March 19,1998

International Women's Day

Still studying and celebrating women
Simone de Beauvoir Institute celebrates two decades

by Barbara Black

The atmosphere of a family dinner prevailed at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute's 20th birthday party, held on March 4 at the Sir George Williams Faculty and Staff Dining Room.

Principal Chantal Maillé recalled the exciting early days, when two Concordia professors, Maiïr Verthuy and Greta Hofmann Nemiroff, launched the women's studies unit and got permission to name it after the world's most distinguished feminist.

Jeanne Maranda also remembered those days. A widow and mother of four, working on her BA, she was startled when her friend Maiïr suggested she join the new unit. "She said, 'I need seven more people - please come and join us!' I didn't even know what a feminist was!"

Verthuy's persuasive powers eventually created a career for Maranda, who became a broadcaster at Radio-Canada and Radio-Québec and started a magazine, Cahier des Femmes. She is still active with the group MediaWatch and is president of the Montreal Council of Women.

"Now I'm disappointed to hear young women say, 'I'm not a feminist,'" Maranda said. "They're ignorant, like I was."

In a brief speech at the dinner, Maillé said that women's studies has progressed from being an interdisciplinary field of interest to an academic discipline in its own right. "Women are increasingly finding out about feminism through women's studies rather than through activism," she said.

Études françaises Professor Verthuy, who was the first principal, sent congratulations from France, where she is on sabbatical. Former principal Marianne Ainley came all the way from the new University of Northern British Columbia, in Prince George, where she has established a womenÕs studies program.

University Archivist Nancy Marrelli made an appeal for material from the early days to add to the store of records and memorabilia, some of which was displayed near the dining room.

Students taking majors, minors, certificates or specializations in women's studies are automatically members of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, which publishes a scholarly journal and holds lectures and events. While most students and faculty are women, men are encouraged to join.

Copyright 1998 Thursday Report
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