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WENDY ROSE: Women shine in rain-or-shine walking tour

Monica Walsh, pictured in character, sings an original song by Ruth Lawrence, about a love affair of an immigrant maid and a neighbouring Chinese launderer.
Monica Walsh, pictured in character, sings an original song by Ruth Lawrence, about a love affair of an immigrant maid and a neighbouring Chinese launderer. - Wendy Rose photo

Other Women Walk takes a look at women’s lives in the Roaring ‘20s

The humidity was high, but the ominous clouds retained their rain during the 10 a.m., July 27 guided tour of “Other Women Walk.”

Created by Ruth Lawrence, and featuring Bridget Wareham, Monica Walsh and Wendi Smallwood, “Other Women Walk” transports its guests to another time, travelling back to the roaring 1920s in St. John’s.

With standing stops placed around the Bannerman Park grounds and nearby neighbourhoods, we commenced our tour at the corner of Circular Road and Rennie’s Mill Road, across from the grand Winterholme.

“I’ll be leading this dig, even though I’m not an archeologist,” tour guide Helen Furey (Bridget Wareham), a local barkeep, told the gathered crowd. 

People gathered at Bannerman Park Friday to take in the Other Women Walk tour.
People gathered at Bannerman Park Friday to take in the Other Women Walk tour.

On the tour, we met a local housekeeper, sex worker, and treasurer of the Newfoundland Industrial Worker’s Association, who detail their roles in their community and the political climate they are living in, as the Dominion of Newfoundland falls behind neighbouring Canada, which had recently (in 1918) granted women the right to vote.

The characters are fictionalized representations of real women that creators Ruth Lawrence, along with Sherry White, discovered during their research.

Our first guest was Alice Warren (Monica Walsh), a housekeeper at Winterholme.

Warren detailed her work at Winterholme, and her measly wages. Still, she is steadfast, noting that while she toils away in the kitchen, the lady of the house sits idly, this boredom inspiring her involvement in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the fight for the right to vote.

“Suffrage? It’s what it sounds like,” she said, before skipping off to work. “Suffering.”

For a sex worker going by the name Lady Davidson (Wendi Smallwood) — not to be confused with the Lieutenant Governor’s wife — suffrage also equates to suffering.

Criticizing Davidson’s wartime effort to provide handknit socks for soldiers, the lady of the night snickers, “I give comfort — and it has nothing to do with knitting.”

Strolling through the park, we hear stories about the Great Fire of 1982, the failed era of Prohibition, and take a moment of silence for Shawnadithit.

Like Warren, she details her less-than-ideal work conditions, also feeling that change is not going to come.

Strolling through the park, we hear stories about the Great Fire of 1982, the failed era of Prohibition, and take a moment of silence for Shawnadithit, the last Beothuk, on our way to the Colonial Building, “where the laws are made to control us, the laws made by men,” Furey shared.

As we continued on Military Road, the corner of King’s Road, and down Rennie’s Mill Road, we run into school teachers, immigrants, and activists, all recounting their life experience as women in Newfoundland during a time of immense sociopolitical change.

The most interesting part of “Other Women Walk,” however, is not just the stories told. It’s the realization of just how much things have changed, while still somehow remaining the same. It’s a sobering reminder of how far we have come, but how far we still have to go in the fight for gender equality.

“When it comes to change, some women talk while other women walk,” Furey said as she concluded the tour. “Please keep walking with us.”
“Other Women Walk” runs on weekdays until Aug. 10, with 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. guided tours, rain or shine.


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