Monday, March 28, 2016

Two new fonds for researchers to use - Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route Association and RCMP Centennial fonds

Two new fonds, or ‘collections’ are available to researchers at the Archives of the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre. Our Archivist Carson has been working very hard on processing them for several months thanks to a grant from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation through the Archives Society of Alberta. The two fonds are F055 : Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route Association Fonds and F056 : Royal Canadian Mounted Police Centennial Fonds. Both fonds commemorate big events that happened in Peace River.

The Alexander Mackenzie Voyageur Route Association fonds (or AMVRA for short) is the collection of documents and photographs pertaining to the association that did a lot of planning for the 1993 Bicentennial. The Bicentennial was commemorating the completion of Alexander Mackenzie’s overland journey – the first white man to cross the North American continent, in 1793. The Association began as the Alexander Mackenzie Trail Association (AMTA) in 1985, and were advocates for the preservation of the Mackenzie Trail, an ancient trade-route used by the South Carrier Native Americans known as the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail. Eventually as the bicentennial got closer, the association became more actively involved in planning the BC portion of the celebration. A group of university students from Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, in northern Ontario, retraced Mackenzie’s route, paddling thousands of miles of rivers across the country. This troupe arrived in Peace River in 1992, and set off from Fort Fork in 1993 to complete the final leg of Mackenzie’s 1793 journey. The Association hoped to reach a national level, with branches all across the country celebrating and commemorating Mackenzie’s milestone achievement and Canada’s furtrade history. Unfortunately, after the bicentennial was completed in 1993, the Association began to lose steam. They eventually became part of the Sir Alexander Mackenzie Historical Society here in Peace River until AMVRA’s dissolution in 2013.

The records of this Association include numerous letters and planning documents pertaining to the Bicentennial and the Nuxalk-Carrier Grease Trail/Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail. There are a number of photographs of the trail and the various sites along it during the Bicentennial Celebrations.

The RCMP Centennial Fonds consists largely of meeting minutes and correspondence pertaining to the organization of the centennial events held in Peace River in 1998. The Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) arrived in Peace River in 1898 to help maintain peace and order. The RNWP was later reorganized into the Alberta Provincial Police in 1917. In 1932, Alberta reorganized its police force again, and joined it with the RCMP. 1998 also happened to be the 125th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police nationally. Most of the Peace River centennial was spearheaded by Mrs. Beverly Tailleur. She spent countless hours writing letters asking for sponsorship, coordinating events in Peace River including a formal ball, and keeping in touch with what other communities were doing in the Peace region to celebrate. An interesting series in this collection is that of murals painted in McLennan. It is believed Mrs. Tailleur photographed the murals as an example for what Peace River could do. It’s very interesting to see how some of the buildings have changed!

Drop in and have a look at the material. Descriptions and finding aids should be soon available on Alberta On Record and on the museum’s website – - have a look at what else we have while you’re there!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What’s in a woman’s name?

Mary Moore and Val Vaillancourt on their wedding day in 1946. PRMA 1973.531.044
We have heard, it seems forever, women have no names except for that of their husbands – that women are obliged to take their husband’s family name and thus become known as Mrs. So and So, not acknowledging the fact she has a name given her at birth by her parents, such as Mary or Anna.

Agreed, there are cases in which it has been the fault of women for letting this happen – on the other hand – society and a sense of decorum has been the dictator. There have even been women who have the audacity to not relinquish their family name for that of their husband.

Also, too, there were times in the early years and still, today, journalists/newspapers chose to refer to women by their husband’s name because of its political acceptability.

That’s how it was in the early years – not only in Peace River, but elsewhere. The practice created some difficulty for researchers, whether from newspapers or people seeking genealogical information and for women themselves who value – what they consider an important aspect of their identity – their name.

Most of us are familiar with what began as T. A. Norris High School, now T. A. Norris Middle School, named in honour of Thomas Albert Norris, proprietor of a Main Street furniture store – a man heavily involved in education and other important community aspects. According to one account in Peace River Remembers (Reprinted from 1955-56 issue of the Pioneer, Peace River High School Year Book): “Mr. Norris married [in 1901] and gained a companion, who gave him unfailing help and encouragement until her death in 1948. As well as caring for their children – two sons and a daughter, Mrs. Norris also served her church and community faithfully in a multitude of ways.” Nowhere in this particular article does it tell the reader this wonderful woman had a name. It is doubtful the exclusion was T. A.’s oversight – an oversight nonetheless. Research reveals her name – Lyde Jean – Etta, their daughter’s name.
So, what’s in a name? Much. Just think, April 19, 2016, is the 100th anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in Alberta – does voting not require identity verification?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

If an Unmarried Man is Called, ‘Bachelor,’ then an Unmarried Women is called a…?

