THE PART WE PLAY
AN ADDRESS By HON. IVA CAMPBELL FALLIS
Chairman: The President, Dr. F. A. Gaby.
Thursday, November 9, 1939.
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and Gentlemen: Before introducing our guest-speaker today I would like to extend to the ladies present a hearty welcome and tell them how pleased we are that they have come out in the numbers they have. We also appreciate having the Presidents of the various women's organizations of the City as guests at our head table today.
It is a privilege to have with us the Honourable Senator Iva Campbell Fallis, who is our guest-speaker today, and who has been active in political life since girlhood, and who enjoyed the distinction in Winnipeg, in 1927, of being the first woman speaker on the agenda of the National Conventions of either of the old parties. Mrs. Fallis' keen appreciation of women's place in the government of Canada won for her a Senatorship in 1935, a second woman to be thus honoured. She has taken an active part in encouraging and securing the loyal support of the women of Canada in the national welfare. Mrs. Fallis is the National Chairman of the Committee for the Voluntary Registration of Women for service to their country in time of emergency. It is a great honour to introduce today Senator Fallis, whose subject will be "The Part We Play". (Applause)
HON. IVA CAMPBELL FALLIS: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I am deeply appreciative of the honour which is mine today in being asked to address the members of this Empire Club of Canada. I count it a privilege as well, because it affords me an opportunity to pay a well merited tribute to the work of your Club, in that you have not needed a declaration of war to awaken a slumbering loyalty into action, but that throughout all the years of peace you have consistently worked with one object in view, and that object, the strengthening of the ties that bind us to the Old Land, and the fulfilling of your duties of Empire citizenship. May I say, too, that I count it a great honour that I, a mere woman, should be asked to speak in these sacred precincts of the male, or, perhaps the great majority of you are becoming more or less reconciled to the fact that no place is sacred from our invasion any more.
At the time of the granting of the franchise to the women of Canada, a prominent eastern newspaper carried an editorial in which they said, "Now that women have been granted the franchise the House of Commons might as well prepare to receive them as Members, but, fortunately, that is a problem which the Senate will never have to face." At that time we were still not persons, under the meaning of the Act, and therefore not eligible to a seat in the Senate. However, the man who wrote that editorial was apparently neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, because in due time the problem reached the Senate in the shape of my colleague, Senator Wilson, and five years later, myself.
Someone has said that any woman who attempts to combine home duties with a public career needs the skill of a tight-rope walker, the endurance of a marathon swimmer, the faith of a revolutionist and the fatalism of an explorer. I am not saying for a moment that my colleague or I possess these qualifications, but I can assure you that there are times when we feel the need of them all.
Women have always had an acknowledged place in our home and social life. They are a necessity there. They soon made themselves felt as a necessity in the educational life of our country. Gradually but still surely they are making themselves felt as a necessity in the professional and economic life of our country, but I must confess that in the realm of government, whether it be municipal, provincial or federal, we are not yet looked upon as a necessity. A few of us are there, and Alderman Plumptre will bear me out in this, I know, when I say that we are very well treated, but to date there has never been any indication on the part of the government that the country couldn't be run without us. However, while opinions may and do still vary as to whether this country is any better or worse because women have been granted greater freedom and more opportunities, one thing is certain and that is, that there has been an amazing change of attitude on the part of the general public during the last few decades, until today the common humanity of men and women has come to be looked upon as of more importance than sex distinction. Too, there has come a recognition of women as individuals, and with a recognition of that individuality has come a realization of the fact that as women and as individuals we have a right to have our vocation in life determined largely by our own ability and inclination, rather than determined for us solely by custom and environment, as was the case in the days of our grandmothers. But, in spite of all the changes that have come in the status of women down through these decades, in one very important matter, Canadian womanhood is still today the same as it was in the days of our grandmothers, for, from the days when the earliest women settlers of this country, with high resolve and courage undaunted, walked hand in hand with their men folk across the prairie or through the forest, blazing the trail, helping in the building of home and church and school, and the establishment of community life, down through the years until their descendents blazed the trail in this country for women in the educational, professional and political life of the country, the long line of loyal, fearless, patriotic Canadian women has not been broken. (Applause)
So, today, as Canadian women, we stand ready, as they stood in years gone by; ready to face the tasks which lie ahead; ready to make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order that we may do our share toward the preservation of that liberty and freedom which is ours today under the British system of democracy.
