Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lethbridge women could vote in 1912?

There's something about Canada Day that makes me think about being a Canadian and the rights and responsibilities of a citizen. One of the rights (and responsibilities) is to vote.

A question we often get asked is when did women get the right to vote?

Not as easy to answer as you might think. In Alberta, women won the right to vote in 1916 (same year as Manitoba and Saskatchewan). Federally, women were able to vote in 1918. So the answer is 1916, right?

As this article from the 1 November 1912 Lethbridge Herald shows, it's not quite that simple. If you read the sub-title it mentions that "Quite a Number of Women" have their names on the voters list. This is 1912, 4 years before "Alberta" women could vote.

Voting was once the prerogative of only the "landed class" -- there was a property qualification. And property was the deciding factor if someone voted, even more so than gender. If a woman owned property, she could vote. The first woman to vote in Lethbridge actually voted in 1896. A recent widow, she voted in the school board elections as head of family. A woman's vote was often limited if she was married because the husband would vote for the family.

And yet this article suggests that in 1912 (in a city of approximately 10,000), 150 women would be voting. And, as I've been working on getting ready for my presentation on the history of Lethbridge's Red Light District for next week's Wednesday program here at the Galt, I also wonder how many of these voting women were madams? Hmmm!

I'd love to hear from some other communities. When did women vote municipally in your community? Was it before or after the province? The federal government? And when did renters in your community get the right to vote? We're trying to pin that date down for Lethbridge. (I say it was 1913; another staff says 1918.)

And, of course, I hope everyone has a fabulous Canada Day!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Did you make it to the Willamette Valley?

This fall we are having an exhibit on Toys and Games. With school programs winding down for this school year, I now have time to start planning the education programs to accompany this exhibit.

The other day a few of us were sitting around brainstorming ideas. Talk soon turned to our favourite educational computer games that we remembered from school.

It was amazing how many of us fondly remembered the Oregon Trail, a computer program designed to teach students about pioneer life in the 19th century. The player had to assume the role of trail leader and make all of the right decisions to get the wagon train from Missouri to Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Did you ever play the game? Did you make it to Oregon? Or did you, like so many others, die of dysentery somewhere along the trail?

Soon the talk turned to some of our other favourite games from school. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was quickly mentioned as another favourite. This game had the player tracking around the world (learning world geography) to arrest Carmen's henchmen and, eventually, Carmen herself. And you had to do it before time ran out.

Do you have other favourites? Ones you recommend?

I'm not sure how these games could be tied into our school programs (I envision long line ups for an entire class to give it a try) but I'll see how the education planning progresses over the summer. But considering the animated way staff and volunteers talk about and remember these games (even years and years later) makes me plan to try very hard to find a way to fit them in.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Gathering Memories

In the fall of 2010, the Galt Museum & Archives celebrated the Centennial of the 1910 historic Galt Hospital building which is an integral part of the Museum complex. The provincially designated historic building was opened as an addition to an existing hospital on September 1, 1910 by then Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It served as a hospital and nursing school until 1955 when the hospital operation and Nursing School moved to a new Regional Hospital. At that time the building was put into use as the Galt Rehabilitation Centre or Long Term Care facility until 1965. The building was then shared by the City of Lethbridge Health Unit and the Galt Museum and Archives during the years 1965 to the early 1980s. At that time, the entire building was turned over to the Galt Museum and Archives.

Many people who worked or were associated with the 1910 building still live in this area. We decided to gather stories from them through video taped interviews. We heard tales of nurses being frightened when they needed to go outside to the laundry in the middle of the night, how they feared and respected the doctors, and what it was like to give a patient a sponge bath for the first time. The Ladies Auxilliary for the Rehabilitation Centre raised funds for the organization, tutored young people in their school work, and brought in music to entertain the patients. The Health Unit staff shared stories of their work as they gave school children innoculations, examined restaurants for cleaniness, and sprayed areas to get rid of mosquitoes. The Museum and Archives folks had great fun telling stories about one another, reliving the development and changes in the museum, and honouring our 30 year veteran Archivist, Greg Ellis.

