“I find women in the Yukon, and Dawson in particular, an incredibly strong group,” says Penny Soderlund, a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Dawson Regional Women’s Committee.
“There probably isn’t any other place where the majority of women own their own chainsaws.”
Living in the Yukon surrounded by female cabin-builders, dog mushers, entrepreneurs and adventurers, it’s hard to believe that women were ever treated differently than men.
But 100 years ago non-Native Canadian women did not even have the right to vote, and First Nations women and men were given this right only in 1960.
March 8 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which started out as International Working Women’s Day. It pays tribute to the economic, political and social achievements of women worldwide.
Globally, International Women’s Day celebrations range from political rallies and business conferences to local art shows and healing circles.
Organizations, governments and women’s groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.
In Dawson City, an exhibition called One Hundred will show 100works of art, craft, film, writing, memorabilia and other creative forms from area women and men. The theme is “Where We Were, Where We Are, Where We’re Going.”
Soderlund, along with other regional women’s committee members, the Yukon School Of Visual Arts (SOVA), Dawson City Museum, the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Dawson Women’s Shelter, is organizing the show, which opens March 8.
“This struck me as a perfect forum for people to share their work and ideas. It’s a great way to celebrate – the coming together with food and art and creative expressions of all kinds.”
Yukon women have plenty of reasons to celebrate. From Gold Rush business woman Belinda Mulroney to current Whitehorse mayor Bev Buckway, from Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in ancestor Annie Henry to her granddaughter Jackie Olson, from the legendary Diamond Tooth Gertie to the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Queens and musher Michelle Phillips, Yukon women have and continue to set the standard of achievement high.
So far submissions have included written pieces, photographs, sculpture, a pair of sculpted hands, two fur hats and a short film.
Bonnie Duffee is honouring her mother’s covered wagon journey with the pieces she is submitting to the show.
Blanche Duffee travelled from Maple Creek, Saskatchewan to Dawson City in the early 1930s. Bonnie is showing a cast iron pot her mother brought on the journey, a small jackknife passed on from her mother to her own children, and writing by her mother, all of which, Bonnie says, bear cultural significance for her and her heritage.
Painter Cynthia Hunt brought in Heart Rock – Firth River, a large watercolour (30 x 22 inches) that offers a close view of of shoreline stones.
In her artist statement, she describes the feeling of freedom she experiences, and values, when she visits the Firth River. The painting expresses how she feels larger in spirit when she spends time there.
Jackie Olson, a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH) Nation, learned about beading and colour, from her grandma, Annie Henry.
It’s hard to look back in time and say who was an artist, she says, because in those days it was about survival.
“All the women took on those roles of sewing the clothes and collecting the porcupine quills on the land. For special occasions they would put a little more work into it,” she says, “but sewing and beading was just one of those things of being a woman back then because it was part of how you survived.”
Annie Henry had learned her sewing style on her own because she had no woman to teach her, Olson says.
“I think it’s distinct because she took it off the land and spent a lot of time studying the colours and the patterns of the land. That’s one of my roles as a contemporary artist, doing beading and when I’m doing painting – to try and see the colours the way they would see them.”
Olson will show a painting. Look for beading work, as well, by Dolores Anderson, one of Olson’s cousins, who learned the craft from her mother, Fanny DuPont.
SOVA student Krystal Manuel is submitting a sculptural piece called The Release.
Inspired by the “where we are going” part of the call, the piece is a busty latex and plaster sculpture representing a female torso.
As a young female artist, Manuel felt it was important to enter the piece in this show.
“Although many women in contemporary society seem to be living their lives happily and fully,” she says, “there are still many carrying their pain on the inside who feel that they are facing significant pressure from a society obsessed with body image.”
Rosemarie Gassner is contributing two fur hats.
“I call them my lost souls,” she says, “because I make a lot of hats and mitts and I like to use all of the pieces, out of respect for the animal. And the hats all have a bunch of meanings for me.”
One hat is made of seal and beaver to remember our oceans and rivers, she says.
The second hat is made of lynx with a fox scarf.
“For this one I was thinking of bringing the past and the future together,” Gassner comments.
“Using fur, I mean how old can you get when it comes to using materials to keep us warm, and I am always working with old hat patterns and making different looks for the future.”
The submissions will be displayed in three venues: the Dawson City Museum, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre (DZCC) and the Yukon SOVA Gallery. The opening night will be set up as an art walk with receptions hosted at each venue.
Although this is a non-juried event, the public will be asked to provide feedback at each venue for People’s Choice awards. The work receiving the most votes from the collective exhibits will be awarded a grand prize.
For more information about International Women’s Day visit www.internationalwomensday.com. For more information about the One Hundred show, call 867-993-5005.
The exhibition runs until March 15 at the DZCC and Museum, except at Yukon SOVA where it is on for the evening of March 8 only.