The Struggle for Social Justice in British Columbia
Helena Gutteridge, the Unknown Reformer
Helena Gutteridge was a socialist and feminist whose vision helpedto shape social reform legislation in British Columbia in the firstdecades of the twentieth century, and also one of the first women thereto hold high political office.
She was born in England in 1879. A militant suffragist, tutored bythe Pankhursts, she learned the politics of confrontation early.Emigrating to Vancouver in 1911, she found the suffrage movement theretoo polite and organized the B.C. Woman's Suffrage League to helpworking women fight for the vote. And she kept on organizing. As ajourneyman tailor she was a power in her union local, and as the onlywoman on the Vancouver Trades and Labor Council -- their 'rebelgirl' -- she championed the rights of workers and organized womento fight for themselves. In the 1930s, as a member of the feisty newpolitical movement, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, shejoined in the struggles of the unemployed for work and wages. Then, in1937, as the first woman ever elected to Vancouver City Council, sheled the fight for low-income housing.
As was typical for women of her class and time, Helena did not keeppersonal records, nor did organizational records exist to any extent.Irene Howard made it her task, over a period of years, to search outand assemble details of Helena's life and career, and to interviewold comrades who knew Helena and the turbulent times in which shelived. Herself a miner's daughter, the author brings to her subjectan affectionate regard and sympathy qualified by the larger view of thescholar and researcher. The result is a lively biography, shot throughwith humour and pathos, that pays homage to Helena Gutteridge and tomany of the people who have been inspired by a cause and who havetaught us about the politics of caring.
- 1992, Winner - University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, UBC
- 1993, Short-listed - Vancouver Book Award, City of Vancouver
Irene Howard's biography of Gutteridge is an important step toward changing history's prejudices. It is also an inspiration to women and men who hunger for justice.
For historians of women and labour in Canada or, for that matter, for most Canadian historians, the name of Helena Gutteridge resonates. She was, it is generally known, a left-wing advocate of female suffrage and of better conditions of paid labour who ended up a municipal politician. There common knowledge stops ... Irene Howard overcomes the paucity of primary sources in ingenious fashion by always placing Helena Gutteridge in the context of her times ... Howard writes such evocative prose, the reader is carried along from chapter to chapter ... a thoughtful portrayal and analysis of social and political life in Vancouver during the first half of this century.
An important contribution to the flourishing field of women's history ... the gains of women and the gradual erasure of historic discrimination did not just happen ... freedom came about after a struggle. It was won. And in British Columbia, Gutteridge played a critical role in this fight.
1. Chelsea Childhood of Nell Gutteridge
2. The Emergence of Helena
3. Fighting for the Cause
4. Dealing with Tricky Dicky: The Vote and Premier McBride
5. The Cause Victorious: September 1916
6. Hours and Wages
7. Back to the Land
8. Rededication: The Vision of the Co-operative Commonwealth
9. 'A Faithful Alderman'
10. Helena at Lemon Creek
11. 'The Holy Fire': Still Burning
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