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Bringing women’s history to light

Samantha George, left, the curator of Parkwood Estates, and Laura Suchan, the executive director of the Oshawa Museum, launch the Women’s HerStory Connection, set to showcase stories of wome’s history throughout Durham Region, culminating with a symposium at Parkwood this fall.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Thanks to a new partnership between Parkwood Estate and the Oshawa Museum, residents can expect to see some stories they may not have heard before.

Launched on International Women’s Day on March 8, the Women’s HerStory Connection, Durham Region, project looks to present the stories and contributions of women to Durham`s history.

“Basically, we’ve set out to tell the stories of women in the region and make sure that their stories, their legacy, their history is preserved, celebrated, but also interpreted for the public,” says Samantha George, Parkwood’s curator.

Looking at local history through this new lens, the HerStory Connection project will look to pull out the tales of women that may, at times, have been overshadowed by the more well-known bits of history, such as the stories of nurses of the front lines during the First World War.

“We hear a lot of stories about the veterans, and deservedly so. However, these other stories need to be told as well, and that’s going to be our focus and we felt that that was important to put that kind of spin on history,” says Laura Suchan, the executive director at the Oshawa Museum.

Or perhaps it’s the lesser known role that Adelaide McLaughlin played alongside her business titan of a husband, Colonel Sam.

“People fail to realize that Mr. McLaughlin actually left school at 14 years of age so he didn’t pursue high school, but he became an international businessman who had speeches that he had to write, prepare and deliver,” George says. “I think it’s safe to say that Adelaide, with the more papered education than Sam, she went to teacher’s college, was probably the influence behind a lot of his public words and a lot of his public acts.”

And there are stories abound, whether it’s the women on the assembly lines of the Ajax bomb factories or women who trained at Camp X or the women elders at at the Scugog Island powwow, HerStory Connection wants to hear them all.

“Women’s history is everybody’s history,” Suchan says. “There’s often a misnomer out there that women’s history is just about the right to vote and anything to do with women’s reproductive rights, but actually, women’s history will tell the story of everyone’s history, and that’s why we want to get the story out there.”

The initiative will encourage residents to not only reach out via the group’s Facebook page to share their own stories, but also to provide feedback and attend the groups symposium on Oct. 14, set to be held at Parkwood.