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Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 in Blogs

VOW archives: Underwood Typewriter

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace:  Underwood Typewriter

by   Constance Ruth Moore Gardner, Toronto


I first met Voice of Women’s Underwood typewriter in, I think, 1969 during the Vietnam War.  Muriel Duckworth in Halifax was President of VOW, and Kay Macpherson was running the Toronto office in the basement of 1554 Yonge Street.  Lil Zaremba was secretary, and Kay hired me as a specific secretary to help those assembling a weeklong meeting of women from North and South Vietnam, the U.S., and Canada, to humanize all sides of the conflict and plead for peace.  (Well, Kay never pled for anything:  she demanded.  Muriel exemplified and reasoned.  Both were effective.)  There were negotiations with U.S. peace groups to help with funds and sponsorship, with government offices to get the guests into the country, fund-raising, public meetings, lobbying of political figures, and a grand excursion to Niagara Falls to meet more U.S. women on the Rainbow Bridge.

My memory is flawed, but I do know that the VOW office had already converted to an electric IBM Selectric for most of its work.  I think I was given the Underwood for my job, and I had such reverence for its beautiful work and solid dependability that when VOW moved to a smaller office and had no room for it, it was given to me, and I have treasured it ever since.

This was the instrument that recorded most of Voice of Women’s early research and white papers.  The histories in print and on film will detail what they are, but when I was there, still fresh in minds and conversations was the startling effectiveness when VOW made public Ursula Franklin’s discovery of Strontium 90 in baby teeth, a major cause of the decision to cease above-ground nuclear testing.

In about 2010, the need was clear for a type-cleaning and new ribbon, and through the ROM I found someone who cleaned the whole machine.  It is a beautiful instrument with a noble history, and when the satellites collide and computers fail, it will still make a perfect page.


Editor’s note: Senator Nancy Ruth has confirmed that on her suggestion  the VOW typewriter and 2 DVDs of Voice of Women – The First Thirty Years were delivered by her to the Women’s Archives at Ottawa.