People of Berwick – Celebrating Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. It is thanks to women like these ladies of Berwick who have never given up on fighting for rights...

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. It is thanks to women like these ladies of Berwick who have never given up on fighting for rights and equality and showing courage in the face of adversity. Not only do we value their past experiences as they fought and stood up to for what they believed in, but we embrace and encourage those who continue to do so. Meet Donna Woodward, Glennis Zilk and Anne Brodeur, successful and inspiring women living at Berwick Parksville, Berwick by the Sea and Berwick royal Oak.  This month, celebrate where we are, where we came from and where we’re going. 

Donna Woodward “Turn Barriers into Opportunities”

Berwick Parksville – 7 Months

Donna was born and raised in a small city in Saskatchewan, one of five children.  Her mother and father’s families lived nearby so she spent a lot of time with family. She enjoyed her education and being a part of the school community.  In high school, Donna decided she would like to be a nurse, so entered nurses’ training at Saskatoon City Hospital after grade 12.  She met her husband in 1964 at a church young people’s convention; they were married in 1968.

Her most important focus throughout her careers were her two children.  School, sports, music, etc. were always front and centre!  Moving around quite a bit, Donna had a variety of careers throughout her life.  Her first career was in nursing, then she was an owner of a Fabricland fabric store. She returned to college as an adult student and obtained a business administration diploma in accounting, which led to careers in a seniors’ facility and government. 

Donna says she “had wonderful, challenging, and fulfilling careers.  My hero and role model is my mother.  Widowed at age 40, she went to school and worked to raise 5 kids and ensure we all had great opportunities to pursue our dreams.  She too had several very interesting careers both when we were at home and after we all “left the nest”.”

Feeling fortunate to have many opportunities to pursue new career adventures, she tried to “turn “barriers” into “opportunities” by standing up for herself and taking some risks.”  When she was starting her fabric business, she needed a line of credit to operate the business.  The bank discriminated against her by requiring her husband to co-sign the loan application. He did sign and she very seldom used the line of credit by operating a profitable business.  “Sometimes you need a little support in standing up for yourself, and you can’t give up!”

Donna’s advice to young women today is “find your “heroes” and mentors and count on them as you live your dreams.  Always stand up for yourself, don’t be afraid to try, and never give up on realizing your dreams!”

Glennis Zilm on IWD – “Ask for What You Want”  

Berwick By the Sea – 1 Year Though humble about her achievements, Glennis has quite the story to share. She has not only carved out her own brave path but has been the connecting link between many other women. Growing up in a family of many working women, who would be considered part of the suffragette movement, Glennis was surrounded by strong female role models and was encouraged to make her own way through the world. Her grandmother, for example, was the mother to several daughters who all became leaders and was the first Postmistress in town. Moving to New West Minister as a toddler Glennis grew into an independent young woman and enjoyed reading the writing of Germain Greer.

Having been surrounded in support and a belief in women’s rights, Glennis carved her own path and moved to Ottawa to work as a journalist. When she went to apply for a credit card at the bank, she was appalled that they required her to have a man in her life, husband or father, sign for her received a credit card. Being the independent young woman she was, she did not take no for an answer and negotiated her way to receiving equal treatment to acquire a credit card without a man’s signature. Ironically, when she moved in Saskatchewan for her next journalist position credit cards were not yet accepted as a method of payment in the big cities, yet her efforts to be treated as an equal are not to be forgotten.

From a career in journalism, a male dominated profession at the time, Glennis made her way into working as a free lance writer and even wrote scripts for book reviews as a radiobroadcaster. It turns out free lance writing can be an isolating profession, yet that didn’t stop Glennis from continuing her education at SFU to receive an MA in Communications, and then working as both the Associate Editor of the BC Medical Journal and writing new items for the Canadian Medical Journal.

At this point Glennis started reconnecting with friends from her early career as a Nurse at UBC and started focusing on Nursing history. Because Nursing is historically known as a women’s profession, nurses were doing well at this time breaking into the feminist world and working towards their rights as working women. Commissioned by UBC to write a history of the first 75 years of Nursing at UBC with a friend, Glennis was focused on a specific set of women’s history in the working world. With many connections in the nursing world, Glennis was as asset to connecting well known women and networking among them. For nurses to become professors at this time they were required to write papers, so of course Glennis became the perfect candidate to teach these nursing students to write so they could further their careers.

The three accomplishments Glennis is most proud of in her Career is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Kwantlen University College in 2006 and the John B. Neilson Sward in 2004, and writing “An Introduction to Writing for Health Professionals” a textbook for new student nurses, now on its 4th edition.

Looking forward Glennis wants to encourage women to ask for what they want, learn to get no for an answer but don’t necessarily accept it.

Anne Brodeur on IWD “The Best is yet to Come”

Berwick Royal Oak – 8 Years

Anne was born and raised in Victoria, BC. Her father was in the military so at a young age she grew comfortable with moving around. She had lived in Ottawa, Montreal, and during World War II was living in Washington DC. Anne married her husband, Nigel, in in Greenwich, England where they were living for the year and from then on, her life of travel continued as I was a Navy wife. “This was an incredibly fun time of life as the men were at work, us women had the opportunity to tour around and see the beautiful sights that England had to offer.”  For a brief time prior to marrying Nigel, Anne worked as a bank teller. After they had kids, she was a full-time homemaker, raising their three beautiful daughters.

To Anne, Celebrating International Women’s Day is very important. “My entire life I wasn’t allowed to work, nor expected to. It was the women’s job to raise the family. So, I think that equality for women is very important. Women should be allowed equal opportunity – and this is especially true in the workforce.”

One very memorable moment in Anne’s life as a navy wife was being given the honour of sponsoring a ship. Sponsoring a ship is typically given to a prominent lady in the community. “I was able to give a speech and crack a bottle of champagne on the ship. I remember being nervous that I would mess up the speech, or not properly crack the bottle – but all went well! The ship was the H.M.C Nanaimo in Halifax.” Anne’s family moved 13 times in 12 years.

Anne is most proud of bringing up three kids and getting to be there for them as a stay-at-home mom. “Family is very important to me, and I think having a family is a very beautiful component of life. Women are naturally nurturing humans, and I was able to experience the full beauty of being a mother, which is the greatest gift I could ask for.”

When asked if there was a powerful women Anne looked up to growing up, she said “My mother, however that’s something I only realized later in life. As a young woman I was quite independent and sure of myself. As I grew up, I’d realized how important of a role my mother played in my life. She was a very strong, hardworking, and independent women – many traits I seem to have gotten from her. She was also very determined. She raised two daughters by herself, as she became widowed in her 30s. Despite being alone and needing to support her family, she went to work every day, and came home to provide for us. It really is quite incredible what she did, especially in those days.”

In her life, Anne has seen a big difference in the working world for women. Although women have more opportunity these days then when she was young, she feels there is still lots of more room for improvement, especially in regards to equality and recognition. The most important message Anne wants to share with young women today is “try and relax. The best is yet to come”.

In the picture Anne is wearing two pins, one is the Navy Crown, and the other is the crest of the H.M.C.S. Nanaimo –the ship she sponsored at one of her proudest moments as a Navy Wife.

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