Drama (and dessert) for International Women’s Day

By Judith van Berkom –

Writer, director, and Kitchissippi ward resident, Joan Conrod’s play, Women Vote Indirect, made a comeback on March 10 at the Woodroffe United Church, honouring several wives of the Fathers of Confederation in celebration of International Women’s Day. The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) hosted the “Drama & Dessert” event.

The narrator of Women Vote Indirect, Sandra Murray. It was a full house for both performances. Photo by Judith van Berkom

“I had been down on Parliament Hill for different events and some hearings, and in every room there’s a big picture of a Father of Confederation,” describes Joan. “One day I thought, ‘Where are the women?’ I began to do some research, but there’s very little known about those wives – we know who they are, and I did as much research as I could, and then made everything up. The entire play is fictional.”

The play is written mostly in the form of letters and diaries. Facts about confederation come from the narrator. Joan Conrod based the play on Hortense Fabre, wife of George Etienne Cartier, and Cartier’s mother, Marguerite Paradis; Frances Tupper, wife of Charles Tupper, the sixth Prime Minister of Canada; Agnes Bernard, second wife of Sir John A. Macdonald; Alice Chipman, who was 18 years-of-age when she met her 47-year-old husband, Leonard Tilley, who had eight grown children at the time; and Mercy Cole from England, who was 14 or 15-years-old when she married George Cole, first Premier of Prince Edward Island.

Charlotte Rigby from CFUW with author Joan Conrod. Photo by Judith van Berkom

Joan has lived in the Kitchissippi for four and a half years, coming originally from Shawville where she taught high school for 35 years. She was very involved in the drama program – directing everything from musicals to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. When she retired she was asked to do murder mysteries. “They gave me packages for parties which I had to rewrite so they could be done on stage,” explains Joan. Eventually, she began to write her own plays.

Women Vote Indirect, written and directed by Joan Conrod, imagines how the women associated with the Fathers of Confederation may have contributed to the process. The play is in two acts, with Victorian tea served at intermission. Presented by the Ottawa, Kanata, and Nepean clubs of the Canadian Federation of University Women, proceeds from the play were in support of Cornerstone Housing for Women.

Watch Charlotte Rigby and Nancy Simmons-Wright from the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) talk about “Drama and Dessert” on Daytime Ottawa:

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