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Histories of women in the labour movement

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Joey Hartman, the president of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. She talks about the history of women in the labour movement and about the importance of people who are active in movements and communities learning, talking about, and doing grassroots historical work.

The history that most of us have a chance to learn in school and from the media mostly erases the role of struggle in shaping our world, and tells us tales that are supportive of an oppressive status quo and of elites. To quote Gary Kinsman, who has done important work on history-from-below around queer struggles and struggles related to national security in the Canadian context, we face the "social organization of forgetting," and we must respond with the "resistance of remembering." Not only that, it is important that we engage actively with history in our communities and movements, and that we learn and tell the stories of the struggles that have brought us to where we are today so we might better navigate the struggles that are currently shaping tomorrow.

When Hartman became president of the labour council in Vancouver, she was the first woman to hold that position in its 122-year history. In the early 1980s, she was a daycare worker and a union member who was swept into labour activism by a lengthy strike. After a chance encounter with labour history at a conference, she avidly began to learn more, and soon was regularly doing talks and presentations about labour history both within and beyond the movement. Importantly, her feminist commitments have led her to learn as much as she can about the rich but not always easy history of women in the labour movement and to a commitment to doing what she can to share that history with younger generations of workers, particularly young women workers. She talks with me about that work, and about the history of women in the labour movement in Vancouver and beyond.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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