My travels to various corners of the four provinces were highly enjoyable in themselves; you’ll find the range of locales mentioned in the profiles. The metaphorical travels, however, were equally illuminating; those journeys of the mind that played out across the kilometres to and from my fascinating meetings with elder women activists.
The narratives of social action struck me for their display of vision, tenacity, and resilience; strategic grafting of principles to action; respect for disparate opinions while making serviceable decisions under the pressures of time and circumstance; and the seriously held charge of responsibility for being meticulously informed on the issue at hand.
Eileen Travis's change agent strategies from 1996 often echoed in my mind. Two connections were especially resonant in this regard; the first one focused on the activists' search for opportunities to build effective partnerships rather than simply shutting down divergent opinions; and the other was a contextual sensitivity that took into account the dynamics, conflicts, agendas, and histories that framed in the issues.
The women were passionate and spoke their truth unequivocally to power; staged beautifully organized demonstrations, as required, wrote persuasive letters to the media and far-ranging reports for government; they were even-handed even when they were angry. And life as an activist was not something they perceived as a path of grim determination nor was it necessarily speed of thought and action that carried their day. But rather, the pleasures of activism were expressed as profuse and connective, and might be found, for example, in selecting just the right person to present at a protest, given she possessed the timing of a seasoned comedian! Tales of courage and perseverance were told without fanfare, as if this was just what anyone would do. In this last respect, I found myself thinking of Eleanor Roosevelt's observations: "What is to give light must endure the burning," and "Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."
The gifts I have gained from this experience of elder women's voices raised high from Atlantic Canada will accompany me on all my travels… and yours, too, I hope!