Women for the Wardy

Did you know that the ratio of female to male students at King’s is 63 per cent to 37? Yet there are only a handful of portraits hanging at King’s to reflect the presence of women throughout our history.

Meg Shields, a student of early modern studies and classics, began to pick up on this fact over a pitcher of beer in the Wardroom last month.

“I was staring at the photo of the Queen, and the wall adjacent to her was totally blank,” she said.

“I was surrounded by the KSU president and a bunch of other strong female presences on campus, and then I just started ranting about how it was kind of ridiculous that there isn’t representative portraiture of women on a campus predominantly filled with women.”

Shields passed her phone around the bar, asking people to add to a list of strong women who came to mind. The result was a hefty list.

Word got around campus, and fast. The next day Shields was approached by a multitude of students and societies, including the Young Alexandria Society (YAS).

Shields’ discussion is now a wide-scale project intending to integrate depictions of notable women throughout the university’s history. The project’s team includes the Alex Hall president, the Feminist Collective, the King’s Students’ Union, King’s faculty, the Campus Safety Officer, the Wardroom Board of Managers and YAS.

Meg Shields and Clara McCaughey pore over images. (Photo: Ashley Corbett)

Clara McCaughey, co-president of YAS, has played a primary role in the project. She has worked alongside members of the society in the archives to create a detailed timeline of the history of women at King’s, locating corresponding images and portraiture when possible.

McCaughey and Shields said this project is an attempt to correct this issue. On November 14, they will unveil a wall of portraits in the Wardroom that will illustrate the role of women from our university’s past and present.

YAS has extended the project further to create a lecture series, which is intended to recognize the role women played in the disciplines studied at King’s.

Last month Eli Diamond, professor of Classics at Dalhousie, spoke about the presence of women in the Ancient World. The next lecture is set for Nov. 26, when Jannette Vusich will address the question, “Did women have a Renaissance?”

McCaughey and Shields said they aim to be as inclusive as possible so that all students feel comfortable engaging in these topics.

“I think it is an issue that is really starting to take hold, and I think the students have a big part in that,” McCaughey said. “We’re living in such a time of change and a time when anyone can take action.”