Women’s issues have always appealed to Ettie Rutherford.
The retired school principal founded the Congress of Black Women York Region and Oshawa/Whitby chapters and has been an integral part of the national women’s organization for many years, serving as the Ontario region representative from 2005 to 2009.
In September 2010, Rutherford established a consulting business to train and empower women to reach their highest potential, and last Sunday she launched her first book, Women Are Worthy: Why Perch Like A Chick When You Can Soar Like An Eagle?
“This is another milestone in my life,” said Rutherford, who founded Women Are Worthy and ER Education Consulting. “I want women to know there is something that all of us can do. You do not have to sit around, have pity parties and depend on others to do things for you.”
Rutherford speaks from personal experience after she and her four kids were abandoned by her first husband after the family migrated from Jamaica to Alberta.
A graduate of Mico Teachers’ College, Rutherford taught at St. Anne’s Elementary School in Kingston and Columbus High School in St. Ann’s Bay before relocating to Canada in 1967.
“From the time I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “In the late 1960s, Alberta was experiencing an oil boom and they were building schools and hiring trained teachers from the Commonwealth. A friend of mine who was teaching in Alberta alerted me to this and I decided to pursue that avenue.”
Rutherford accepted a teaching position in Smith, a rural hamlet north of Edmonton with a population of about 500 people.
“Making the adjustment from Jamaica to northern Alberta felt like being roughly pulled, without any warning, from a bed covered with cozy blankets and thrust naked into a cistern of ice cold water,” Rutherford writes in the book. “It was like a second birth as I worked at adapting to the changes in climate, food, available resources and new educational practices.”
Rutherford brought her eldest son, Toni, with her and the rest of the family members followed.
After three years, she joined the Calgary Catholic School Board. It was during this time that her challenging relationship with her husband ended.
In the book, she details the emotional abuse she experienced.
“Society seems to pay attention to physical torment more than emotional abuse because there are no broken bones, bloody noses or black eyes that are evident,” said Rutherford who was a language arts consultant and vice-principal with the Calgary Catholic School Board. “When I talk about emotional abuse, it’s not only about yelling and name-calling. It’s about silent treatment which (I) and my kids were subjected to for years. That was my first husband’s most potent weapon when he was upset.”
Despite the challenges, Rutherford graduated with a Master’s of Education degree from the University of Calgary and was an active volunteer in her community, serving as president of the Caribbean Canadian Association and the Jamaican Canadian Association and vice-president of the Calgary Multicultural Centre. She also volunteered with the Calgary Police to effect positive change in the community.
In 1988, Rutherford and her new husband moved to the Greater Toronto Area and she joined the York Region Catholic School Board, rising to the rank of principal before retiring in June 2009.
“I saw retirement as a time of retrospection and celebration,” said Rutherford, who is a recipient of the Kay Livingstone Award and a Certificate of Recognition presented by former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, for her contribution to multiculturalism in Alberta. “I realized that I was presented with a golden opportunity to use my talents and the lessons that I had learned on life’s journey. I saw myself contributing in a different area. Remaining stagnant is never an option.”
She said the idea for the book was conceived after attending a “Selling, Writing and Speaking” conference in San Diego in the summer of 2011.
“The individual who dealt with the writing aspect of the presentation really impressed me,” said Rutherford. “We later spoke and she told me she was having a writing retreat in Los Angeles for about 10 women the following month. I knew that this was my chance to do this book for women and I went out to California and I got the help I needed to complete this project.”
Individuals interested in purchasing the book can contact Rutherford at ettie@womenRworthy.com for more details.