All the video taped stories gathered from people involved with the various service organizations housed in the historic Galt Hospital building will soon be added to the wealth of information in the Galt Archives and accessible for research. Peoples' stories and anecdotes enhance what we know about our past . They enrich our community memory.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Of Historic Buildings and Jaywalking

I love historic buildings. There, I've admitted it. They say that's the first step. When I think of the downtown or of the city in general, I think of the buildings first. But, not surprisingly, people interact with those buildings and the downtown.

After work this past week I have attended a few workshops on PRATS (the Public Realm and Transportation Survey being done for the downtown). It has been fascinating listening to the different ideas about how to improve the downtown.

One thing I've come to realize is that jaywalking by-laws may influence the viability of the downtown and (in a round about way) encourage the preservation of the historic buildings located there.

We need to make the downtown more viable. One way to do that is to get more people down there and to keep them there longer. Rather than driving through, people need to walk and explore and sit for a coffee and shop and… The best downtowns are gathering places, living places, walking places – the downtown needs to be pedestrian friendly.

When it was built 10o+ years ago, our downtown was all of these things. The city was smaller. People were more accustomed to walking. There was less competition with vehicles. But, especially since the Second World War, we have created a world designed for cars and we have become a society much more about getting places rather than staying places. Now we’re trying to reverse that. How to achieve it?

According to some web-sites I found, Jaywalking laws were deliberately promoted by automobiles enthusiasts and dealers to redefine the concept of the street as solely the purview of cars and not pedestrians. Jaywalking was a way to protect the pedestrian but just as importantly it was a way to clear the street of walkers so that cars could travel easier and quicker.

One of the concepts being discussed now is to have the downtown redesigned in a way that makes the place more walkable and more about sharing the space rather than completely delineating it. The plan is to make the sidewalks bigger so people will walk more. Make the roads smaller, so traffic will slow down. If the roads are smaller and traffic is slower, there are more people and people will shop and access the cafes and restaurants and (my strongest hope) appreciate the historic buildings more. And (and here you can really see my bias) if the sidewalks are larger there will be much better opportunities for taking guided historic walking tours through the downtown to build even more appreciation of its unique history and architecture. [This is not for all roads in the downtown. Cars do still need to get places, too.]

And I think in all of this we should have a really serious review of our jaywalking bylaws. I know some cities have made jaywalking legal in their downtowns. I would love to hear from people. Does it work? Or not?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Which way do we go?

Right now, wherever you’re sitting or standing, can you accurately point north (or east, west, south)?

Over the last few weeks I’ve led many school programs in the cemetery. Students have to do field research – find particular headstones and answer questions based on the information on the headstone. In order to do this they have to find the headstones.

The worksheet tells them which area (by direction) a headstone is located. Example -- On the south side, find the headstone for Paul Smith...

I have learned from years of working with students that before we can begin the activity, I need to review with them (several times) which direction is which. Many students (not all) have no sense of direction at all.

So that got me thinking. Is this normal? Or are we less able to tell directions now than our ancestors could? Or (and, yes, I have a bias here) are people raised in the country better at directions then people from the city? As people become more accustomed to GPS and machines for directions, is this a skill that will disappear?

I have an image of people today as pioneers of centuries past trying to cross a country. With their bad direction finding, if you told them to head west, they could have ended up anywhere. And they never would have made it to town (without roads) to get supplies.

