Western's Caucus on Women's Issues

Fall ll-2002 Newsletter


Announcements and Events
Concerning Women's Caucus
On Campus
In the Community at Large
Caucus Members' Activities
Speakers on Feminism and Gender Issues on Campus
Contact your Caucus
Caucus Memberships


2002 Essay Award Winner: Danielle Picard
Honorary Caucus Members Named
Caucus Has a Purple Circle!
Caucus Archive Update

At the Fall General Meeting, September 25, Romayne Smith-Fullerton announced that Danielle Picard had been awarded the Caucus Essay Award for 2002 for her essay entitled "The Man Who Played Well for a Woman: Billy Tipton's Life as a Passing Woman". If the opening paragraphs below intrigue you, visit the Caucus website (URL at top of page) and read the whole essay:

'Billy Tipton performed in a number of jazz and swing bands from the early 1930s onward as a vocalist and pianist, and according to a bandmate from the early days of Tipton's career, "Billy was a fair sax man too, played very well for a woman."[1] Some of the members of Tipton's various bands, as well as some of the women who were considered his wives, never knew the secret revealed in this comment. Many of the people who knew and loved Tipton only learned on the occasion of his death in 1989 that he had been born female.[2] Tipton is one of a large number of women in history who are now called "passing women" -- women who lived much of their lives as men.[3] As in Billy's case, the birth sex of these individuals was often a secret revealed only when they died. The lives of these women and of Billy Tipton in particular raise many questions about identity, gender, and sexuality, and these questions are not easily answered. Some historians have claimed Tipton and passing women in general as part of lesbian history while others see them as part of transsexual or transgender history; ultimately, it is impossible to determine which categorization is correct.

'Dorothy Lucille Tipton was born on December 29, 1914, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Billy Lee Tipton died in Spokane, Washington, on January 21, 1989. Dorothy began passing as man when she was nineteen years old in order to join a band that would not hire women. From then on, Billy Tipton built a career as a jazz musician that achieved its greatest success in the mid-1950s. He traveled with various bands throughout the western United States and parts of western Canada and even made two records at the peak of his career. However, when stardom was just within reach, Tipton passed on the opportunity, choosing instead to settle in Washington State and allow a job as an entertainment booking agent to take priority over his musical career. No one can be sure, but his biographer Diane Wood Middlebrook concludes that this decision was based on Tipton's fear that greater exposure would result in the discovery of his secret.[4] The same fear kept Tipton from seeking medical attention when he was suffering from a bleeding ulcer...' See the whole essay.

Constance Backhouse and Nancy Kendall were both named Honorary Lifetime Members of Caucus. Many of you will remember one or both of these wonderful women: Connie taught law at Western for many years before moving to Ottawa where she is currently a Full Professor at the University of Ottawa. She is the author of several books including a ground-breaking early book on sexual harassment. Her two recent books, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999) and Petticoats and Prejudice: Women and the Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto: Women's Press, 1991) both won prizes. Connie was a force on campus and one of the four authors of the chilly climate report about sexism on campus (released on an unsuspecting Western in November, 1989).

Until her retirement in 1998 Nancy Kendall was a counsellor in the Student Development Centre and an active member of Caucus, serving as Caucus President in the early 90's. Through her work both at SDC and in the London community she was a champion of young women. At Western she was a very active member of the Professional and Managerial Association, which in 1998 named an award in her honour. The Nancy Kendall Award "recognizes exceptional and unwavering service and commitment to the membership of the Professional and Managerial Association of the University of Western Ontario as embodied by Nancy Kendall, a founding member of the P.M.A."

Both Connie and Nancy were greatly appreciated in the London feminist community. They served on boards and worked tirelessly to achieve more and better resources for women and better protections for human rights. In addition, both graced Wednesday lunch with their presence for many years, to the great delight of their colleagues.

Western's Caucus on Women's Issues has started a "UWO Purple Circles" online discussion group. Please have a look at the Purple Circles web site for a full list of the features associated with this program. The idea behind starting a discussion group was to provide a forum for members of Caucus to freely exchange information, to post notices that they've received from other women's groups, or just to start informal discussions about matters of interest to them.

Our Purple Circle membership is private and only Caucus members will be invited to join. Andrea Purvis has set up the Women's Caucus Purple Circle. She would like to invite all members of Caucus to join - if you are interested, please email Andrea at ajpurvis@uwo.ca.

a Report from Letitia Meynell

A draft Deed of Gift stipulating the conditions on which Caucus will donate its materials to the university archives is being reviewed by Caucus Executive. Access is a key issue. We want all Caucus members (past and present) to feel secure in the knowledge that no donated materials of a sensitive nature will be made accessible to the public prematurely.