I was interested, as I am sure many of you were, in an article in a recent edition of Saturday Night by Walter Lippman, on relations between Canada and the United States, and I was especially interested in the future which he envisioned for Canada. He traced the history of Canada briefly, first as a colonial outpost of Empire, then as a self-governing Dominion, then as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Then he said, "But the Canada of tomorrow will be an inner citadel, perhaps the inner citadel of the British world." Be that as it may, it is commonly agreed that today Canada faces a new era in the development of her young nationhood and I am sure we in this room are agreed that the most essential thing for us in facing this development and the building of a greater nationhood is to do our share toward seeing that the foundations upon which that larger nationhood is built shall be our traditions and our British heritage. That, perhaps, isn't as easy as it sounds, because today, as you all know, we have foes within our land, as well as enemies without. I think if, as Canadians, we have a national fault it is perhaps that we are not sufficiently aware of the value of our traditions. Our patriotism is still instinctive, rather than learned. We need to become more alive to the value of tradition and continuity in the development of a nation and in this the study of Canada as a realized historical unit with Great Britain is extremely interesting and more than that, extremely helpful, because, after all, roots do encourage growth and roots are Canada's birthright.
I realize as fully as you do that this is no time for jingoism. It is no time for excessive flag waving, but it is a time for a deep and full realization of the value of the world of the British Commonwealth of Nations. (Applause) I believe with all the depth of my being that the world needs the British Empire, that it needs its influence in world affairs and if by any mischance that influence be destroyed or that Empire be relegated to a second-rate power, whose voice would no longer be influential in world affairs, then the loss will be as great to the world at large as it will be to the component parts of that Empire.
Holding these views as I do, very strongly and very sincerely, it was perhaps not unnatural that I should accept the position of National Chairman of the Committee for Voluntary Registration of Canadian women for emergency service. When I was first asked to speak to this Club, some time ago, it was intimated that I might use that as my subject, so I am going to include it in these few remarks, and sketch very briefly for you what I consider the high points of that movement. I have two reasons for doing this. In the first place, I conceive that the members of the Empire Club are kindred spirits, that they are in sympathy with the work that we are attempting to do, and, in the second place, the registration for Toronto is not yet closed and you might be influential in seeing that some who have not contributed to this movement by registering their qualifications, may do so in the future.
First, may I say we are not an organization, but a Committee formed of representatives from existing women's organizations; a Committee formed to do a specific job. When that job is done we are at liberty to disband again. The reason for the formation, in the first place, was that many of us had been reading for so long what the British women had been doing in the nature of voluntary organization, to be at the service of their country in days of emergency, that we felt we might well follow their example. A Provisional Committee was formed of the few who were most interested and they laid the foundation for the formation of the National Committee. The ground work was laid in this way: Every women's organization in Canada which was national in scope was invited to send its President or a representative to a meeting in the Royal York Hotel in Toronto last May. Sixty organizations, national in scope, were represented, the great majority of whom were in favour of the work which we are doing. From that a National Committee was formed. The next step was the formation of a Provincial Committee which has taken place in many of the Provinces, not in all as yet. That is not completed. From that, the district Chairmen who are in charge of local organizations throughout the Province. The information is to be collected at registration booths opened in every town and city throughout the country. Because this National Committee was, in essence, a working committee we have only two Honorary Chairmen and these two represent the two largest women's organizations in the Dominion of Canada--the National Council of Women for the towns and cities, and the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada for the rural parts. Those two Presidents are the two Honorary Chairmen of our Committee.
When you go in to register in one of these booths you are presented with a questionnaire which you look over and the information is taken by those in charge. The object of taking that information is simply this;-We, as a Committee, and the women who came in with the same motives and are backing us in our work, have felt that the foundation for this work is a distinction which should be made between a woman willing to do a job and being capable of doing it. So, through this questionnaire we are making a survey of the qualifications of the women who are interested enough to volunteer for service to their country. They state the training they have had along special lines; the experience they have had; whether they are prepared to give the use of that training and experience to their country in case of emergency; and whether they can serve full time or part time, with or without remuneration.
The questionnaire is the work of experts. It wasn't hastily thrown together on a hot summer afternoon by a few women, but the questions after being framed were submitted to financial experts, military experts, industrial experts, and the questionnaire was drafted and redrafted at least twenty times before being finally submitted to the women of this country. The information so collected will be available to any organization, such as the Red Cross or any other authentic body doing war service in this country.
One of the most common questions, one of the most frequently asked us is, "What becomes of this information after it is collected?" Well, it is filed in duplicate. Each Province has a record of the statistics for their province. It is filed at the national headquarters in Toronto of the Volunteer Registration of Canadian Women, and a duplicate copy is filed in Ottawa, under Dr. Coleman, Under Secretary of State.
The names of those who answer questions merely of a local nature, such as sewing and knitting, etcetera, are handed to the Red Cross to be used by them, but lists of skilled munitions workers, textile workers, women who had experience in various fields during the last war, all these things which may be so valuable to the government in the present war, will be indexed and filed at Ottawa under the direction of Dr. Coleman.
