May Day in Hamilton, Ontario

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march 1The first of May, celebrated in many nations across the world as Labour Day or International Workers Day, has a long tradition of worker’s activism and protest.  This year was no different, as protestors around the world rallied to send various messages to governments.

May Day is not officially recognized as Labour Day in northern North America, despite its North American roots, which stretch back to the 1886 Haymarket affair, and the struggle for the eight-hour workday.  In 1958, to separate workers’ celebrations between the US and USSR, Congress officially designated May 1 as Loyalty Day in the US, while Labor Day was moved to the first Monday in September.  This also marks official Labour Day celebrations in Canada. Continue reading

Active History Announcements – May 2 to 8

The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click here or ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1) Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC): Afternoon of History and Heritage in Brantford – June 12th

2) Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

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Endangered Places: Lansdowne Park

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Aberdeen Pavilion 1903

Aberdeen Pavilion 1903

In June 2010 Ottawa City Council will decide the fate of Lansdowne Park, a significant area of public space in Ottawa’s Glebe community, a portion of which is marked for proposed commercial redevelopment. Over the past year, public consultations have been a platform for concerned citizens in the Glebe, and in other areas of Ottawa, to express their concerns over the development of this space. Now, in a final effort to stop this action, the Glebe Community Association is lobbying to have Lansdowne Park added to an annual list “endangered places” put out by the Heritage Canada Foundation. While Heritage Canada’s list does not have the power to halt development, it is hoped that an addition to the list will bring further attention to the potential risks posed by inappropriate development. Continue reading

Remembering and Commemorating a Complicated Past

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Nellie McClung 1910

Nellie McClung 1910

In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, reporter Patrick White wrote a national story about how a Winnipeg human-rights lawyer, David Matas, is opposing plans to erect a statue of Nellie McClung – the well-known Canadian feminist and moral reformer, perhaps best known for being one of the ‘Famous Five‘ who fought the ‘Persons Case‘ – on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature:

“It’s misconceived,” he said. “It’s minimizing and putting aside some of the things she stood for.”

While Mr. Matas doesn’t deny Ms. McClung’s influential role in gaining the vote for Canadian women, he does take umbrage at her prominent support of the eugenics movement.

“It was the scientific basis of racism,” he said. “The whole eugenics movement is very problematic.”

White continues in his article to discuss some of the basic historic contours of eugenics in Canada, noting briefly that Tommy Douglas – the social democratic father of Medicare – was a proponent, and sterilization was made provincial policy in Alberta and British Columbia. There was a long and brutal history of eugenics in Canada, with patients being sterilized without their knowledge. For example, in Alberta, Leilani Muir received appendix surgery in 1959 and was sterilized without her knowledge, a fact that she discovered only years later when she was unable to conceive. It wasn’t until 1996 that she was able to achieve some justice, setting the path for many other victims to settle with the provincial government.

In my own teaching this year, I found eugenics a tricky subject to tackle. Continue reading

Active History Announcements – Apr 24 to May 1

The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click here or ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1) The Ontario Women’s History Network AGM and Conference

2) partners in running the Black Creek Community Walk

3) Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

4) CFP: “We Demand”: History/Sex/Activism In Canada Vancouver, British Columbia August 25-28, 2011

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Earth Day turns 40

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earthToday, Earth Day celebrates its 40th anniversary.  Earth Day originated as a call to arms by US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who hoped to draw on the grassroots movement for greater environmental consciousness in order to bring about positive policy changes in Washington.

Earth Day drew much of its early enthusiasm from university campuses.  Fittingly, then, NiCHE (Network in Canadian History and Environment) today published short “research snapshots” of five New Scholars who research the relationship between nature and the Canadian past.   The writings address the question of what they have learned during their research and how their research impacts current environmental concerns.  The feature contains a forward by Alan MacEachern, professor of history at the University of Western Ontario.

Interactive Exhibit Design – The Interactive Streetscape

by Tim O’Grady

Richmond Street circa 1905

Richmond Street circa 1905

Whether in an urban or a rural environment, I find built history fascinating. It’s all around us, and contains incredible stories about our past, but most people never really notice it. As part of my MA in Public History at the University of Western Ontario I had the opportunity to take a class in interactive exhibit design, taught by Professor Bill Turkel. The premise of the class was simple: create a project that teaches history in an interactive way. With this as my goal, I set about looking for a way to teach people about their local built environment, which would hopefully make them see it in a different way. I decided to accomplish this by creating a digital representation of a streetscape and showing its progression through time. Thus the interactive streetscape was born. Continue reading

Volcanoes in European history: Exploring Environmental History Podcast

The Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud at 06:00 UTC on 17 April 2010. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud at 06:00 UTC on 17 April 2010. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Dr Jan Oosthoek has produced a podcast on the history of volcanoes in European history.  The podcast can be found here or you can subscribe on iTunes here.  This podcast and its supporting website are under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license, so we have republished his text introducing the volcanoes podcast and the further readings lists below:

On 14 April 2010 the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted for a second time in two month after having been dormant for just under 200 years. The second eruption caused an ash plume that was ejected into the stratosphere and transported by the wind to Northwest Europe and all air traffic was shut down. As a result the eruption became a major news story. A secondary reason why the eruption became a major news story is the fact that volcanic ash clouds have not affected Europe in such an immediate way in living memory. But looking at the historical record of volcanic eruptions it becomes clear that these events have affected Europe and other parts of the world in significant ways and sometimes even altered the course of history. This extra edition of the Exploring Environmental History podcast considers a small sample of such volcanic event events, including the 536 AD dust veil event, the Black Death and the Laki eruption of 1783. Continue reading

One year of

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Photo credit: "craft john 2" by Genealogy Photos on Flicrk, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

Photo credit: "craft john 2" by Genealogy Photos on Flickr, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

April marks the one-year anniversary of this website.  The steering committee of recently discussed the challenges and successes we have faced in our attempt over the past year to bridge the work of historians with a wider audience at Activism and the Academy: Struggles Against Hegemony, a two-day conference organized by the Graduate Women’s Studies Student Association at York University., originally conceived as an open space for the dissemination of short, accessible scholarly articles, has transformed to include a collective blog that focuses on topics such as history on the internet and historical perspectives on current issues, and a new book review section that features reviews of academic work by non-academics.  In line with these developments, the website has continually increased its viewership; indeed, we currently receive as many as 200 views a day.

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Jane’s Walks: community history tours

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Jane Jacobs

A Jane’s Walk

Since 2007 people have come together once a year to celebrate and remember the life of Jane Jacobs by leading or participating in walking tours of their local communities.  As Jacobs argued, walkability is essential for urban communities.  These tours seem to be a truly fitting monument to Jacob’s legacy.  The walks began in Toronto, but have since spread well beyond Jane’s adopted city, with hundreds of walks scheduled for the first weekend in May in cities around the world.  Many topics are covered during these walks, but a lot of them focus either directly or indirectly on local history.  The Jane’s Walks provide an opportunity for all our followers to experience firsthand a grassroots history project similar to those discussed in two recent posts on walking tours and street history. Continue reading