Sandra Pyke

Women's rights

Being raised by strong women as a child, and experiencing gender discrimination throughout her teenage and adult years, Pyke became dedicated to eradicating inequality as a young adult. While a graduate student at York University, on the encouragement of a colleague, Pyke began to put her feminist mindset into action as she became a member and elected official of the Toronto Women’s Caucus (TWC). The TWC was a feminist action organization that existed between 1970 and 1972 and focused largely on the issue of abortion, which was at the forefront of the women’s liberation movement in Canada at the time.



The Velvet Fist was a cross-country feminist newspaper launched by the TWC in 1970. Click to see more:

Pyke recalls her involvement with the group in her interview with PFV:

The TWC co-existed with the Vancouver Women’s Caucus, a group that organized the notorious Abortion Caravan, a protest movement against amendments to the Criminal Code that restricted access to abortion. The Abortion Caravan travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa, garnering support along the way, and culminated with actions at the House of Commons and the Prime Minister’s residence, where a coffin was symbolically placed on the doorstep. The protestors infiltrated the House of Commons, chained themselves to their seats in the audience gallery, and then disrupted proceedings, being the first group to shut down the House of Commons in protest.

Psychology

Pyke’s activism extended into the academy as she organized the Underground Symposium “On Women, By Women” in 1971 with six other graduate students in response to the Canadian Psychological Association’s (CPA) rejection of their conference paper submissions on feminist topics. In an act of protest, the students decided to organize their own conference in a hotel adjacent to where the CPA was being held, accessible by way of an underground tunnel – hence the name of the symposium. The Underground Symposium garnered significant attention with a high attendance leaving standing room only as well as press coverage from the Montreal Star newspaper and the Ontario Psychologist.

It was an event that helped to precipitate changes at the CPA, including the establishment of the Task Force on Women in Psychology which produced over 100 recommendations and led to the establishment of the Section on Women in Psychology (SWAP). Pyke served as the first coordinator of SWAP, and as CPA President in 1981-1982.


It was an event that helped to precipitate changes at the CPA, including the establishment of the Task Force on Women in Psychology which produced over 100 recommendations and led to the establishment of the Section on Women in Psychology (SWAP). Pyke served as the first coordinator of SWAP, and as CPA President in 1981-1982.