabeth Fordham. Subjects include: Immigration experience; clothes pressing; Great Depression; women’s labour movement; 1930’s pacifism; On To Ottawa Trek; 1934 West Coast waterfront strike; reproduction rights; summer camp for worker’s children.

Elizabeth Jane Fordham, nee Bray, was born in London, England in 1901. In 1924, Elizabeth accompanied her ex-boyfriend’s aunt to Regina, Saskatchewan, to put some distance between them. She worked at several odd jobs and as a domestic before moving to Vancouver by 1929. She worked as a presser for a time at Swan Brothers. In 1930, she married Richard Henry Alfred Fordham (1896-1977), a sawmill worker and fellow English immigrant. Richard was unemployed for a large part of the Depression and, facing eviction, they joined other unemployed in picketing landlords evicting the poor. By the 1940’s, Elizabeth was with the Women’s Auxiliary of the Worker’s Unity League. The League was responsible for establishing the Children’s Jubilee Summer Camp in Indian Arm for workers’ children in 1936. Elizabeth is recorded as a first director in the society’s 1944 incorporation papers. By the 1950’s, the couple had settled in the suburbs of South Vancouver. Elizabeth’s passion for the pacifist movement, summer camps, and civic concerns, can be traced through her letters to the editor over the following decades.

Godfrey, Lil

File consists of 3 video interviews with Lil Godfrey. Subjects include: Logging at Lake Cowichan; domestic challenges; IWA Women’s Auxiliary; 1946 strike; Gordon’s general store; Indo-Canadian community in the Cowichan area; trade unionists labelled communists.

Harriet Lillian Godfrey, nee Greenwell, (1915-1999) was born in Extension, Vancouver Island. Her father was a third generation miner. The family had mined in Wellington, BC, Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Durham and Northumberland, England. Lillian trained as a teacher, however, there were no jobs available during the depression so she took on housework jobs. She married logger Ralph Clement Godfrey (1904-1994) in South Wellington in 1937 and the settled in Lake Cowichan. Lil joined the IWA Women’s Auxiliary in 1940.

Griffin, Betty

File consists of video interviews with Betty Griffin. Subjects include: Boeing factory work in WWII; Mayday Parade; Powell Street grounds demonstration; equal pay; Worker’s Educational Association; Miss Production contest; the war effort and Fascism.

Margaret “Betty” was born in 1922. After her first year of university she supported the war effort by working in the aviation manufacturing industry with Boeing at their main factory on Sea Island. She became a union supporter and organizer. Her husband, Harold “Hal” Griffin, was associate editor of the Pacific Tribune in the early ’50s. In 1959, Betty became an elementary teacher in Burnaby. She quit when she became pregnant in 1963 and no maternity leave was available. On her return to teaching four years later she joined the BCTF negotiating team, helping to establish maternity leave and indexed pensions. She was given an honourary lifetime membership for her 14 years of service. She was Past-President of the Burnaby Teachers’ Association. At the age of 92 she declared her hobby was “Fighting injustice.” She died on May Day, May, 1, 2017.

Hilland, Gladys

File consists of video interviews with Gladys Hilland. Subjects include: Saskatchewan homesteading; farmer unionization 1930’s; Farmer’s Unity League; Sitka Spruce sawmill; women leaving industry post-WWII; 1946 strike; McCarthyism; International Woodworkers of America; No Strike Pledge.

Gladys Lillian nee Birchard (1915-2003) was born on the family homestead in Dunkirk, Saskatchewan, near Moose Jaw. The Birchards were descended from Welsh Quakers; at least three generations had farmed in Ontario and the US. Her parents moved to Dunkirk from Pickering by 1911 and raised ten children. In the ’30’s Gladys and brother Ivan joined the Farmer’s Unity League fighting farm foreclosures. (Ivan’s name appears in a 1934 RCMP secret report on “Revolutionary Organizations and Agitators”). By 1941, Gladys married Gordon Shunaman and moved to Vancouver. Gordon did not work due to poor health. Gladys supported them with a variety of menial jobs before working at Sitka Spruce, organizing workers, and rising to Secretary-Treasurer of the I.W.A. local. Gordon died in 1946. In 1948 Gladys split with the I.W.A. and married Harold Hilland (1925-1986). They moved to the Fraser Valley where they raised four children. Gladys operated a rest home for a time before retiring.

Martin, May

File consists of video interviews with May Martin. Subjects include: Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union; bartenders; role of business agent; The Night Order; workplace harassment; 1946 Milwaukee Convention; expulsion from the union; opposition to the International.

