21 Mar G Day Stories: Ellen
A Vancouver City Councillor from 2002-2005 and 2008-2011, Ellen Woodsworth is a community developer committed to economic equality, social justice and environmentally sound planning that will make Vancouver a world-class city. THANK YOU for sharing your G Day Story with us, Ellen!
I remember as a girl loving the strength of my body and reading adventure books like “Swallows and Amazons.” I played ice hockey on Grenadier Pond in Toronto. There wasn’t any other place a girl could play. In the summer, I was the pitcher at many baseball games and at school during recess, I organized a group of girls to play soccer with tennis balls.
Then, I went home to read. I remember my Dad taking my older brothers to swim at Hart House at the University of Toronto but I wasn’t allowed to go because I was a girl. As a kid I was upset with my Dad and brothers as U of T was an abstract concept. (It didn’t allow women in the pool!)
The first time I really felt unhappy about being a girl was when I was about 9 and the schools made us wear dresses instead of pants. It didn’t make sense especially in the cold winters. I felt so vulnerable and exposed. It changed my relationship with the boys who had been my buddies. I noticed how girls were really sucking up to my older brothers and were showing off their first brassieres. I didn’t want one. I remember feeling like I was imprisoned when I first put one on. The freedom was gone. It didn’t make sense to strap down my breasts. My mom was the Executive Director of the local YWCA. She talked and worked for women’s equality, but she did all the housework on top of her paid work so I was getting mixed messages.
I started feeling attracted to other girls, which felt wonderful and totally embarrassing. I had no role models and I didn’t know what to say or do. It was years before I did. When I started to have my periods, I was in a lot of pain and had to go to the nurses office, I was so sick. No one had a solution so every month, especially if I was under stress, I was sick to my stomach. I was really eager to get over puberty and become a woman. I saw that my mom had a great life with really interesting friends, so I believed that my life would get better and better the older I got.
I was right. I look back on puberty as a woman who has had fun working for women’s equality as a City Councillor, President of many Boards, co-founder of the World Peace Forum, “The Other Woman” newspaper, CORA the Women’s Liberation Bookmobile, Bridge Housing Society for Women, and Women Transforming Cities, designing ideal cities for women and girls.
Today, I think we have to reach out and support younger women. Together we can make the world better for all girls.