“I was the only woman.” These words appear again and again in the stories of women planners working in Canada from the 1940s to the 1970s. Despite their small numbers, women were active in key planning organizations, but their contributions have been largely overlooked.
Through archival research and interviews, Sue Hendler tells the stories of women who were active in the Community Planning Association of Canada and the Town Planning Institute of Canada (later called the Canadian Institute of Planners). They discuss their approaches to and interests in planning and the obstacles they faced, reflecting on their roles within the wider context of the field. This book expands our understanding of what constitutes “planning” and, by extension, who counts as “planners,” highlighting the role “non-professionals” played in community planning.
This compelling new perspective on Canada’s planning history provides an important counter-narrative to the “official” story of the profession. It also illustrates the transformative role that histories can have in disciplines such as planning, challenging us to re-evaluate not only the profession’s past but also its role in creating a more inclusive and equitable future.
This book will interest students and scholars of planning history and community planning, as well as those interested in women’s involvement in the professions.
This is far more than a book about the history of planning, it’s an inspiring collection of stories about the intersections of women’s work and family lives, one that reveals how women found the perseverance and determination to pursue a professional calling despite the constraints of their time.
‘I Was the Only Woman’ makes an invaluable and long-awaited contribution to Canadian planning history. The book is also an important addition to scholarship on professions and gender, with engaging testimony from some of the pioneers. Sue Hendler and Julia Markovich reveal the early role of women in Canadian planning, in the best tradition of ‘making the invisible visible.
Sue Hendler (1960–2009) was an associate professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Queen’s University. Her interests included environmental philosophy and policy, social issues, and professional (planning) ethics. Her most recent work focused on feminist approaches to planning, including the historical roles of women in early Canadian planning.
Julia Markovich is a senior research associate in transportation and infrastructure policy, based in Ottawa. She was previously an assistant professor in geography and planning at the University of Toronto. Julia completed her Master of Planning at Queen’s University under the supervision of Sue Hendler.
Foreword / Julia Markovich
1 Introduction: An Argument about History, Planning, and Women
2 Women, Professions, and Planning
3 Creating and Advocating for a Profession: A Tale of Two Planning Organizations
4 Recovering the Women of the CPAC and TPIC/CIP
5 Women in Planning: Making a Difference
6 Conclusion: Imagine ...
Notes; References; Index
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