Inspiring Women

March 8th is International Women’s Day. Since 1911, this day has been marked by celebrating the “…social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” as well as being a call to action for gender parity.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, our bloggers have shared stories about the women who inspire them:

Patricia Lockhart Fleming is a Canadian professor emeritus at the Faculty of Information Studies and the Collaborative Program in Book History and Print Culture at the University of Toronto. I fondly remember her gentle personality, extensive knowledge and talent for teaching. Prof. Fleming was also instrumental in the compilation and editing of the “History of the Book” project alongside the five lead contributors to the project. Her years of collaboration with the many author contributors from across Canada who provided the case studies and articles for each volume illustrates her dedication to “[examining] the role of print in the political, religious, intellectual and cultural life that eventually became Canada” (University of Toronto Press). This epic work is an achievement placing our print history from Canada’s beginnings to 1980 side by side with other countries work on the subject. In addition, her work in “Early Canadian Imprints” and “Atlantic Canadian Imprints” is impressive and illustrates how books, pamphlets, broadsides, government publications and serials that were produced and circulated in Canada also played an important role in our history and her devotion to it. Prof. Fleming is inspirational to me as she not only guided me during my studies at the Faculty of Information but inspired my passion for print history, as well as many others who studied under her. — Teresa N-P

I feel like I could list 100 women who inspire me but lately, my biggest inspiration has been writer and activist, Audre Lorde. I admire her writing so much: the essays, the autobiography, her poetry. She had an amazingly equitable, generous, and brilliant way of looking at the world that feels so relevant and refreshing even though much of her work was written in the 1980’s. Lorde also spent much of her life as a school librarian in New York City, so I look up to her in so many ways! — Jackie M.

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Karina Vigil is not only an inspiring woman and author, but someone I have the pleasure of calling my friend. I met Karina many years ago on our first day of Grade 9 and knew instantly that she would have a huge impact on my life. Since that day Karina has been a dependable, supportive and inspiring ray of light. She never ceases to amaze me with how incredibly creative and talented she is. I will never forget reading the first short story she wrote in high school, and how much joy it immediately brought to my life. It only took reading that first piece to know that her beautiful words would someday be read by the world. After years of reading her stories, and crying many tears over her touching poems, Karina made my heart explode (in the best way possible) by publishing her first work of poetry entitled Anatomy. Her heart, determination and positivity are few of the many reasons she is such an inspiring woman, author, and lifetime friend. Note: a copy of Anatomy will be coming soon to WPL’s collection. — Madison P.

This is a good day to honour and celebrate earlier day women who fought so hard for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today and maybe even take for granted (though we shouldn’t). I have such a huge admiration for the Canadian suffragists who fought for women’s right to vote, the most famous being Nellie McClung (1873-1951). She also played a leading role in the Persons Case, in which it was ultimately ruled that women are, in fact, people (!) and thus could serve in the Canadian Senate. I admire Nellie McClung for her bravery (as you can imagine she encountered lots of hostility and ridicule) and for the time and energy she devoted to help bring about a more just, more equal world. — Penny D.

thumbnail_imageI’m a big fan of Debbie Reese. She is an educator, librarian and activist who has dedicated so much of the last 17 years of her life to promoting the accurate representation of Indigenous people in literature written for children and young adults. Known for her prolific website and blog American Indians in Children’s Literature and her active social media presence (I’m not sure when she has time to sleep) she also contributes to industry journals, has adapted a groundbreaking text for young readers and is in-demand as a speaker throughout North America. Tribally enrolled at Nambé Owingeh, she uses her platform to share book reviews, lists of relevant books and resources, book awards that celebrate Indigenous artists, and thoughtful posts about negative stereotypes she wants to erase and replace with positive representation. Her writing is clear, passionate, and patient, even though she is working for change that is decades overdue! Get to know Debbie Reese and join me in my admiration of this powerful, inspiring woman. — Penny M.

A woman I admire: Peri Moyer. She is my sister-in-law. In October of 2019 her 16-year-old son, our nephew Liam, was diagnosed with leukemia. The devastation of such news cannot be described in words. Through numerous treatments, travel, months long hospital stays and a pandemic to top it all off, and finally a bone marrow transplant, Liam is doing well and recovering. Through this entire ordeal, Peri has been a beaming light of strength, courage and positivity. With an unwavering commitment to not just her immediate family but her extended family as well. She continues to remember all of our birthdays and special days and always takes the time to send sweet messages and collages to commemorate the occasion. No matter what she’s going through she still thinks of all of us. She loves her little nephew and niece and makes time for social distanced visits; she gives them the most thoughtful gifts she knows they’ll love. She makes everyone feel special. She radiates love and kindness and anyone who has the good fortune to meet her, will instantly feel her warmth. She’s a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife but most of all she’s an inspiration. — Shaye R.

28164550_10156282985779612_6516300068809706458_oIt was a struggle to pick just one woman who inspires me. Writers, explorers, athletes, business leaders. Who to pick? In the end I decided to stay closer to home. My Mum has always been inspiring for many reasons not the least being her big heart, patience and kindness to all, traits she shared with her own Mother. But for today I thought I’d focus on the paternal side of my family, my Irish grandmother. Born in 1907 in Northern Ireland, she married my grandfather in 1927 and they opened a green grocers in the capital city of Belfast. My grandfather had been in the army and was a calm, organized person, but it was my grandmother who had a head for business. She ran the shop, managed the inventory and did the accounts. Women in business were not commonplace at that time so she was a bit of a groundbreaker and I admire that greatly. After the war they were able to expand and open a second, and then a third, shop. It wasn’t all work and no play though, as she was also a champion swimmer and diver. The family emigrated to Canada in 1954 where she was soon hired by Sears Canada to work in accounts, a position she held until retirement. Her entrepreneurial spirit was passed on to my Dad, who had his own business and to me, as I ran my own business for 25 years. My grandmother died in 1995 at 88 years of age, still travelling, driving and living in her own home. She was a strong woman with a great sense of humour. She knew what she wanted to do with her life, and she did it! — Sandi H.

Maude Lewis, a Nova Scotian painter, is an inspiration to me. She overcame significant economic and physical challenges to follow her artistic passion and her paintings have graced galleries all over the world. While she didn’t receive significant recognition until later in her life, she demonstrated what can be achieved with emotional resilience and a positive attitude. — Nancy C.

Learn more about International Women’s Day on the official website.

If you’d like to celebrate International Women’s Day with some outstanding, can’t-put-down reads, we have just the book for you on our Inspiring Women recommended reading list.