Top News

Feminism, 1970s-style: Efforts to celebrate women in the workplace leaned on tokenism

Heather Meaney
Heather Meaney - Contributed

It’s difficult for a millennial to imagine what feminism looked like in the 1970s.

Flipping through archival issues of one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s longest-running magazines, there is a lot of cringe-worthy content.

There are some glimmers of hope for women of 1974 within the pages of “The Newfoundland Herald,” though, in the form of a small radio contest from CJON called “Working Girl of the Week.”

Don’t let the title fool you – this weekly column is a token of appreciation for women in the workforce. A little addendum on each column noted that “mothers and housewives are working girls as well.”

Former CJON radio host Dave Maunder remembers his time celebrating the Working Girls of the Week in 1974. He believes the contest was borne of some kind of movement or event celebrating women in the workforce.

“We accepted nominations by mail, and they could come from coworkers, the employer, or even family members, anybody who felt that a working lady was deserving of a bit of recognition,” he explained, noting that his memory was “a little foggy” after 45 years.

“We’d announce the name of each winner on [the radio on] Friday mornings, and later that day … we would interview her, take a picture, and deliver her prize.”

The reactions, he said, were positive, with many women overjoyed to be highlighted.

St. John’s resident Heather Meaney is one of the winning Working Girls.

She was a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher when she was featured. Now 69, she’s still teaching – music lessons with Music For Young Children for the past 35 years.

"... and remember   mothers and housewives   are working girls   as well ..."
"... and remember mothers and housewives are working girls as well ..."

“I remember being very happy about it,” she said, adding the “complete surprise” was “such a treat.”

She remembered some of the prizes – Meaney won dinner for two, a bouquet of flowers, a “kit of beauty aids,” and an aftershave “for the man in her life.” Later iterations of the contest included a bra from a local store called The Underworld.

Meaney saved the magazine clipping about her contest win, tucking it into a family photo album where it remains today.

Wendy Rose is a freelance journalist living and working in St. John’s, N.L.

“When you support women everyone rises together”

In honour of International Women’s Day and the 2019 theme of #BalanceforBetter our entire edition has been crafted by women, about women and for women in Atlantic Canada.

From gender parity in politics, egg freezing, self-care and body love and the pervasive pay gap transgender women grapple with, this edition aims at igniting the bra-burner within you.

In the meantime, we’re also making a commitment to diversity and gender equality in this publication. Whether it’s through the writers we hire, the people we interview or artists we collaborate with, diversity and equality remains an integral part of the stories we tell and who gets to tell them.

As Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained, “The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

If you have a suggestion as to how we can #BalanceforBetter, we’d love to hear from you. Visit us on Instagram @NowAtlantic or send us an email at now@saltwire.com.

Recent Stories