It was the beginning of a journey that would last for decades and spread right across the country. On a bitterly cold winter day in 1941 thousands of women with their children in tow, stood up for what they believed in and became the heartbeat of the women’s labour movement in Canada.
“One woman stepped up to do what she could for as long as she could, then the next, then the next. It was like that.”
-With Glowing Hearts,
Jennifer Wynne Webber
Jennifer Wynne Webber’s With Glowing Hearts is the tale of the women of Kirkland Lake Ontario who decided to take a stand against unsafe and unjust working conditions in the mines. It was a real-life story that grabbed Webber instantly.
“It’s the bravery of these women to risk everything, their livelihood, their family and even their own safety,” says Webber. “They didn’t have power or clout but through dogged perseverance and pure heart, they stood up for what they believed in.”
For director Angus Ferguson, this was the right play at the right time. “There’s a feeling of helplessness right now in the world. We always think we have to find that one great leader that will save us.” He explains, “This play is a great reminder that it’s the people on the ground, working together that make things happen. Great changes were created by ordinary people.”
Along with powerful theatrical performances, Dancing Sky Theatre is incorporating the music of the era with the help of banjo player Eliza Doyle. The soundtrack evokes the passion and message of that time in history.
With Glowing Hearts first began when University of Saskatchewan professor Elizabeth Quinlan commissioned Webber to write a one-act play based on her research into women in the labour movement. It premiered at the Saskatoon Fringe Festival in 2016 taking home the Best of Fest award. It soon grabbed the attention of Nanaimo’s TheatreOne which asked Webber to expand the show into a full-length production in 2018. The show was invited to New York for a staged reading as part of Words by Women Week. Just this month, the script has become a book which was just released by Scirocco Drama.
Webber says although this story on historical events, it speaks to people today.
“There are many situations today that challenge us to stand up and fight for what is right.” She explains, “What these women went through holds wisdom for us. Something shifted inside them. It was the realization that they had to be the change they wanted to see in the world.”