The Vancouver Women’s Caucus was mostly composed of women with a left-wing point of view. It had been formed at Simon Fraser University as part of the Students for a Democratic University, but by the time of writing She Named it Canada in 1971, it had moved off campus to downtown Vancouver in order to work with women in the society at large.
The position of most of us was that in order for women to be liberated, the whole society would have to be liberated from capitalism. It was the time of the active student movement, protests against the Vietnam War and the like.
In April 1971 there was an Indochinese Women’s Conference held in Vancouver which was attended by women from the United States. We felt it would be good if there was a brief history of Canada to familiarize them with our country’s history. Then we realized it would also be good for Canadians to learn more about Canada’s history, especially from a progressive perspective. We were interested in creating a popular history and used as our model, The People’s History of Cuba, which had been published in the United States.
A group of us got together in order to write such a history and it was in some respects a working group of the Vancouver Women’s Caucus, though we functioned independently.
I don’t remember who came up with the idea of the name, the Corrective Collective, but it reflected our interest in correcting the official versions of Canadian history in which it was claimed European bourgeois men had made the major contribution to the country while ordinary people, especially workers and women, did not.
We functioned as a collective, contributing to the publication collectively and making decisions about content collectively.
Since we were keen to have the publication written in a popular style, we wanted it to be funny, and the sound of the name “corrective collective” nicely fit the bill. We all felt a comic book version would be easy and enjoyable to read.
Tell us about the process of creating She Named It Canada. How did you come up with the idea? How did you do the research/writing/etc.?
The Corrective Collective came into being in order to write She Named It Canada. (The name of the publication came from a quote from Queen Victoria at the time of the founding of Canada, naming it Canada “because that’s what it is called”.)
We took various parts of Canadian history by concept rather than strictly by chronology and each person wrote something that they either already knew something about or could research. Then we looked at the publication as a whole to see how it all fit together.
I contributed the part on the Depression as I had done a fair amount of research in that area already. I integrated Harold Innis’s staples theory as fundamental to the understanding of how the Canadian economy functioned.
As I recall, the people who made the major contribution to the publication were Andrea Lebowitz and Pat Hoffer (Davitt). They were the funniest of the lot of us and I remember being very impressed with their work. Colette French of course did the art and her illustrations were wonderful. She really captured what we had set out to do, making a people’s history of Canada interesting, enjoyable, and accessible.
We all got along well in the Corrective Collective, though we had some good debates. It was a great group.
How was the comic received?
We were delighted that the comic was received well and sold well. At the time, we really had no idea how many to produce and when we found out the first run of 2,000 had sold out, we were pleased. We were hopeful that it would be distributed beyond Vancouver, but since we had no distribution system, the majority of the readers were in the Vancouver area.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My parents always encouraged me to read comics to develop a love of reading. I did and I do love to read. I did the same thing with my son, and he still has an extensive comic book collection that I’m sure he will pass on to his children, who also enjoy reading.