Female perspective

Published on February 16, 2017

Numerous times, in the past decade, we have driven past the place in the race to and from the ferry at North Sydney. But never have we stopped, as attractive as it looks, nor as alluring as its name on the sign sounds.

That place - Farmer's Daughter - is on Highway 105 in Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia (eastern boarder of Whycobah First Nation Reserve). 


The Farmer's Daughter Country Store is a year-round business located in rural Cape Breton. So, employees wanting such work are not exactly milling around with hands in their pockets waiting for the call.


Thus, recently, (Cape Breton Post Aug 31, 2016) the store's owners lived up to their business slogan, "Life is better with the Farmer's Daughter" with a Facebook offer of three full-time permanent jobs with an added bonus, “free three-acre plots of land to anyone willing to work at their understaffed country store for five years".


The owners, two sisters (Sandee MacLean and Heather Coulombe, took over the 25 year old business from their parents, Jim and Ferne Austin, Jan 1, 2016) were swamped with thousands of people wanting the jobs.


In the end the three employees selected were from British Columbia, which seems to be a good business move as anyone coming that far for a job won't be so eager to quit. Plus, the new employees and their families are growing the village by eight people.


The attitude of the two sisters is summed up with, "We really want our community to be repopulated", said Maclean. “We are committed to keeping Cape Breton alive and vibrant and we're not really interested in making a huge profit off people.”


Much older than the Whycocomagh sisters are two other sisters, Nan at 82 and Patricia at 78, owners/operators of the family pub, Brennan's in Bundoran, Ireland.


According to the Irish Times (Jan 7, 2017), the two sisters have travelled extensively, but have lived their whole lives in the pub as their residence is divided between the downstairs and the upstairs. They took over the business from their widowed father in 1981 and live up to the pub's original name - Criterion Bar - with no TV, no singing, and no swearing (Google: Brennan’s Criterion Bar for glorious pictures).


The sisters have maintained its pleasant atmosphere and authentic furniture where one can sit and talk, face to face, and enjoy a good pint of Guinness.


Unlike the Austin sisters, the Brennans have never married, as aptly quoted by Pat, "We haven't the time (suitors), work came first".


Who knew in 1972, when travelling by bus from Sligo to Donegal, I unknowingly passed by Brennan's on Main Street in Bundoran?


Long before the Whycocomagh or Bundoran sisters, I, and everybody at the time, experienced women who ruled the business roost or were the face of business on High Street in the my days of my youth.


Some of the women we knew by their first name, others we knew only to call Mrs. At Bond Beverages it was Mrs. Bond; at Ryan's Cash Store, Mrs. Ryan; at Joe Byrne's Sports Shop it was Pat; at the Bake Shop it was Sally Spicer; at Garl Morrissey's Drug Store it was Peggy; at MacPherson's, and later the Bake Shop retail outlet, it was Mrs. Mac; at the Grand Falls Drug Store it was Pat Winslow; and not to be forgotten, at The Advertiser, it was Laura Blackmore.


Besides these women, there were others you knew either by sight, at their work place, reputation, or seeing them going to work, be it at the Lady Northcliffe Hospital (nurse Ledrew), the mill office (Mary McLaughlin), the CO-OP, Royal Stores, Bowrings, banks and other offices.


Few, if any of the women I knew, had the reputation of being pushovers; taking the back seat to any man. And many of our own mothers, never mind Mrs. Cooper down the street, were in that latter category.


Lastly, at Notre Dame Academy on Church Road, all of my teachers from Kindergarten to Grade 8 were all female. Those females (some of whom were amongst the best educated women of their time) were all members of the Congregation of Presentation Sisters. The word pushover never existed in their dictionary.


Thus, many of us have experienced liberated women for a long time, but worldwide there are countries and cultures where such liberation - female perspective - has a long ways to go, yet.


While women in many lands struggle for existence, the United States is riddled with billionaires, mostly men, but some women (Forbes 400: The Wealthiest in America). President Donald Trump is a billionaire and when the dust settles on his cabinet choices, he could have more billionaires at the table including the present two, Wilbur Ross and Betsy DeVos.


How can people with so such wealth, as those on the Forbes list and in the Trump cabinet, have any sense of the reality of the working lives of ordinary people whether they live in Detroit, Whycocomagh, Bundoran or Timbuktu?


The Austin sisters of Whycocomagh have an attitude of sharing the wealth. The Brennan sisters of Bundoran have an attitude of dedication to work as they maintain high standards at their pub.


If the women working, with and around, Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, followed the examples set by the likes of the owners of the Farmer's Daughter and Brennan's Criterion Bar, the governance of both countries could be headed in a direction to liberate us all (men and women} from so much of the nonsense that fills up our lives.


As for that Cape Breton – Bundoran female perspective, bring it on!