Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge features only names of women on streets and parks: one of few Canadian communities where this is the case. Many in the city – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge at the Galt Museum & Archives last winter highlighted fifteen women, including Jessie Turnbull and Mary Cameron.
Jessie Turnbull came to Lethbridge from Ontario to work as a nurse at the Galt Hospital, and became superintendent of nursing until she married G. W. Robinson in 1914. Along with women from the major churches in Lethbridge, she helped found the Women’s Relief Society. This organization provided support to families in need of food, clothing and coal. The need to provide medical care to people who could not afford doctor’s fees encouraged the women to change their Society into a Nursing Mission. Social work and nursing were blended as they cared for unwed mothers, provided free nursing to the poor, and assisted with pensions for mothers and the aged. The Mission provided invaluable social services in Lethbridge until provincial government programs started in 1955. As an extension of the Nursing Mission, Jessie spearheaded the distribution of Christmas hampers, and also sat on the Civic Club’s Board of Managers.
Mary Cameron was employed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1914, which fought to have the sale of alcohol prohibited. Later, she was employed by the Travelers’ Aid Society; one of her responsibilities was to meet all the trains coming into Lethbridge. She would often venture out in the middle of the night to meet travellers and make sure they were settled. The Society was started in England to help protect single young women moving to cities looking for work. It would be sure they had a safe place to live and screened potential employers to ensure the situation was appropriate. From 1918-1937 in Lethbridge, Mary Cameron met new immigrants, and helped them find family or homestead, found jobs for young women, and offered accommodation to those in need.
Miss Edith Fanny Kirk also benefitted from the local chapter of the Travelers’ Aid Society when she arrived here, and met Mary Cameron. A Legacy of Adventure & Art: The Life of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk has just opened at the Galt Museum & Archives. For details on the exhibit and related book, visit www.galtmuseum.com.