This story is one in a package to celebrate the women of Niagara-on-the-Lake for International Women’s Day. Find a video of the making of the event here, view our 12-page special section here and read about some of the NOTL women involved here.
More than 100 women fill Queen Street for mass photo to mark International Women’s Day
Queen Street was closed Monday morning all in the name of celebrating the women of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Lake Report invited women from all walks of life and from all corners of town to a photoshoot in front of the clock tower cenotaph in recognition of International Women’s Day, which was Wednesday, March 8 this year.
The gathering included a mass photo of more than 100 women who flocked to the historic town’s Main Street out on a cloudy, windless morning.
As well, separate group pictures were taken of the women in the groups with which they are associated, including the agriculture, farming and wine industries, the arts, business, church, community organizations, sports, the town’s leadership and the women of The Lake Report.
Pulled together quickly over the past two weeks, the consensus among the women was that the celebration was a big success – and many participants said they hope it can become a yearly happening.
Doing it annually wasn’t the plan initially, said Lake Report managing editor Kevin MacLean. The mass photo idea was just conceived as a novel way to celebrate women in 2023.
“However, the enthusiasm and response from women in the community has been overwhelming,” he said. “Many more women wanted to be here today but had conflicts or were working or on vacation.”
“But many of the women who were able to make have said rather loudly that this is the sort of public celebration that should happen every year. So, yes, we’re going to try to do it again next year,” he said.
“But we’ll take more than two weeks to plan it.”
Coun. Sandra O’Connor was pleased to be there.
“I think (International Women’s Day) is a chance to be vocal and be present and be ourselves and do that loudly, which is exciting.”
“I try to do that as much as possible but to have a day dedicated to it is a fantastic thing,” she said.
Women of all ages and from a wide variety of community groups, different professions and backgrounds all mingled and chatted, many sharing stories about what barriers they have overcome throughout their lives.
NOTL environmentalist Kyra Simone said that while luckily in her career she has not encountered much sexism, it is still evident that there is work to be done.
“I’ve been very lucky with my education, but you can definitely see getting into higher levels of education that there are fewer women than there are men,” said Simone, who has two master’s degrees and is working on her PhD.
“I’m glad to have found a community that does seem female-dominated, which is cool.”
O’Connor chimed in that she is relieved to see how much things have changed since her time starting out in her field and often losing jobs to less-qualified men.
“When I was just starting out in my career it was a constant feeling of trying to reaffirm that we have a right to be there – the skills and education and everything like that. I feel like we’ve come a long way since then.”
Some women also noted how their work and recreational lives brought them together.
Bev Lees, Rosemary Goodwin and Marilyn Francis, all affiliated with the NOTL Tennis Club, they were proud to be associated with so many exceptional women in NOTL.
“Bev is our nomination for Niagara-on-the-Lake’s greatest treasure,” said Goodwin.
“She was one of the 26 who opened the town’s very first tennis club in 1970 and she’s still playing.”
“She’s our role model. We all want to be Bev Lees,” added Francis.
Meghan Gilchrist, from Girl Guides of Canada, said she feels fortunate to work with the women and girls in town.
And Amanda Gamble, executive director at the Friends of Fort George, noted just how heart-warming it was to see such a large group of NOTL women come out to support one another publicly.
“It’s so nice to be here and see some of the community members and to be involved,” she said.