DATE: December 6
PLACE: Stairs outside the Vancouver Art Gallery
DESCRIPTION: It is cold and there is a fine rain falling.
The people who are walking past the Vancouver Art Gallery steps, have to stop and look: on the hand rails are white boards listing woman’s names and dates, in the centre is a large memorial wreath, and hundreds of woman’s shoes are lined up on the stairs. And in front of the stairs are volunteers, both men and women, waiting for the question “what is going on?”
December 6th is Canada’s National Day of Mourning for women who have met with violent deaths. It commerates the memory of the fourteen women who were methodically killed in Montreal (1989) at the L’Ecole Polytechnique.And this is Vancouver’s shoe memorial. It is a memorial to “all” the women who have been killed by violence.
In 2003, I was a member of a group of women who had survived of domestic violence, and we set up the first Shoe memorial here on the stairs. We were tired of going to events where only a few people came, we were tired of the publicity always going to the killers with the victims names forgotten, we were tired of women still being killed. So we decided to hold an all day memorial in a very public way and in a very public location. The symbolism is real and powerful. What do all women have? SHOES. And so on December 6, 2003 pictures of the first memorial began the evening news and appeared on the front page of the local newspapers.
For every pair of shoes, there is a name and a date of a woman, who was killed, for all to read and to remember. To remember, that these women were someone’s mother, sister, or daughter. They had lives that were taken from them. We should at least remember their names. They are not just numbers, they are not just statistics, they had lives.
Many people we have talked to each year have left a lasting impression on us, I remember a young father leaning over to explain to his very young daughter what today meant, what the shoes stood for, and that the violence against women had to stop. I also remember one woman who we talked to earlier, coming back with a new pair of shoes (still in the box) and tearfully putting those shoes on the stairs.
September 8th, 2011 | Locations, News, Vancouver | 8 Comments »
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I actually attended this memorial, but never considered that my Aunt Brenda was represented. I thought mostly of the women who were victims at the Pickton farm and those whose lives were ended due to domestic violence. My Aunt was brutally murdered in 1976 in a North Vancouver shop owned by the family. I have never forgotten the tragic loss of my beloved aunt and mother of 4. I’m pleased that shoes were left in her honor. Peace to all the families and loved ones.
I just wanted to say that this is absolutely fantastic. My mother was best friends with Margaret McCarthy at the time of her death. We have spent years looking for her children but since they were moved to the east coast so quickly after her murder we have had no luck. In a recent google search of her name, this site came up. It is so nice to know that she has not been forgotten. Thanks for keeping her memory alive.
I would like to share with you my plans to hold a shoe memorial in Mississauga Ont. Please contact me. Thanks
Perhaps the symbollism is powerful because women who are victims of violence come from “all walks of life.”
Men also have shoes. Further, a factor that contributes to the enduring misogyny in our culture is the perception that women are obsessed with frivolous things, like shoes and sparkly jewelry and, therefore, their lives are somehow frivolous and less important than men’s lives.
Just a thought.
You are correct, we use women’s shoes of all types to indicate that they come from all walks of life, income bracket, cultural background, young & old. No one is safe from what is a societal problem.
Could someone clarify something for me? 869 deaths since 10 years ago (when the memorial began) or 869 this year alone etc.? Nation-wide?
We know of 869 women killed in B.C., the majority in the last 20 years. As there is no publicly available list I started recording the violent deaths of women across Canada, though most are from BC as I am located there. In my search for a list I found one compiled by Mary Billy who started in the early 90′s. I hope that answers your question.
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We are honouring the memory of the women and their families by attaching name cards to each pair of donated shoes which represents a woman or girl who have been killed in violence or are missing. The names of the victims should never be forgotten. more
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