There is one question upon that questionnaire which has received a great deal of attention and interest from a great many of our women and many questions are asked concerning it. That is the one which asks whether you are willing to take into your home, British or other refugee children, if such should be desired. Now, I appreciate fully, as you do, that this question of admitting refugees on a large scale and taking care of them in this country is a matter which is to be determined by the British and Canadian Governments, but, in turn, I think we all realize that their decision on this matter may be influenced by events which are to come, and so we have included that in our survey; and just as a matter of interest, may I say to you that in the little town of Cobourg--I mention Cobourg because it was my home before I was married-in that little town of about 5,000 population, already 150 homes have been offered as available, if needed, to accommodate children or adults from England.
The women who are behind this movement, the women who are on the Committee, who have spent their time and strength during these last few months are actuated by one desire only, and that is to serve their country. We feel that the women of Canada today have a part, and a very important part, to play in the carrying on of this war to a successful conclusion. We feel that we should be ready for any eventuality or any emergency, just as they are ready in England, but the great difficulty, as I see it, and as many others have found, is to bring home to the people of this country a realization of the possibilities of the future of this war. When you talk to them about needing certain things to be done in case of emergency, the same people who said to us last May, when we first launched this organization, "Oh, you are wasting time and strength and energy, because there isn't going to be a war", are saying now, "Why prepare for something that will not come? The war is remote from us, we will never be faced with an emergency here, such as they are facing in England." I think there are a great many today who will agree that the greatest foe we have to face in Canada today is a lack of realization on the part of the great majority of Canadians that this is Canada's war. Everybody is willing to help, but help in what way? Help England and France to win the war. "We think they are right, we want to help them", but there is no realization that it is Canada's war, (Applause) that, putting it on the highest plane, we are just as interested and just as concerned in the preservation of liberty and freedom as are Britain and France. Putting it on the lowest plane, we are interested in self-preservation, and that is something we are very slow in realizing. We talk about Poland, we talk of the tremendous courage of the Polish soldiers in facing such odds. Our hearts are wrung when we visualize those long lines of women and children, refugees staggering forth from Warsaw and other cities of Poland to safety, with terror and death raining from the skies upon them, and we pity them and we feel sorry for them and we weep over their tragic fate. We think of a crushed and trampled Poland, but how many of us are realistic enough to come to grips with it and to say, "But for the grace of God and the British Fleet, there lies Canada"? I think that is the lesson that we need to have driven home today, a realization that this is our war, that it is not enough for us to have within our hearts a great love for and a deep abiding faith in this land in which we live. In addition to that we must be as ready to give of our time and energy, of ourselves, if necessary, as ready as we have always been to grasp with eager outstretched hands all the advantages and privileges of liberty and freedom that are ours today because of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before.
Only when we are in that mood, only when we have so readjusted our thinking and our living shall we be worthy of the sacrifices of those who have gone before. Only then can we say with the poet: Lord, take us up to the heights And show us the glory,
Show us a vision of Empire, Tell us its story.
Tell it out loud,
For eyes and ears have grown holden, We have forgotten
That any but money is golden. Grubbing away in the valley, Somehow has darkened our eyes, Watching the ground and the crops, We have forgotten the skies.
Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst take us today To the mount of decision,
And show us this land that we live in, With glorified vision.
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and Gentlemen, an old friend and associate of our guest-speaker, Alderman Adelaide Plumptre, has graciously consented to extend on your behalf our thanks to Senator Fallis.
ALDERMAN ADELAIDE PLUMPTRE: Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to express on behalf of your guests our gratitude to the Club for including us in your meeting today, because we feel that you have given us a great opportunity of listening to one whose words of wisdom and whose words of quiet confidence are needed at the present moment, perhaps as not often before in the history of Canada. Senator Fallis comes to us with a long tradition of Canadian life behind her. She brings to us the traditions of that great family of women who have centered their interest around the productive things of life, from the farm, and in the home, and she has now applied the wisdom that she learned there to the science and the art of politics. It is a great thing that she is here today to prove in her person that women are persons and, I might also add, that they are personable, also.
We feel that what has been said to us today has not only emphasized the power of woman and the value of women's power in war times as in peace times, but it has also shown us the value of order and regulated effort in such emergencies as this, when some people feel that the great thing is to get going and it doesn't matter much what you do, so long as you do something. I think Senator Fallis' account of the registration of women has given us this lesson, that it is the ordered and regulated force which is really valuable in emergency, as in routine life.
It is a very great pleasure, Mr. Chairman, you have given us today to invite us to be present, and I am quite certain I express the thoughts of all those who are present, both your guests and your members, when I extend to Senator Fallis our very grateful thanks for her words of encouragement, of thought and of vision. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Alderman Plumptre. We appreciate very much your extending the thanks of this Club to Senator Fallis. I also wish to express our appreciation of the distinguished guests at our head table and to thank them for coming as they have on this occasion.
Our meeting is adjourned.