Women at Hart House

Title text


Not Behaving like Ladies: An Anecdotal History of Women’s Participation at Hart House is a group of interviews with twenty-four women who influenced, challenged or participated in Hart House over the past several decades. In 1972, Hart House admitted women as full members, and while the border may have been officially breached on that date, the process of infiltration began much earlier and the impact of women at Hart House continues. To this day, Hart House remains a place where transformations can and do happen in response to the changing nature of our culture, society, and country. This project was conceived as a way to commemorate the stories of women’s participation at Hart House in their own words.

Listen to CIUT.fm radio interview with Mari Pack and Laurel MacDowell about the exhibit.

A note from Co-coordinator Mari Pack

“The goal of the project, ultimately, was to create a history of women’s participation at Hart House that both acknowledges institutional sexism and celebrates women’s contributions. The title comes from an interview with Vicki Little who, as a student, infiltrated the Arbor Room, which was then a men’s-only domain. The assistant warden at the time informed Little and her female friends that they were ‘not behaving like ladies.’ We’ve attempted to overturn his language, which was initially used to shame and disempower female protesters, as a means of reclaiming it within a women’s history at Hart House.

“Moreover, I truly felt, every step of the way, that Hart House wanted this women’s history. As someone who studies feminist theory, it was so, so refreshing to witness an institution holding itself accountable for past sexism. So rather than tarnish my image of Hart House, the experience made me feel honoured to be a part of a project and a place that now prioritizes an otherwise marginalized history.”

A note from Co-coordinator Day Milman

“This story is a deeply intergenerational one, where younger women come together with women of earlier generations to learn and share stories. It’s only through the passage of wisdom that we can continue building and growing without the risk of going backwards. I envisioned current U of T students, all genders included, as the audience for this exhibition. I wanted there to be a direct conduit between the audience and the women in the exhibition. It was really important to me that the story of women at Hart House was told directly by the women themselves in a way that related the entire arc of their experiences.

“As a representative of our current generation of students, it was important that Mari Pack bring her voice to the project to act as the listener and draw out these stories from the participants. The listener has an impact on how the story is told. The telling of this story is for the benefit of all, but mostly for the young people who are just now entering the work force, becoming leaders, and creating their experiences in the world. In choosing to honour these stories from our history, we acknowledge our debt to the courage and creativity of preceding generations of women, and embrace the continuation of conversations that celebrate possibility, change, and challenge at the house now, and for future generations.”

Image of text  "40 Years"40 Years of Women at Hart House

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