Please enable Java in your browser's "Options" (or "Preferance") menu to view this page Concordia's Thursday Report____________September 24, 1998  

The principals look back


Maïr Verthuy (Études françaises) was the first principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, from 1978 to 1983.

"The first student to register was our national heroine Simonne Monet-Chartrand. Others that first year included Jacqueline Béique, an elderly lady active with [suffragist] Thérèse Casgrain in the 1930s, and novelists and journalists Monique Roy, Nadia Ghalem and Gail Scott.

"In the summer of 1982, we organized the first-ever pan-Canadian conference on women's studies, in three languages, on research, teaching and action. There were 350 participants from more than 80 countries, and we made sure that black and native people were represented.

"The whole experience [of being principal], while exhausting, left me enriched because of the contacts with women in all walks of life. We knew that whatever mistakes we made, we were making something new.

"I am still involved in research on women. I belong to women's associations, although they are mainly academic, here and in France. In 1995, I was a member of the official Canadian delegation to the UN Conference on Women, in Beijing. And I still take part in the odd demo."

Elizabeth Saccá (Art Education) was principal from 1983 to 1985. "The most rewarding aspect was working with such capable and inspiring students, staff and faculty, from a wide range of disciplines, many of whom have remained friends and colleagues for years afterwards. It is always a joy to see what diverse situations members of this group have moved into, and how they have maintained their commitment."

Arpi Hamalian (Education) was principal from 1986 to 1991. She particularly remembers conferences and speakers, such as the late Florence Bird, who came to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.

She also pays tribute to colleagues who have died, including program secretary Françoise Auclair, and the young women who died in the Polytechnique massacre, while she was principal.

Marianne Ainley, a chemist and science historian now teaching at the University of Northern British Columbia, was principal from 1991 to 1995.

"For me, the highlights were the research seminars and visiting lectures, that is, the interdisciplinary intellectual life of the Institute. Also, the documentation centre has been well used by people not only here but from around the world. I made many good friends during my nine years at the Institute, and I keep in touch from B.C.

"There are many feminisms now. We need to acknowledge that women's studies and feminist research are integral parts of modern, forward-looking universities, and that the various feminist movements have been among the most important social movements of the 20th century."

The last word goes to Sister Prudence Allen, who was Director of Women's Studies during the 1970s, and would like to see a written history of the Institute.

"All the data is in the Concordia Archives. Now that there has been time to weigh and evaluate it, it would be a good subject for an MA thesis."

Copyright 1998 Concordia's Thursday Report.