May Martin came to Eastern Canada from Cape Town, South Africa. She left school at the end of grade 9 and worked as a grocery clerk, hotel worker, and waitress. She spent some time in the United States before returning to Canada, living briefly in Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, and Windsor. She married Mr. Ansell and, in 1941, they drove west to Vancouver searching for work. May returned to waitressing and joined the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union (HREU). In 1942, she worked as an HREU organizer in the Yukon. On her return to Vancouver, she was elected to the rank of Business Agent and, by 1947, was Secretary of the local. In addition to fighting post-war firings of women workers, she advocated for housewives rights. By 1947, she had married Philip Leniczik, a City labourer. That year May Leniczek and two other executives were ousted from HREU following a dispute with the International. By 1951 she had divorced Leniczek and married a third time, to Mr. Martin.

Morgan, Mona

File consists of video interviews with Mona Morgan. Subjects include: Safety for housekeepers; BC Plywood office work; IWA; living conditions for loggers’ wives; wood industry racism; executive of Local 107; Women’s Auxiliaries; On to Ottawa trek; activism amongst housewives.

Mona Lauvey Morgan, nee Bjarnason (1913-2004) was born in Wynard, Saskatchewan. Both parents were children of Icelandic immigrants. Her mother, Dora, was a school teacher. Her father, Paul, was a socialist, poet, publisher of the Wynard Advance, and automobile and real estate salesman. Her family moved to Vancouver about 1934. Mona’s goal to be a teacher like her mother was derailed by the Depression. She made a living as a domestic for a time and later as a stenographer; notably being fired when it was discovered her fiancee, Nigel Morgan, was organizing the workers. Mona and Nigel married in 1941 and raised two children. Nigel was President of the International Woodworkers of America in BC by 1943. Mona continued to work in the woodworking industry, served on the executive of Local 107, and was a member of the I.W.A. Women’s Auxiliary.

Nuttall, Emily

File consists of video interviews with Emily Nuttall. Subjects include: Waitressing in 1930’s Winnipeg; sexual harassment; union organizing; hotel and restaurant workers unions; hostility to feminism; purging “Reds” within trade unions (Vancouver); 1946 Milwaukee Convention.

Emily Mae Johnston (1913-1996) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, daughter of a Teamster. She attended college for two years intending to be a dietitian, but finances forced her to discontinue her education. She worked as a waitress in Winnipeg throughout the 1930s. In 1939, she attended business college and began work in hotel and restaurant workers trade union locals in Winnipeg, Toronto (by 1942), and Vancouver (by 1944). She married John Nuttall (-1969), a welder, in 1946. Around 1949, John stopped working due to worsening TB symptoms. Emily became the primary wage-earner. Emily lost her union position in 1946 when she and others resisted to a move to push progressives out of the union. She worked for another 30 years as a financial controller in the pulp and paper industry.

Olson, June

File consists of video interviews with June Olson. Subjects include: History of Lake Cowichan mill town; growing up in a logging family; forestry industry conditions during the Great Depression and war years; forestry industry safety issues; IWA Women’s Auxiliary.

June Isobel Olson, nee Eckert, (1927-2006) became a lifelong resident of Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, at 3 months old. Her father worked in the logging industry there. In 1945, she married Nels Olson (1927-2018) on his return from service in the RCAF. His parents had emigrated to Canada around 1924; moving to Lake Cowichan shortly after Nels’ birth. Nels spent many years working as a tree feller. June was an active member of the IWA Women’s Auxiliary and raised their four children. Between 1961 and 1974, June and Nels were co-owners of the Castaway Resort.

Person, Alice

File consists of video interviews with Alice Person. Subjects include: Arrival in BC; family living on welfare; working conditions and segregation on hop farms; domestic work; women’s rights; changes in employment with the outbreak of WWII.

Alice Person was raised on a family farm in Alberta. When it was foreclosed on in the Depression, her parents separated. Alice, her siblings, and mother came to BC to make a living fruit farming; an occupation being promoted by governments at the time just as homesteading had been on the Prairies two decades earlier. They settled near Websters Corners in Haney, 50km east of Vancouver, but had little luck being self-sufficient. Their mother fought for the right to collect welfare and the children helped with odd jobs. When the war started Alice found employment in the forestry industry. She and her sister were in the first group of women to be hired on at Hammond Cedar in 1942. Equal pay as a woman’s right was her primary motivation to join the union. Mrs. Person served as a steward and a warden on the executive.

Rankin, Jonnie

File consists of video interviews with Jonnie Rankin. Subjects include: Vancouver during the Great Depression; WWII shipyard work; status of women in the Boilermakers Union; child care; equal pay; restaurant work; Labour Theatre Guild; Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union.

