VIVO Media Arts Centre Archive > Women & West Coast Labour

Women & West Coast Labour

Eighty years of action for equity in domestic and workplace
labour by women in British Columbia

Drawing on newly digitized materials from the Sara Diamond and Women In Focus fonds Women & West Coast Labour highlights women’s struggles to transform the working realities for British Columbia women from suffrage through the 1970’s. 

Chambermaids to Whistle Punks presents the stories of women who started working as early as 11-years-old, supported families through the hungry 30’s, replaced men in factories and shipyards in the ’40’s, and fought to to keep their place in the workforce in the 50’s and 60’s. They talk candidly about the hardships and harassment, and how they fought using trade unions, women’s auxiliaries, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, or the Labour Progressive Party,  for better working conditions, equal pay, and a place at the negotiating table.

Working Women In Focus highlights the work of the Vancouver feminist media group, Women In Focus, in the 1970’s. Their community cable series promoted a feminist analyses of power and history,  featured interviews with leading feminists and the personal testimonies of working women. They examined the structural inequities in the education system and workplace, misogyny in Canadian society, and women’s roles as mothers and domestic labour, and shared strategies for resistance and action.

Finally, Women & West Coast Labour  recognizes the labour of  Women In Focus and Sara Diamond’s  Women’s Labour History Project as a continuation of the struggles represented in their fonds. These two feminist-driven media groups, with founding roots in the 1970’s , fought to break down barriers to accessing technology and representing the working lives of women. Their fight for gender equity in the field of media echo the experiences of previous generations of women whose testimonies live on in these audio, video, and film recordings.

Follow either of the two streams to learn more about each collection and explore the exhibits.

Chambermaids to Whistle Punks: 1900-1970

Oral Histories by the Women’s Labour History Project

Working Women In Focus: 1970-1980

Documentaries & Interviews by Women In Focus Society


This project was realized as part of the National Heritage Digitization Strategy of Canada thanks to the generous support of a private donor. / Ce projet a été réalisé dans le cadre de La Stratégie de numérisation du patrimoine national du Canada grâce a un don généreux d’un donateur privé.
VIVO would  also like to acknowledge and thank Simon Fraser University Archives and Western Front for their generous sponsorship of Women & West Coast Labour.
Development of this project was supported by the BC Arts Council Early Career Development program. VIVO’s programs are supported by operating assistance from the BC Arts Council, Canada Council, and City of Vancouver.