Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Honouring Women of Lethbridge

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge features only names of women on streets and parks. This is one of few Canadian communities where this is the case. Many citizens – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea in the city. 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, includingThyrza Burkitt and Haru Moriyama.

Thyrza Burkitt was born in Hull, England in 1884. As a young girl, she emigrated to Cardston where her father owned a store and was the magistrate. Many of her father’s clients were First Nations and this stimulated Thyrza’s lifelong interest in their culture. She began to build a personal collection of their art and handmade items from neighbouring Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), and Amskapi Pikuni (Blackfeet) tribes.  Later on in life Thyrza took up painting; studying in Los Angeles and Banff. She painted many scenes of First Nations life. She also wrote articles, plays, biographies and a dictionary of Blackfoot terms. This passion led her to write for Crucible Magazine published in Toronto from 1932-1943.

Haru Moriyama came to Canada in 1912 as a picture bride from Japan.  Japanese men working in Canada asked their parents to find a bride for them.  Photos of the bride and groom were exchanged during the negotiations.  During the Second World War, Haru’s family was relocated from their fruit farm in Mission City, British Columbia to Coalhurst. Haru and her family worked in the beet fields doing the labour intensive work of thinning, hoeing and harvesting sugar beets. After the war ended they moved to a farm in Picture Butte.  Despite all their hardships, Haru could proudly say her children became upstanding Canadian citizens. She passed away in 1985.

The Galt’s new Virtual Museum of Canada exhibit, Nikkei Tapestry: Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta, includes more information on picture brides as well as the relocation of Japanese Canadians during WWII: www.nikkei-tapestry.ca. For more information on current happenings at the Galt, visit www.galtmuseum.com.

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