Review of Runaway Wives & Rogue Feminists by Margo Goodhand (Fernwood Publishing)

A fast read

This punchy part-history, part-biography, hones in on the beginning of Women’s Shelters in Canada. Whether you’re Canadian, a feminist, or just someone in need of a hit of pure oxygen, this short and very readable book serves up a fresh and energizing perspective on a little known area.

My favourite thing about this book is how the author manages to put several different voices in conversation with each other, giving this reader the feeling of being in a kitchen party gabbing with new-old friends. The author manages to strike the right balance between taking a hard look at violence against women (particularly in the 60s and 70s)–which, BTW, requires coming to terms with one’s realization that not much has changed today–and the power of working together for change.

It’s easy to appreciate this book–it takes activism and fighting for social change down from the highest shelf and places it in your own hands. Do it your damn self (DIYDS?). This book reminded me that it’s possible to start small–with my own neighbourhood even–and it’s okay if I have no idea what I’m doing. After reading this, I was inspired to organize a neighbourhood clean up. I even drew a poster with a slightly terrifying garbage can.

It should be noted that this book doesn’t, however, cover or really discuss (much) the disproportionate rate of which Indigenous women are murdered or abused or go missing here in Canada. Such a book has been written though, specifically with an eye to shelters, called “No Place to Go”. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my radar.

In the final chapter entitled “Where are we now?”, Goodhand pauses to cautiously remind us that while the advent of Women’s Shelter’s around the world speaks to the hard work and tenacity of the collectives who made them happen, we should be careful not to celebrate them. Quoting Martha Ireland, Goodhand notes, “they’re more like food banks, aren’t they?” (p. 135).

Good point.

Look at that trash can!