So, now I'm curious. Are you good at directions? If so, who taught you and how did you learn? If you're not good at directions, do you ever find it a problem? Would love to get your responses.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Artist and Mystery

Banff at November, watercolour by Edith F. Kirk, 1947

For 35 years, Lethbridge was the home of an accomplished and well known artist and art teacher. Edith Fanny Kirk, or Miss Kirk as most people called her, created water colour landscapes of England, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Waterton, Banff, and Jasper. She taught many children and adults the skills of painting. She also spoke at the Mathesis Club presenting papers on the development of Modern Art, the evolution of art and art appreciation. Joan Stebbins, past Curator at the SAAG, credits the influence of Miss Kirk for the development of the Lethbridge Sketch (now Artists’) Club in the 1930s.

When Miss Kirk arrived in Lethbridge in 1918, she was 60 years old. She was born in 1858 and was raised in Yorkshire, England. Her mother, Fanny (nee Maugham) passed away when Edith was a young girl and her father remarried. The story, from second hand sources, was that she and her step mother did not like one another. This proved to be a blessing in disguise because Edith was sent away to study art. Edith studied in South Kensington, London and Paris. During her summers she joined artist’s colonies in Cornwall, Wales and Yorkshire. She wrote of Impressionist Paul Cezanne being her “model and inspiration” and she greatly admired Romantic artist John Sell Cotman.

Kirk never married and, for some reason, she decided to immigrate to Canada at the age of 46. She arrived in Halifax aboard the HMS Canada in April 1905. The passenger list indicated she was travelling on to Vancouver and her occupation was listed as a Governess. It seems she didn’t stay long in Vancouver but soon travelled to Atlin, BC. To get to Atlin, Kirk would have taken a ship to Skagway, the White Pass Railway to Carcross and then an overland and boat trip to Atlin. It is a mystery why she chose to go to a remote gold rush town in north western British Columbia.

Next we find Kirk, in 1911, boarding with the Woods family in Lillooet, northwest of Kamloops, BC. There she is a public school teacher. Seven years later Edith Kirk is in Lethbridge. It seems she knew people living in Taber, Dr. Alfred Hamman and his sister Mrs. Sylvia Gidman, who came from her homeland in England so chose visit. The charm of the prairie and mountain landscapes of southern Alberta enticed her to stay. Miss Kirk lived in the Victoria Mansion and the Traveller’s Aid Society building and she taught art classes at the YMCA for a few dollars a month.

Miss Edith Kirk is a mysterious lady who came from an influential family in Yorkshire, travelled to remote towns in western Canada and then settled in Lethbridge. We don’t know why she left England, nor how she would find herself in the far northern reaches of British Columbia. Trying to fill in the many gaps of her life is an interesting challenge. In my search for more about Miss Kirk I have communicated with John S. Kirk, the Kirk family genealogist, searched many Archives, Museums and Galleries, Library & Archives Canada, U of L Art Gallery and SAAG files, and this July I will drive to Lillooett, BC to search through the records of the Lillooett News in hopes of finding more about this fascinating lady.

If you can help me solve any of the many mysteries surrounding Edith Fanny Kirk or know where any of her art works reside I would appreciate hearing from you.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Feeling Trivial

As I was feeling "trivial" today I thought I'd share a few Lethbridge and Canadian events that occurred on June 3.

Montreal team introduces the sport of lacrosse to Britain

the first Canadian Pacific train beyond Montreal arrives in Saint John, marking the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway as a coast to coast railway.

Conservatives name Brigadier General Stewart as their candidate for July 28th federal election

Lethbridge has 1000 unemployed; the jobless are drifting into town

Dr. Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin, is knighted by King George V.

1,000 unemployed men board freight cars in Vancouver to begin the On to Ottawa protest trek; would end in the Regina Riot

dust storm rolls over the south; reaches Lethbridge at sundown

US President Eisenhower bounces a message off the moon to Canadian Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

number of Lethbridge voters may pass 18,000

Official opening of Toronto's SkyDome, a $500 million domed stadium; 50,000 baseball fans soaked by rain when retractable roof opens.

Queen Elizabeth unveils war memorial in Green Park (London, England) to honour Canadians who fought and died in both world wars.