Friday, October 28, 2016

Women in the Archives

by Carson Murphy, Archivist

I couldn’t let Women’s History Month pass without mentioning some of the women involved in making the archives what they are. It is no secret that much of history is dominated by the male narrative, but what we sometimes forget as a society is that women did record many of these stories, especially in the past couple of centuries. Women recorded the births, marriages, deaths and other family milestones in the family Bible. How many of us had a mother or grandmother who clipped the obits and birth announcements from the paper? Who (one hopes) labeled the photographs of their children as they grew? The task to collect and preserve this information is just one more responsibility unassumingly donned by women and like so many of their other contributions in the past, generally goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Unless you are an historian or genealogist – in which case you’re often very grateful!

Mae Gauvreau on the D.A. Thomas holding her Kodak
Brownie camera. Of the photographs in the 1980.1131 donation,
 it is assumed several where taken by her. PRMA1980.1131.021.

As our donation records attest, it is often women who see the importance in collecting and safeguarding their family’s history. Whether it be in photographs, albums, scrapbooks, letters, or diary entries. They recorded minutes at countless meetings, including the societies formed by and for women such as the Imperial Order of Daughters of Empire, the Alberta Women’s Institute, the Lioness Club, Women’s Auxiliary, Anglican Church Ladies, United Church Ladies, Catholic Women’s League, the Kinnettes, Order of the Eastern Star, and later the Legion and Rotary. Many of these items were created by women, and then donated to the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre by them or female descendants.

The museum itself was established by the Peace River Women’s Institute, and prominent names such as Evelyn Mercer, Muriel Oslie, Eva Northey, Evelyn Hansen, Clara Richardson, Barbara Crawford, Evelyn Seeley, Edith Cruickshank, Aurelia Vangrud, Edith Clarke, Lois Stranaghan, Jean Cameron Kelley, Anne Macmillan, Katharine Hoskin Hunt, Adele Boucher and many others continually appear again and again as donors, volunteers, advocates and supporters. They saw the value in preserving these pieces of our community’s history. To all of the women who have contributed to and inspired the Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre, we are truly grateful.

Want to know more the records we hold in our archives? Drop in or give us a call or email, and I’d be happy to show you some of our archival material. We have records for several of the organizations mentioned earlier, and thousands of photographs. Or drop into the museum and see our new exhibit Silent Dreams: Their Story, an exhibit that examines the challenges faced by women from pre-fur trade to the present day. 

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