We have tried to classify and arrange the materials first by type and then by time period. Presidency seemed the best indicator of time period. We have already agreed that newsletters will be accessible to anyone. Another type of material are reports that clearly stand on their own, such as some of Connie Backhouse's research and the materials documenting Caucus involvement in the creation of the Centre for Women's Studies. Decisions about whether and when these reports should be open to the public will be made on a case-by-case basis. Within each presidency, there will be a section of public announcements and public correspondences, which will be opened immediately. Other than this, access will be restricted to those who get prior written permission of the Executive, or delayed until a certain amount of time has elapsed. The question is: How much time?

The University Archivist advises me that thirty years is usual for these purposes. If we choose thirty years, materials documenting the beginnings of Caucus would be opened to the public in the next few years. I have begun contacting people who were members in the early years and so far opinions range from those who support open access to all materials, to those who are clearly uncomfortable with the materials ever becoming open.

As the Deed of Gift will form a model for donations to the Archive in the future, it is important that we spend the time now to make sure it suits the politically sensitive position of a grassroots women's group at a conservative, and sometimes unfriendly, institution. It is, I think, also important to remember, that, although the situation of women has improved over the last twenty-plus years of Caucus history, we have no way of knowing if it will continue to do so in the future. I believe that we should be confident that no member of Caucus will ever be harmed by way of the materials kept in our Archive and make our decisions on these grounds.

My recommendation is that the files stay closed for roughly forty years. This would effectively guarantee that the files are closed during the working life of any given Caucus member. What do you think? I am eager to get input from Caucus members, especially those who have been long-standing members and those with experience with historical documents. The Archivist would also like a list of past Presidents. My knowledge only goes back to Sara Steers (1997-99). If you have any opinions or information to contribute, please email Letitia Meynell.


Concerning Your Caucus

WEDNESDAY December 4, 4 p.m. in University College 224a AGENDA - Planning for January meeting with Greg Moran, Roma Harris, Alan Weedon: equity concerns and future caucus initiatives.

TUESDAY January 14, 2003, 4 p.m., in SH2316 AGENDA - Meeting with Greg Moran, Roma Harris, and Alan Weedon to discuss recruitment and retention. The meeting is being arranged at their request, as they are interested in hearing our suggestions.

TUESDAY March 25, 2003 at 4 p.m., in University College 224a Spring General Meeting Speaker: Dr. Carol Herbert, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

It's not quite time, but now is a good time to think about whether you would like to nominate anyone for a position on the Caucus executive, or whether you would like to be nominated for a position. Both of our Vice Presidents, Gloria Leckie and Bonnie Maclachlan, will be on leave next year, and Tracy Isaacs is in the midst of her second term. Therefore, among the positions that we'll need to fill for next year is President. The slate for the 2003-04 executive will be presented and voted on at the March 25, 2003 General Membership meeting.

On Campus

Medical Students for Choice is holding their second event of the year: "The Moral Complexities of the Abortion Decision," presented by Dr. Carolyn McLeod, Professor of Philosophy, UWO. This will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd, at 7pm in DS1002 (Dental Science building -accessible by going through the medical science building and all the way down the first hallway). Dr. McLeod will be discussing the ethics of abortion, women's rights, and interpretations of the sanctity of life argument, with a focus on the feminist critique of this issue. This is intended to be a short presentation followed by an interactive discussion. Bring your change and buy some yummy baked goods, made by MSFC executive members.

2. FRIDAY December 6th
Ritual of Re-Membering at Brescia 12 noon

"Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, this day coincides with the sad anniversary of the 1989 Montréal Massacre when fourteen young women were tragically killed at l'École Polytechnique because of their gender. It represents a time to pause and reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also a time to have a special thought for all the women and girls who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died as a result of deliberate acts of gender-based violence. Last but not least, it is a day for communities and individuals to reflect on concrete actions that each of us can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women." (Status of Women Canada) Every year since Dec. 6, 1990 the London community has remembered the14 women massacred in Montreal in 1989.

