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.?
SNIC was prepared for the Indochinese Women’s Conference held in Vancouver. . . . This was a travelling road show of North Vietnamese women who wanted access to American women to tell their side of the story of the on-going Vietnam conflict. However, SNIC was not addressed to the North Vietnamese contingent but was intended for the education of our American sisters, who in the prep-work for this conference exhibited a remarkably deficient understanding of Canada as a separate country (from the U.S.) with a separate history quite different than their own, and with all that those differences mean – different money, a border with border guards that you have to plan for (as in hiding any subversive, i.e. political materials) etc. SNIC was intended to give them a slightly better understanding of their wonderful neighbour to the north.
I think I remember that different people “volunteered” for different parts of the story. . . . [Y]ou went out and found whatever you could about that area, you brought that back to the group, and everyone tore it to shreds and put it back together again, with illustrations! But then, I think that’s how all group writing experiences go (except for the illustrations, which mostly groups like ours couldn’t manage without a fabulous and willing artist on board!).
We did our best with including women – washing the floor, minding the children, hanging out the wash – but really, apart from Laura Secord (bless her socks) there were almost no mentions of women in any of the histories of Canada that we ploughed through. Good enough reason to get together after we had recovered and discuss: well, how would we write a history of women in Canada anyway? By our work, that’s how.
How was the comic book received?
There were actually (I think) four printings. The first one (the blue one) was in a half-tab newspaper format printed in blue with some red. It went to the conference on the last day (phew!) and all the participants got a copy. (That’s one of the reasons why none of the Corrective Collective went to the conference; we were still at Press Gang being hysterical.) As far as I can remember, there were no revisions at all, except in format. Nor were there any criticisms that I can recall. It met with resounding enthusiasm with virtually everyone who read it. Printings No. 2, 3 and 4 (the brown ones) were in a stitched booklet form in which each set of two facing pages was the equivalent of one page of the half-tab edition, which means that if you have one of the brown editions, if you open it up flat, any two pages that you would be looking at would have been one page of the half-tab.
There were no critical responses at all that I was aware of. The reason we kept printing more copies is because people wanted them. In the end, we sold over 16,000 copies – a Canadian best seller!