Secret Life of Canada

An ode to grandmothers on International Women's Day

In a special shout out for International Women's Day, The Secret Life of Canada asked listeners to share stories about the amazing matriarchs hidden in their family histories.

The Secret Life of Canada celebrates all the women hidden in our family trees

Consuelo Ingente Cueto Ocreto holds her granddaughter Christine Pagulayan. This photo was shot at Chudleigh’s Farm in Milton, Ont. in 1989. 

Not every person worth remembering made it into the history books. Each month, the Secret Life of Canada shouts out a Canadian or Indigenous person that has had a lasting impact worth celebrating. 

How much do you know about your grandmothers? What are their stories worth to you? 

In a special shout out for International Women's Day, The Secret Life of Canada asked listeners to share valued stories about the matriarchs hidden in their family histories.

Rose Nimon and granddaughter Debbie Donsky beam as they embrace. (Debbie Donsky)

These women may not have been written about, or have won awards, or have achieved historic "firsts" but the people they were and the choices they made had a huge impact on their communities, families and descendants. 

The voice memos poured in.

We heard about a woman who hid in the woods to avoid persecution, and another who raised children alone after her husband was kidnapped, and another who defied the odds to study medicine. Whether up against controlling husbands, strict social expectations or the dangers of war, these women found ways to survive, thrive and take what control they could of their lives. 

Cheers to all the grandmothers rooted in this land and all over the world. We literally wouldn't be here without them. 

A sincere thanks to these grandchildren

  • Margarita Valderrama Medina told us about her Colombian abuelita Helda Gutierrez de Medina.
  • Rohit Joseph told us about his amma Tessy Thomas who pushed for more recycling in Bangalore, India. 
  • Adam Carriere acknowledged all the forgotten Metis grandmothers who lost their Indigenous status. 
  • Shari Robitaille told us about her French-Canadian grandma Helen Robitaille. 
  • Alexa Keeler told us about her bapci Anna Gimon who grew up in Russian-occupied Ukraine. 
  • Sylvie Browne told us about both her defiant "gramma" as well as her accomplished "granny." 
  • Christine Pagulayan told us about her Filipina-Canadian grandma Consuelo Ingente Cueto Ocreto. 
  • Deb Donsky told us about her grandma and "love of her life," Rose (nee Rachlin) Nimon.

While we could not include all the wonderful stories we were sent, we would like to sincerely thank everyone who submitted a story. 

Helda Gutierrez de Medina models one of her beautiful hats. (Margarita Valderrama Medina)

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