Interview of Diane Duggan
Profile — Diane Duggan 1942-1989
From Women Speak (Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women newsletter), Vol. 7, No. 1, Summer 1989
In travelling across the country to various women's conferences and meetings, I have been struck by the cohesiveness and strength of the women's community in St. John's. We are a small group of women, but committed and hardworking. When asked how we've managed to accomplish so much, I've replied that thanks to these women, we manage to tackle issues headlong (and perhaps headstrong). One of the women who was always at the front of these battles and who immediately came to mind when listing the "strong" women in our community was Diane Duggan. Diane was a leader, a catalyst, a rabble rouser, a mother, a sister, and a friend. On April 27, 1989 Diane died suddenly, leaving a large empty space in our community and in our hearts.
Diane was born in Halifax on June 1, 1942 and soon after moved with her family to Montreal. (She blamed this move to Montreal for her inability to ride a bicycle — too much traffic). At fourteen Diane arrived on Bell Island. It was here she met and married Pat Duggan, at the tender age of nineteen. She and Pat had four children — Ann, Laura, Sean, and Jenny — and spent much of their married life moving from city to city following Pat's work.
It was while living in Kitchener, Ontario that Diane was first exposed to the women’s movement. There was a Women's Centre in Kitchener at that time and Diane spoke of dropping by there (a rather intimidated and shy housewife) to see what it was all about. She talked about being "pretty green" but excited by the new ideas and radical views. It was in this environment that the Diane many of us knew began to emerge. She became involved in many issues in Kitchener and actually came to Newfoundland in the early seventies to speak on behalf of C.A.R.A.L. In the mid-seventies, Diane and her family moved back to Newfoundland, bringing her feminist philosophy and gift for organizing to us.
Having been bitten by that pesky feminist bug, Diane soon connected with the Women's Centre in St. John's and began the anti-rape movement in Newfoundland. In 1977 Diane was instrumental in starting up the Rape Crisis Centre and the anti-rape movement would continue to be the major focus of her life. She started by training others and sharing the knowledge she had gathered on the "mainland" and by making rape an issue in this province. She continued to be the spokesperson on rape over the next dozen years and her words on the subject will live on for another dozen, I'm sure.
Diane was also involved at the national level as the Atlantic representative for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres. It was this group which energized Diane, and she felt a strong bond with women across the country through this network. She also "put Newfoundland on the map" as far as the anti-rape movement was concerned. Never one to sit back and be talked at, Diane was well-known within C.A.S.A.C. for her hard work, commitment, stubbornness, and tenacity.
Although this movement was Diane's "baby", she was deeply involved in other issues in the community. She was a member of the Working Group on Child Sexual Abuse and facilitated a survivor's group for women who had been abused as children. She was a member of the Avalon Consolidated School Board from 1977, served on the boards of Planned Parenthood, the Women's Centre, and the School Tax Authority, and was a director with the School Trustees' Association for a number of years.
Diane also did paid work, although it's hard to understand how she found the time. Shortly after her return to St. John's her marriage broke down, and her ex-husband and children moved to Ottawa. This was a very stressful time for Diane, and she threw herself into her work with the women's movement as well as her job at Exon House as Co-ordinator of Volunteers, where she remained until last year. She then took a position as a Public Relations Specialist for the Provincial Government.
But all of these words are simply facts about Diane Duggan. What I'd like to share with you is another side of Diane, a side her friends knew and feminists were familiar with. Diane loved a party. I can see her leaning on the photocopier at the Women's Centre at a T.G.I.F., cigarette in one hand and wine glass in the other, chatting (or lecturing) about the latest atrocities committed by the patriarchy. She always seemed to be part of a group, and she was usually the one talking.
Diane wasn't always the easiest person to get along with; she could argue with the best of them, and if you happened to come down on the other side of an issue from Diane, you had your work cut out for you. She'd sit, listen and analyze and then come at you with counter-arguments that boggled the mind. She was quick, and she was good. She'd take anybody on and usually win. Then she'd sit down with a drink, a cigarette, and a grin on her face and tell you how she did it.
There was also the private Diane, who loved Christmas, cooking, dinner parties and sitting home watching movies. She spent most of the last ten years of her life living with Mary Doyle who could always be seen with Diane or close by. They shared more than living quarters; they shared a deep and caring friendship.
Diane will be missed, not only by her family and friends, but by the community. In writing this piece, my one regret is that she will never read it and know how important she was and is to all of us.
— Beth Lacey