From the Standard Freeholder
By KATHRYN BURNHAM
CORNWALL — Fierce, courageous and embarrassing were all terms used by Kathy Dobson to describe her mother, who was set forth as a model for others during an International Women’s Day event on the weekend.
Dobson’s mother works tirelessly against a distant husband, at times apathetic neighbours and a city that turned its back on one community.
Dobson tells her mother’s story, and her own, in her book “With a Closed Fist: Growing up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood.”
The book chronicles Dobson’s childhood growing up in Point St. Charles, a suburb of Montreal.
Dobson, a former writer with the Standard-Freeholder, shared her story and excerpts from her book at the Canadian Labour Congress’ International Women’s Day breakfast on Saturday.
Her speech was an “insight into how poverty limits people, but how people can be empowered, especially through a strong woman,” said Elaine MacDonald, president of the Cornwall and District Labour Council.
Dobson’s book is brutally honest in its language and imagery, portraying memories of her childhood told in her childhood voice.
Dobson said she used this voice so “I could show the reader up close …as raw as it was then.”
With scenes of “feminists” and “hippies” brainwashing her mother into protesting dangerous roads in the community, or into standing up against domestic abuse, the scenes are raw with emotion.
“I was either going to tell the truth, the whole truth, or I was not going to tell anything at all,” said Dobson.
While Dobson’s story emphasized that it is possible to break that cycle of poverty with a strong family, mentors, and an emphasis on education, she said not everyone is lucky enough to do so.
“I hope people don’t judge people who don’t,” she said. For herself, the power, voice, encouragement and hope of one woman was the key to escaping the cycle.
“A driven mother, that’s the key,” said Dobson.
“She spoke most clearly to the economic challenges women face,” said MacDonald. “We have to step out at least one day each year to see where we are.”
MacDonald said politically, women have made significant strides, with females at the helm in three provinces and one territory.
But with only 9 of 39 municipal seats occupied by women, MacDonald suggested more local women should take a stand. She even offered to mentor local women to be leaders in the community
She also said with cuts expected to public service jobs and programs, she worries women will feel the brunt economically.
“What we have to do is take charge of our lives,” she said. “We have a lot to contribute politically, economically and socially.”
International Women’s Day is March 8.