By Laura Love
Today, March 8th 2016, is considered an international day of the celebration for all women. There is a wee bit of disagreement on when exactly the first International Women’s Day occurred. According to the United Nations this day was celebrated first in the United States in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York City. On this day, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, and better pay, along with the right to vote.

Throughout the 108 years since this first demonstration took place, we have seen the societal role of women change dramatically, as well as the terms used to describe these women. Historically, ‘Spinster,’ and ‘Old-Maid,’ have been used to describe women who had reached a certain age and were considered no longer desirable for marriage. There obviously could be many reasons why a woman historically wouldn’t wish to be married and still live a fulfilling life outside of traditional societal expectations.  Today, single women of any age are seldom referred to as ‘spinster’ or ‘old maid’, society having moved on from defining a woman’s status in society based on whether or not she is married. When describing an unmarried woman, ‘independent’, ‘single’ or ‘bachelorette’ are much more suitable and have fewer negative connotations associated with them.

As a community museum, we have a duty to highlight women’s contributions to our area, as much as men’s. For every man in history, it is important to recognize that he likely had the support of some strong female as an influence in his life – a mother, sister, wife, friend. This is evident even in our own community. In Peace River Remembers, many of the family histories highlight the role women played, though usually behind the scenes. The Quinn’s are a perfect example: “Mr. and Mrs. Quinn ran a bake shop…Ed was the baker, and his wife looked after the merchandising.” Aleda Evans Taylor recalls her uncle Thomas P. Evans, “with the invaluable assistance of my aunt, established his own grocery business.”  Without further research, we are hard pressed to know who those women were.
This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is acknowledging how women’s roles have evolved throughout history. There have been great strides made in many different facets of life by working women, both inside and outside the home. Therefore, for this year’s campaign, the IWD is having a call to action! #PledgeForParity is calling everyone, men and women to consider how they can “take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly - whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias.”

Mrs. Cruickshank (on the right) and Mrs. W.G.N. Johnston (on the left) with their gardening tools, a shovel and pitchfork. Peace River. ca. 1940s. PRMA: 1973.531.043

Alberta is doing great things for gender equality in the province! Yesterday, Alberta’s Status of Women Ministry, being Canada’s ‘only stand-alone ministry for the status of women ‘laid out a plan to improve gender equality! “We cannot build a stronger, more prosperous province if we leave women behind,” Premier Rachel Notley said in a media release. More information about this can be found here:

The Federal Government announced today that the image of an iconic Canadian woman will appear on the next issue of bank notes, expected in 2018!! More information can be found here:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Artistic stirrings with felted wool

Adele Boucher setting up art works made of buffalo fibre
The boreal forest exhibit at the Museum has inspired some though-provoking and divergent discussions. As the back drop to our livelihood in the Peace region, it’s preservation requires that we employ good stewardship practices and develop a finer appreciation for the diverse resources that make up this complex ecosystem.

For something a little unconventional, artistic expression derived from the resources of this boreal forest are on exhibit this month on the Museum’s monthly art wall. Wool and hair fibres have always been integral to human survival. Northern forest fur and hair bearing animals have been utilized by people to create objects to stay warm with like the soft woven rabbit blankets and tanned buffalo hides of the northern Cree, to the felted wool Hudson Bay Company trade blankets woven in England, the felted beaver top hats, the buffalo hide coats of the NWMP and the many carded wool quilts of the early settlers.

Creative use of the natural fibres of buffalo and sheep wool comes naturally, so to speak, to two local  fibre artists Rhonda Warren and Adele Boucher. Each have experience and knowledge working with the characteristics which buffalo down (yes, down) and merino sheep wool present to the process of wet felting, carding, spinning, weaving and knitting.

Felting, a lesser known heritage skill, compresses and entangles the scales of the wool fibre by hot water baths and energetic beating. The result is a thick, almost waterproof, fibre to sew or shape into utilitarian wear or wearable art. Between Adele and Rhonda, they have created felt insoles, vests, hats and coats (think about the boiled wool Austrian sweaters) as well as purses, necklaces or hair accessories. Adele has also on exhibit items knitted, crocheted and woven with yarns made from buffalo down.

If you cannot attend the Felting With Wool presentation on March 5th, 1pm at the Museum with Adele and Rhonda, you can still enjoy their wool fibre art on exhibit  the full month of March.