By Eryk Martin, Department of History
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
In so many ways 2018 was another raging dumpster fire of patriarchal violence and toxic masculinity. In that context, I thought I’d highlight something that brought me some feminist joy over this last year: the digitization of one of Canada’s early women’s liberation periodicals, The Pedestal.
Activists at Simon Fraser University established the paper in 1969 to support the work of the Vancouver Women’s Caucus, which had formed out of the university’s student movement and was creating innovative forms of feminist activism. Here, as in other places, the priorities, assumptions, and imagination of these early feminist projects drew from the overlapping interests that marked so much of the political environment of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Published between 1969 and 1975, The Pedestal was an incredibly important tool for feminist organizing, analysis, and news. A brief glimpse at some of its topics over the years sheds light on this. Examples include: motherhood, guerrilla theatre, human rights legislation, abortion, women and the New Democratic Party, Indigenous women, childcare services, the labour movement, sexual violence, poetry and literature, lesbian rights, updates on women’s and feminist conferences, and women’s history, among many other subjects.
According to The Vancouver Women’s Caucus: A Women’s Liberation History Project, the decision to digitize the Pedistal and other materials was motivated by a desire to support research and awareness about feminist history, particularly among younger women.
Like other feminist history projects—including Rise Up! A Digital Archive of Feminist Activism—the digitization of Vancouver Women’s Caucus materials could have a big impact not only on our research, but also on our teaching. Digital access means that our students can discover and use these primary sources in huge range of ways. This is particularly important for those of us that teach at institutions that do not have university archives or special collection branches in our libraries. In my teaching context, I simply don’t have the option to take my students into a physical archive without expending a great deal of travel and time in the process. In this context, participant-led projects that share past activist work and experience play a critical role in shaping the archival record and possibilities of engaging with it.