This retrospective exhibition is an attempt to capture the flavour of 20 years of work on a unique feminist project. It samples the pages of Herstory from 1974 to 1994, and reflects on the process and the people that created them.
The first Herstory appeared in 1974 with the help of an OFY (Opportunities for Youth) grant. The five members of the first Saskatoon Women's Calendar Collective were students at the University of Saskatchewan. They came together in 1972 to "do something" to bring women's history out of obscurity.
They were the inheritors of a decade of protest--against the bomb, racism, the Vietnam war and all wars, against the establishment that maintained and profited from oppression of all kinds. Women had participated in the protests, but had not benefited from them. Driven out to the suburbs by the backlash against working women after the Second World War, women were finding out that in the richest nations of the world we ourselves had the status of oppressed peoples.
Women were re-examining their personal histories, rewriting ourselves, so to speak, from a new perspective, as part of the process of taking control of our lives.
"The personal is political" became both a slogan and a guiding principle. It was a revolution touching every aspect of our lives--personal, social, political, economic. It's still going on.
How did nice girls like us find ourselves in a place like this, we asked. Where we earn an average 67 cents on the dollar compared to what men earn? Where we are as scarce as hens' teeth in senior management levels everywhere we look? Where we are not safe in our own homes?
When we turned to history for the answers, we found none. The exclusion of women from the history books was both a cause and an effect of our oppression.
The calendar format was an inspired choice. We can do brief biographies of interesting women, and quick takes on burning issues, run historic photos, comment on women's organizations, whatever we can convey in the compass of 350 to 400 words. We can accommodate the idiosyncracies of the members and the wonderful variety of directions that research into Canadian women's history can take.
The field of women's history is still wide open. The great delight from the beginning has been the women and the works that the Collective has discovered, uncovered, rediscovered. And, because you have your calendar with you all the time, writing your own history, Herstory's histories become part of your history. As we say at the beginning of every calendar, "Herstory is about a few of Canada's special women. As you use it during the year, you will add another one--yourself."