Born Jeannette Tonge (1916-2004) in Sausalito, California. She married Ontario-born Jack S.F. Ottewell (1915-1992) in 1938 in California. They had three children by the time they moved to Vancouver, BC. They later divorced and Jonnie married Vancouver labour activist, controversial city councillor, and a C.O.P.E. founder, Harry Rankin (1920-2002), in 1948. The Rankins had two children. The couple separated in 1985. From the time of her working years in the Vancouver shipyards, Jonnie supported trade union issues, the peace movement, community concerns, and the advance of socialism.

Scott, Jean

File consists of video interviews with Jean Scott. Subjects include: Prairie life; domestic work; country hospital work; WWII; domestic abuse; Canadian Air Force; CCF; Political Action Committee; Canadian Congress of Labour; International Woodworkers Association; the International.

Born Dorothy Jean Mathie (1912-2015) in Brandon, Manitoba. Her father was a retail grocer. Jean spent several years nursing her mother and helping with her siblings. At 20 she moved to Saskatchewan, married, and lived on her in-law’s farm. She left her husband early on because he was physically abusive; an experience that influenced her future activism. She worked as a domestic and nurse to survive the separation, eventually joining her married brother in Calgary around 1940. Determined to be self-sufficient, she continued housekeeping while attending business school. Jean took an office job at No 2 Wireless & Gunner School during the war. By the mid-40’s Jean and other family members relocated to Vancouver. She used her secretarial skills at a number of trade unions including the I.W.A and United Steel Workers of America. Later she married widower Francis Baldwin Scott (1911-2000). Jean remained an activist and earned numerous honours from their Chilliwack community. She was 90-years old when she received a doctorate from the University of the Fraser Valley. She was awarded a Governor General Person Case Medal (1990) and wrote her biography “Brown Sugar and a Bone In The Throat” (2005). Jean lived to be 102.

Seed, Irene

File consists of video interviews with Irene Seed. Subjects include: Youbou, BC; 1930s; nursing; life with a child in rural Vancouver Island; racial segregation in the forestry industry; Women’s Auxiliary; mill safety; Youbou loggers; widow’s pension.

Irene Isabel Seed, nee Powell, (1909-2004) was born in Vancouver, BC, the eldest of five sisters. Her father worked as a foundry moulder. She graduated a nurse from Vancouver General Hospital in 1931. She met her husband Frank (1907-1963), a salesman, at a United Church Young People’s Church meeting. They married in 1934. By 1939, they had moved to a Vancouver Island mill town, Youbou, on Lake Cowichan, where they raised five children. Frank worked as a millwright for Industrial Timber Mills and Irene was active in the Women’s Auxiliary.

Shiels, Jean

File consists of video interviews with Jean Shiels. Subjects include: Relief in the 1930’s; Women’s Unity League; the single unemployed; On to Ottawa trek; Mother’s Council; peace movement; League Against the War on Fascism; support for Spain in the 1930’s; Young Pioneers.

Jean Stewart Evans (1927-1995) was born in Vancouver, BC, second child of Ethel, and well-known labour rights organizer, Arthur “Slim” Evans. She recalls a childhood home always open to organizers and labourers in need, and impacted by her father’s arrests and short-term imprisonments. After high school, Jean took a variety of jobs including as an attendant on Canadian Pacific Railroad steamships, server, sales clerk, and bakeries manager for a grocery chain. In 1944, her father died three weeks after being struck by a car while crossing the street. Jean married Seaman Leslie Arthur Sheils of Hornby Island in 1947 and they had two children. Les became a Master of deep-sea towing vessels and worked internationally, and in later years, worked for BC Ferries. Jean devoted her adult life to fighting for fair work and wages; was a founding member of the On-to-Ottawa Trek Committee (1985); and co-wrote an account of her father’s life (1977). She volunteered in the Hornby Island community; serving on the Co-op and ratepayer boards, and with the Hornby Recycling Depot. Jean passed away in Comox in 1995.

Storm, Marjorie

File consists of video interviews with Marjorie Storm. Subjects include: Fraser Mills; sexual harassment; National Selective Service; Pacific Veneer, Canadian Forest Products; equa pay and access; New Democratic Party; domestic challenges; IWA Women’s Auxiliary; 1970’s women’s movement.

Marjorie Cynthia Storm nee Smart (1921-2007) was born in Glamorgan, Wales. She joined her father in Canada in 1931, living for a short time in Calgary, then moving to Vancouver by 1932. She married salesman William Storm. In 1942, when her daughter was nine-months-old and after her husband had enlisted, she joined the workforce. She subsequently worked 37 years in the forestry industry taking on many roles including shop steward, secretary of the grievance committee, plant chairperson, safety committee member, recording secretary on the women’s committee of the BC Federation of Labour, and member of the human rights branch. In the 1970’s became politically active and rose to Vice-President of the BC NDP in 1973.

