By the 1970s, the second wave feminist movement was well underway. Yet many Canadian newsrooms remained boys clubs, with stories documenting the changing landscape of women’s social and political lives all but ignored by mainstream media. Women writing about women’s interests during this time did so mainly through women’s publications, slipping pointed opinion pieces in between words about the latest fashion designs and recipe advice. But in 1978, writer Michele Landsberg became the first “woman columnist” for the Toronto Star, a position from which she would inform and inspire readers for the next 25 years.
Writing the Revolution (Second Story Press, 2011) includes a selection from Landsberg’s more than 3,000 columns written between 1978 and 2003. Organized thematically, the collected articles reveal both how much was achieved by this critical time in women’s history, and sadly how little has changed, with many of the headlines dedicated to violence against women and attacks on women’s reproductive rights being just as relevant today as when they were first written. From abortion, childcare programs, to the impact of war, Landsberg speaks on behalf of those who could not.
The true value of the collection, however, is Landsberg’s behind the scenes commentary—the series of back stories, details surrounding her research, and her private thoughts and reflections on individual people and encounters from throughout her lengthy career. These many insights enrich our understanding of what transpired, while reminding us of the difficulties women experienced in getting their stories told.
At this moment in our history, when the gains achieved by previous feminist movements are heavily under attack, such a collection is both timely and worthwhile. Both general readers as well as students of feminism will benefit from Landsberg’s accessible writing style, whether revisiting moments from their own past, or discovering the revolution for the first time.