In the Community at Large

December 6 Events ( Courtesy Women's Events Committee)
Focus Groups for GLBT persons, December 9
Announcement of Winners, LAWC Literary Competition, January 1 2003
The Women's List: How To Join (and Why)

December 6 - Community Events Commemorate National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women

The Women's Events Committee, a partnership made up of representatives from organized labour, education, faith groups, and women's anti-violence services, have come together to organize and coordinate annual events for December 6, 2002. All Londoners are invited to join in for the following commemorative events:

NOON: Ritual of Re-membering at Brescia University College Auditorium
5 PM: Victoria Park, Women's Monument, Candlelight Vigil
4:30 - 6:30 PM CUPW, 520 Wellington St., Open House
7:00 PM CAW, Local 27, 606 First St, Ceremony
7:00 PM St. John's Anglican Church, Strathroy, Ceremony & March
Mitten Project display @ Brescia University College and Victoria Park
All women's music, All day, CHRW 94.7 Radio
Identifying needs in London's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered communities

If you are a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgendered person, we'd like to hear your ideas about what is needed in our community to support and enhance the lives of GLBT people. You are invited to participate in one of two 90-minute focus groups that will be held on MONDAY DECEMBER 9, between 5:30 and 9:00 p.m., at the Board Room of the London Community Resource Centre, Room 203, 388 Dundas Street.

Please take this opportunity to share your views. HALO, London's longest-serving GLBT organization, is looking to chart its future but cannot do so without your input and advice.

If you are interested in participating in a focus group, please rsvp to or leave a phone message at 433-3551 and let us know if you are able to attend from 5:30 - 7:00 or 7:30 - 9:00.

3. On Wednesday January 1, at The Arts Project, 205 Dundas Street, there will be a cocktail party from 2 to 5 pm. At that event the winner of the London Abused Women's Centre 1st Annual Literary Competition for Women (2002) will be announced.

4. THE WOMEN'S LIST: How to Join (and Why)
Find out about what women are doing in London on email.

There are few better ways to keep informed about the activities and issues that concern women in London than getting your name added to the "Women's List". This email list, managed by Lisa Widdifield, has become a crucial part of women's organizing in London, reaching roughly 150 women and organizations. People send Lisa e-mails and she forwards them to the rest of the list. Almost everything and anything is sent forward (though Lisa admits that very occassionally she gets behind and things are sent late). Typically the messages simply contain information about events concerning women, including announcements about entertainment, education, health, politics or even news reports. Although the list is loosely associated with the Women's Events Committee, it is not endorsed, managed or censored by anyone...well, except Lisa. She does not, however, really consider her role to be that of a censor, though she does avoid sending out duplicate information. Anyone may join the list. All you need to do is e-mail Lisa and request to be added to the list. To get items posted, anyone can send Lisa an email and she will forward it to the list. On average, people on the list get about 10-15 e-mails a week, though, during an election or if an event of particular significance to women is happening, then the e-mails may be more frequent.

The list grew out of women's organizing around the last provincial election. A group of women participating in Women Our Votes Count and Project 2000 needed an efficient way to communicate amongst themselves and with other interested women and groups. Originally, the list addressed topics such as communicating about meetings, organizing strategies to get women to vote, bringing recognition to issues important to women during the election, announcing all candidates meetings, voting drives and related issues. But gradually the list blossomed into a general communication tool amongst women.

To anyone who keeps abreast of the activist women's community in London, it will be no surprise that Lisa Widdifield is the person behind the list. Lisa's name comes up in all kinds of contexts. She is a public education advocate (and parent of two children) and has won awards for her advocacy. You may also have read something she's written in the newspaper or heard her on the radio, as she is regularly interviewed regarding various public education issues. Lisa also ran the London Women Our Votes Count campaign during the last provincial election (and carried on in this role into the federal campaign).

Tracy Isaacs, President
Gloria Leckie, Vice President
Bonnie MacLachlan, Vice President
Carolyn McLeod, Secretary
Stephanie MacLeod, Treasurer
Frances Bauer, Newsletter
Daniele Belanger, Member-at-Large
Lisa Campbell, Member-at-Large
Lori Davies, Member-at-Large
Debra Dawson, Memberships
Letitia Meynell, (Grad Student) Archive Liaison
Kelly Olson, Programs
Andrea Purvis, Safety Committee
Ellen Singleton, Member-at-Large
Romayne Smith-Fullerton, Essay Award

Anyone employed either part-time or full-time by the university or its affiliates is eligible for membership. The current membership includes staff, graduate students and faculty members representing most academic and non-academic departments.

Membership fees are annual and the Caucus membership year begins in September each year. If you would like to join the Caucus or have let your Caucus membership lapse, here are the fees for membership: Graduate student $5.00 Modest income $10.00 Regular member $20.00 Sustaining member $30.00 Charter member $50.00 The membership fees are used to support Caucus programmes and special initiatives, such as student awards and Caucus events. If you have questions or would like to join, please contact Debra Dawson.

*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>*<>* My thanks to all those who submitted copy for this issue: Tracy Isaacs, Letitia Meynell, and Andrea Purvis. If I have left anyone out, my apologies!

If you have comments or concerns regarding the format or the content of the Women's Caucus Newsletter, please feel free to contact me, Frances Bauer.


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