Sufrin, Eileen

File consists of video interviews with Eileen Sufrin. Subjects include: WWII attitudes towards unions; Cooperative Commonwealth Federation; moving from Ontario to BC; labour movement factionalization; unions and women’s issues; white collar unionism; organizing Eatons.

Born Blanche Eileen Tallman in Montreal, Quebec (1913-1999). She was raised in Toronto where her father worked as a travelling salesman. After graduating head of her class from Vaughan Road Collegiate, she eschewed university, instead joining other unemployed activists in the Co-operative Commonwealth Youth Movement. When her father died in 1938, her mother took an underpaid job at Eaton’s to raise her three children. That experience would inform her organizing effort on behalf of Eaton workers (1948-1952), one of the longest organizing campaigns in Canadian labour history. Eileen spent 19 years organizing women in union movements in Ontario and BC, unionizing 15,000 women. She met her husband, Bernard “Bert” Sufrin (1916-1995) while working at the Saskatchewan government finance office. Bert was an economist and fellow CCF worker. They moved to Ottawa in 1964 where Bert worked for the Labour Department of the Women’s Bureau. They retired to White Rock, BC, by 1972, where she was active in the NDP and founded a local branch of the Choice of Dying Society. Eileen received many honours over her lifetime including a Governor-General’s medal on the 50th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.

Tagashira, Masue

File consists of video interviews with Masue Tagashira. Subjects include: Village life in 1920s Japan; immigration experience; logging camp at Stave Lake; domestic work; language challenges for immigrant women; exploitation of women’s labour; Vancouver’s “Japantown”.

Masue (1908-1992) was one of nine children born to a farming family in the village of Mitsuse Kanazaki, Saga-Ken, Japan. Masue married her first husband, Shigeo, there in 1927, following him to Stave Falls, B.C., where he had been working as a logger and shingle maker. They had two children: Donald (Masayuki) born in the camp, and daughter, Aiko, born Vancouver. They had moved to the city in 1930 after Shigeo suffered serious work injury resulting in the loss of an eye . Unable to support his family and deeply depressed, Shigeo was admitted to Essondale Hospital where he committed suicide in 1931. Masue, without much English and only rudimentary skills, placed her children in a Victoria church-run orphanage. She struggled in subsistence jobs and married twice more: the first short-lived, and then finally, in 1938, to Rinkichi Tagashira (1887-1973) owner of Heatley Trading Co. Ltd. Masue’ children came to live with them near Rinkichi’s warehouse in “Japantown”, Vancouver’s east side immigrant neighbourhood. In 1942, the Tagashiras, like 20,000 other Japanese Canadians in B.C., had their assets seized and were interned in the province interior: Rinkichi to Tashme and Masue, Donald and Aiko to Slocan. They eventually returned to their old neighbourhood in 1949 where they operated a rooming house. Masue was an active member of the JCCA Redress Committee.

Godfrey, Lil and June Olson

File consists of video interviews with Lil Godfrey and June Olson. Subjects include: How their mothers supported them as children; seasonal employment; IWA Women’s Auxiliary and the 1946 strike; red baiting; forming a community co-op grocery and credit union; organizing between communities.

Biographical sketches of Lil Godfrey and June Olson can be found in the descriptions for files containing their individual interviews.

Marj Storm - Tape 1

Marjorie Storm talks about her first job in Vancouver at Fraser Mills; sexual harassment in the workplace; working at Boeing main Sea Island plant as a riveter and fitter; her placement by National Selective Service at Pacific Veneer (now Canadian Forest Products) in 1946; how the I.W.A. defended the right of married women to work at her mill; attitudes of men on the job towards working women; wage differential between sexes and segregated seniority lists; increase in representation of women in the union; the winning fight for equal pay for equal work in 1966.

Marj Storm - Tape 2

Marjorie Storm talks about actions by women for equal access to jobs; use of arbitration; the employers’ negative response to equal pay; pressure by women forestry workers for changes to the Human Rights Code and how, working through the union, changes were subsequently passed by the provincial NDP government. She also talks about how she got involved in the union in the 1950’s representing the 350 women working in the mill; locking down the plant to stop a foreman from taking workers’ jobs; negotiating on behalf of all workers at her plant.

Marj Storm - Tape 3

Marjorie Storm describes the physical layout of the plant and its’ activities; technological change in the mill and effect on employment; being a working mother; domestic challenges; 60-pound lift limits for women under the Factories Act; arbitration cases; the strike of 1948; I.W.A. Women’s Auxiliary and her attempts through resolutions to give it more clout.

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