I was an impressionable 20 years old when the U.S. declared 1992 “The Year of the Woman” following a record number of female senators being elected to power. As a young Canadian, I couldn’t have named a single one of those American politicians, but I remember that label. It fueled a small but mighty shift, empowering me to more boldly reach for books by enlightened writers such as Margaret Atwood and seek out strong, female musicians including Chrissy Hind and Patti Smith. All those trailblazers made feminism more accessible to a small-town Ontario girl.
It’s been a particularly turbulent couple of years for women, and for equality in general.
My personal response to some of the more high-profile setbacks over the last year has been an occasional feeling of powerlessness: what was the point of “The Year of the Woman” if, 25 years later, we’re still spinning our wheels?
A few months ago, Wade and I were invited to work in partnership with the British Museum to create a talisman inspired by objects and artefacts from its archives. Imagine the vast and varied treasure trove. Our choice of a lithograph honouring the suffragette movement by the British artist Theodore Blake Wirgman was obvious and instant for me, and it’s been one of the most gratifying talismans we've ever designed.
We named the talisman “Votes for Women.” It’s a title that covers not only the 1918 U.K. achievement of women getting the vote but, on the eve of the U.S. mid-terms when a record number of female change-makers are running for Congress, it’s an extraordinary reminder that the power is continuing to shift.
Just as the historic ’92 election made a ripple in my Canadian outpost, this election—no matter the final result—has no doubt already given some young woman, somewhere in the world, a stronger foothold on her worth.