Montreal, June 11, 2012 – Sixteen Canadian women changed the face of journalism in this country when they boarded a southbound train in June of 1904. Dubbed "the Sweet Sixteen," this group of ladies represented a cross-section of some of the country's best female journalists. They came together to cover a story of international interest – the St. Louis World's Fair – but their journey took them much farther than Missouri.
Their previously untold story is the subject of a new book by Linda Kay, chair of the Department of Journalism at Concordia University. Published by McGill-Queen's University Press and officially launched during a special event held at Concordia on June 6, The Sweet Sixteen traces the fateful trip that resulted in the formation of the Canadian Women's Press Club.
"I became intrigued by the story of a club forged on a railway car – a quintessential Canadian beginning," explains Kay in the book's engaging introduction. "As a journalist myself, I was also curious about my predecessors. I had entered the profession at a time when women were welcomed, if not completely accepted. I knew nothing about the uncommonly talented women who had paved the way for my peers and me in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were daring women in so many ways, defying societal norms and completely contravening the stereotypical image of a Victorian woman."
These brave women act as engaging protagonists in The Sweet Sixteen. From Margaret "Miggsy" Graham to Léonise "Attala" Valois, they become as dear to the readers through the pages of this book as they did to each other through the course of that fateful train trip. Delving into the group dynamics and individual experiences of these women, Kay explores the cultural divide between the Anglophone and Francophone members of the group and provides compelling biographical sketches of each woman's life and work.
The Sweet Sixteen documents the struggles of a group of talented women who did not have the right to vote, were not regarded as persons under the law, and were professional journalists at a time when marriage and motherhood were considered a woman's true calling.
For a century, their legacy – the Canadian Women's Press Club – stood as a testament to their tenacity and to the ongoing strength of women journalists in Canada. Now, Linda Kay's book serves as a memorial to the important progress that was sped along by a train trip in 1904.
Concordia's Department of Journalism
Professor Linda Kay
The Sweet Sixteen at McGill-Queen's University Press
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