Griffin, Betty and Susan Lockhart. Their Own History: Women’s Contribution to the Labour Movement of BC. 2002. Published by United Fishermen and Allied Workers’Union & CAW Seniors. New Westminster, BC.

Their Own History: A Book Review

I found this big, photo-packed book at the Cumberland Miners’ Memorial with a little hand written sign saying, that if the buyer wished, one of the authors would sign it! Such modesty from Betty Griffin whose writing career started late in life when she had to finish a book her husband did not complete before he died.

I noticed in this engrossing history, activist women seem to live long, productive lives. I checked the directory of women included and was pleased to find friends long gone and even a spunky relative who died recently at ninety-five, active until the end.

With its many personal stories, information on unions and support groups, and a good background chronology commentary from the media of the day interwoven with the history of general labour struggles in BC since the beginning of coal mining in 1849, this book is an invaluable addition to our history.

We need to be reminded of the oppression of the robber barons, their friends in government, the use of scabs, and the brutality of police against peaceful demonstrators and workers trying to save their homes. Sadly, some things have not changed much. But the tenacity and courage of our foremothers is an inspiration. I love all the personal details and honest perspectives in the interviews of so many unsung heroines of our time!

Women organized to support their husbands in the days before married women could be employed and went on to organize themselves when they did work in the wage economy and when their labour was necessary to the war effort. They also had to fight reactionary elements within unions and society on the issues of equal pay for work of equal value, the right to work in male-dominated jobs and the post-war conservatism that tried to force women to give up their gains and leave the work force.

From fish to Paul Robeson, from housing to relief work, nutrition to first nations, peace to violence against women, racism to plywood factories, the stories are a revealing indictment of injustice in our time.

The book continues up to the present and notes that one hundred years after the Retail Clerks union was formed, in 2002 we finally had equal pay for work of equal value legislation –a struggle that many of us still active can be proud of. La Lucha Continua!

Filed under Betty Griffin, Book Reviews, Susan Lockhart