Silenced: Women ceramists who immigrated to Canada, 1963-77

Tonight I am celebrating. The University of Manitoba Office of Research has approved my grant to interview and videotape 20 women ceramists.  I am elated.  My questions have to be approved by Ethics in January but I would like to hear from those in my current study who would like their stories to be told.  Did they move to Canada with a partner/boyfriend/husband only to give up an established career and have to start all over?   Think about how the impact to migrate to Canada impacted your career and your life in both positive and negative ways.

The wording of my grant is as follows:  The objective of this study is to record the oral histories of women immigrants who came to Canada between in the 1960s and 1970s in order not to be complicit in the Vietnam War and who were ceramists. To date, there has been little investigation into the lives of the women who accompanied the young men to Canada. Their sacrifices and their contributions to Canadian ceramics are as invisible as the study of ceramics; both are marginalized fields. Statistics tell us that for every four men who crossed the border, there were five women. They were wives, mothers, and daughters. There are numerous publications and significant research on the men who arrived either as draft dodgers, Conscientious Objectors, or resistors. Indeed, the research into their lives, their politics, and their contributions continues in television mini-series such as Ken Burns, ‘Vietnam’ and recent publications such as War is Here. The Vietnam War and Canadian Literature by Robert McGill. Of the approximately 50,000 women migrants, only Laura Jones, a photographer and co-owner of the Baldwin Street Gallery in Toronto along with John Phillips, a dodger, and Diane Francis, a reporter for Canada’s Financial Post and its editor in 1991, have received some attention. Francis was named Chatelaine Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1992. She considers herself a draft dodger in the same sense as the men who came to Canada to evade the draft adding that she wears the badge with honour even though her sacrifices are rarely acknowledged.

If you are reading this and are part of my current study, please get in touch.  I will also be contacting you in the new year.

Author: maryannsteggles

I am a Professor at the School of Art, University of Manitoba where I teach art history and studio ceramics. My current research is on the history of Canadian wood firing, the marginalization of women within ceramics, and the impact of Vietnam era migrants on the history of Canadian ceramics. You can reach me at my e-mail address: maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca

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