Margaret Mitchell died. I live in the province of British Columbia (BC) in Canada, which is a mild place. Often known for the young ‘hipster’ crowd, still not sure what the term means, though. Lots of high quality living and typically socially active, conscious, and progressive politics. I believe the newer made-up word, the neologism, is “woke.” BC is woke. Margaret Mitchell was vital to it. She was born in 1925, died, of course, 2017—March 8.
She was a Vancouver member of Parliament and a women’s rights advocate. She died at the age of 92, which is, even by Canadian standards, a long life. And a life of utility to self and others, obviously. She devoted herself to others. She fulfilled potential, which was inherent in her acts for equality. I assume she would identify with the principles of feminism, which amount to social and legal equality between the sexes.
She was a Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party, or the NDP, for Vancouver East in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada (1979-1993). It’s an important job. It has responsibilities, and privileges, but things took off in 1982. That’s when she garnered the national eye some more. Why?
I’ll tell you why. She made a statement on the regular, deplorable beating of wives by husbands. Therein we find the issue around equality of the sexes, or more or less mainstream feminism. Many distinct women’s movements ongoing to this day. It was received with laughter. She noted it was 1 in 10 women. She was surprised by the reaction. But perhaps not.
What you and I can take for granted can be taken for profound knowledge, or so outside of the relevant frame of knowledge and experience of the other person as to be laughable, which is a reaction of dismissal. It is so absurd as to be funny, from that point of view. Mitchell won out. The House made an apology to her, and especially to the women of Canada as a whole. That’s 1982.
Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA, Maple Elmore, said, “I think it was really a turning point, a watershed moment, certainly in Canadian history in terms of the issue of understanding and taking a stand against violence against women and really leading that campaign.” She didn’t stop there. She worked hard in her life and career to have abortion decriminalised and the provision of a childcare program at the national level.
And for a national change in one of the foundational documents of the country, she helped advocate for Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Rights guaranteed equally to both sexes
28. Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons
An obvious one, it is aligned with her life’s work. It was not driven by monetary reward, by the way. She voted against an increase in MP pensions. And she took that money and then reinvested in the community, in her community, in east side of Vancouver. It was entitled the Margaret Mitchell Fund for Women. There might be a little self-showiness through titling the fund after herself. But still, how can we ultimately tell? Is it really worth discussion? Maybe, a little.
But! The money has been reinvested for a good cause, regardless. The fund continues to work for social justice in addition to economic justice for women in the Vancouver area.
Her legacy awards: in 2000, she earned the Order of British Columbia; in 2016, she earned Vancouver’s Freedom of the City.
There’s a mythology of the cycle of birth, growth, maturation, degeneration, and death. You can see it plants. You observe it in animals. A natural development in and from life to death, or, more accurately, birth to death. That mythology ties to the renewal of culture, of society, as well. The ‘Shoulder of Giants’ statement often attributed to Newton when in consideration of Universal gravitation links to this.
We do. Sometimes, we even teeter on the tops of the heads one foot tippy-toed of past giants. Each generation, to sustain society, to maintain culture, has to take the torch and renew the culture or society. The matured take the torch of the dead and carry it forward. In turn, we die. Others take the fire. Then our children take that from us. Mitchell is gone now. But we have her civilising fire. Her work as a social activist civilised Canadian society. Now, it’s our turn.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.