Each year the priest would visit her parents shack and tell them of God's will that they produce another child. If one were not on the way the mother would be admonished and the father told to do his duty to god.
This was the basic means of the Church's control over the population. Women were to submit to their husband and the church. A life of producing and caring for children and her husband. Families with many children meant women could not think for themselves, they had too much to do just in feeding and watching over children.
At the age of six, Gertrude was sent by force, to the mission school outside the village of Williams Lake. She did not want to go, her mother needed her oldest child to stay home to help look after the four other children as she was again with child, her sixth. The Church won.
At the mission school Gertrude learned the meaning of church. She was beaten for speaking her language, beaten for mentioning boys or looking at them, beaten for not bowing to the priest's needs when he entered her room or dormitory. She would spend three years with each summer off to return home. Each year she was forced to go back.
This school taught her about god's design, to have a large family, to submit to men and the church. Her role was in effect to be a baby production tool. That may sound somewhat crude, yet that is what many women became.
The government sanctioned the beatings, the control, imposed by priests and nuns under direction from "God". My great-grandmother turned out to one of the lucky ones, she escaped the clutches of this tyranny imposed by the church and government when she discovered the condom.
Condoms could be found, from other women and sometimes a doctor had them. You had to be quiet, you did not tell people. Gertrude when married insisted on using the condom and when the priest told her she would burn in hell she told him to go their himself as he had put her mother through hell on earth.
Now that act of using a condom, by my great-grandmother and many other great grandmothers in itself has not led directly to gay rights being recognized today, it is however an act that if it had not occurred, would have entrenched the Church's control.
We as a society soon discovered as many Catholics know today, that using a condom and sex itself are not sins despite the words of priests to the contrary. If it turns out to be a sin sobeit.
Marriage was used by government and religion to control the masses. Government slowly moved to provide civil marriages, to provide divorce, to make women equal partners to their husbands. Obey has been removed from most marriage oaths taken this day, with many couples writing their own marriage vows, marriages held in non traditional venues, without the church.
Marriage has evolved and one of the contributors was a condom, each time it was used and insisted upon by my great-grandmother and others of her generation, they took back their lives and set us all on the path to equality.
Today as the representative of the Queen assents to the will of the House of Commons and the Senate, gays and lesbians will be permitted to marry from coast to coast to coast. Today is also the day when many of my great-grandmothers generation and later generations will be hearing about a settlement offer from the federal government with respect to the abuse they received in the mission schools.
None of Gertrude's three children or their children went to a residential school.
Today I celebrate Gramma's contribution to my freedom and the freedom she gave her children.
Left to right - My great grandmother, my sibling Maureen, my great great grandmother (mother of 14) holding my brother Keith, grandmother standing and that is yours truly sitting on the arm of the chair in 1960.
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