The Visitors

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I was researching early Edmonton women’s organizations at the Provincial Archives of Alberta and I came across some very interesting hand-written minutes from the early 20th century that led me down several archival rabbit holes. So I hope you can bear with me and read through my entire slightly long-winded post.

The minutes that I was researching were created by such organizations as the Edmonton Local Council of Women (ELCW), the Edmonton Chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE), and the Alberta Federation of Women. Women’s associations carried out a heavy load of charitable work long before governments took this on.

National Council of Women, Edmonton [1900], Provincial Archives of Alberta #A5605

I titled this painting The Visitors after the Visiting and Relief Committee of the Edmonton Chapter of the IODE. Most often they were simply referred to as “The Visitors” in the minutes. This committee was started to help some of the women and families of the soldiers who were serving overseas in the First World War. Although the Canadian Patriotic Fund paid the women and families an allowance, it was rarely enough and was sometimes lost in bureaucracy. The Visitors went to the women’s homes and assessed their needs, and then found support for them. The March 1916 report stated that the Visitors had visited and assisted 2343 families since the committee’s inception in August 1914.

The Visitors by Marlena Wyman, 2019, Image transfer & oil stick on Mylar, 20″ X 20″

The minutes record good works such as providing furniture, clothing, food, coal for heating, and short-term loans. On several occasions it is mentioned that the Visitors took children of sick or deceased mothers into their own homes.

Edmonton IODE Relief & Visiting Committee report, 1 February 1915, Provincial Archives of Alberta #74.1/180

Edmonton IODE Relief & Visiting Committee minutes, 9 March 1916, Provincial Archives of Alberta #74.1/182

Not all of the work of these women’s organizations was of such a benevolent nature. They were on the forefront of initiatives such as banning black immigration, advocating for eugenics, and the intrusive assimilation of indigenous peoples.

I noticed contradictions in some of the work that these women’s organizations did. I assume that it depended on the leadership in the organizations at any one time. For example, in the Nov 4, 1907 minutes of the Edmonton IODE, the need for a club room for homeless and foreign girls was discussed.

Edmonton IODE minutes, 4 November 1907, Provincial Archives of Alberta, #74.1/183

Yet in the April 7, 2011 minutes of the Edmonton Local Council of Women, the same IODE group presented a letter recommending that a petition be sent to Frank Oliver, asking for action on “the danger to Alberta from the rapid increase in Negro immigration”.

Edmonton IODE letter dated 29 March 1911, presented at the Local Council of Women meeting April 7, 1911. ELCW minutes, Provincial Archives of Alberta #74.1/191

Frank Oliver, Edmonton MLA, MP, Minister of the Interior, Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, and owner of the press (The Edmonton Bulletin) had a very influential hand in much of the harm that was done in our early history; so much so that it would take too long to go into all the details here. I refer you to (now) Senator Paula Simons’ Edmonton Journal article of August 30, 2017.

Edmonton Local Council of Women minute, 7 November 1911, Provincial Archives of Alberta, #74.1/191

I noted another contradiction in the Nov 7, 1911 minutes of the Edmonton Local Council of Women, where a motion was passed for “the appointment of matrons to Indian reserves”.  The job of a matron was to encourage assimilation of indigenous women and girls by teaching them to make their homes like those of white people. It was considered that the indigenous way of life was unsanitary and that the women lacked in proper mothering skills.

Yet, in the mid 20th century, the IODE sponsored educational bursaries and leadership training for indigenous girls, as well as Cree language programs, and native friendship centres.Alberta Federation of Women resolution, 2 October 1938, Glenbow Archives

The belief that indigenous women were not good mothers also resulted in the tragic involuntary sterilization of many indigenous women, who were particularly targeted by eugenics legislation. Eugenics is a part of our history that caused much harm, and Alberta was in the forefront of the legislation with the 1928 Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta. Again, paradoxically, women’s groups who were simultaneously fighting for women’s rights, also led the charge for eugenics.

We are influenced by the zeitgeist of our time and we can be easily led astray.  Just ask any advertiser whether what they do is profitable and successful. For example, the eugenics movement was started largely due to fear and faulty information.  Insanity was widely defined, and it was thought that all mental illness was inherited. The common thinking of the time claimed that if the population of the “insane” continued to grow, then soon half the population would be in insane asylums and the other half would be caring for them.

Human beings are flawed. We are none of us perfect, and we all possess both good and bad – although some gravitate more toward either end of that spectrum. The negative parts of our history need to be unearthed and remembered along with the good. Destroying and burying what we are ashamed of and would rather not remember, means that we forget about the harm that was done and that harm can be repeated. Telling both sides of the story is an opportunity for learning and doing better.

Although today it is difficult to understand some of the thinking of the past, it is important to consider the influences of those times because analogous forms of influence come into play every day. History lays the foundation for critical thinking, moral sense, and vigilance so we can protect human rights and freedoms.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

 

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The Beulah Home for Unfortunate Women and Girls

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My most recent painting titled The Beulah Home for Unfortunate Women and Girls, is based on my research at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.

The Beulah Home for Unfortunate Women and Girls by Marlena Wyman, 20″X20″, image transfer and oil stick on Mylar and birch panel

Beulah Home letterhead,  Provincial Archives of Alberta, # PR1971.0047

The Beulah Home for unwed mothers and their babies was founded in Edmonton in 1909 by Maude Elizabeth Chatham and Clara Schafer, who worked most notably with long-serving Superintendent Mary A. Finlay and Nurse Olivia Eidsath. In 1911, Edmonton businessman Alexander Ronald donated two acres of agricultural land at what is now 134 Avenue and 101 Street, and a purpose-built home was built. The house was decorated in a cozy, homey way rather than appearing institutional, and the Home welcomed the women and girls into the Beulah “family” during their stay. Gardens were planted and tended to by the residents of the home.

Beulah Home, 1912,  Provincial Archives of Alberta, # PR1971.0047 (Unfortunately later demolished)

The Beulah Home was privately funded, and emphasized compassion and forgiveness, providing interdenominational Christian guidance for the women and girls to help in “recovering them to a healthy, moral and spiritual life”. The spiritual instruction appeared not to be heavy-handed, and they were also taught vocational training in the domestic arts, as well as how to care for their babies.

Beulah Home babies, 1928, Provincial Archives of Alberta, # PR1971.0047

Reports employed various adjectives to describe of the women and girls who came to them: unfortunate, fallen, needy, erring, wandering, and “young girls who have stepped aside”. However, with an attitude that was unusual, they did not blame the women and girls, but rather condemned the absent men who had led them astray.

Excerpt from Beulah Home report, 1914, Provincial Archives of Alberta,# PR1971.0047

The Beulah Home differed from other institutions of the day in another significant way. It was common practice at the time to pressure unwed mothers into giving up their babies for adoption, and in some cases babies were taken away from the mother immediately after giving birth. Although the Beulah Home arranged for adoptions, they also helped mothers to keep their babies if they wished to do so; an enlightened view well ahead of its time.

If you are interested in reading further about the Beulah Home, and other historical perspectives on childbearing, read Amy Kaler’s Baby Trouble in the Last Best West: Making New People in Alberta, 1905 – 1939.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

 

 

Bluebird: Madeleine Jaffray

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My latest painting is the second to be inspired by the archival record of another Edmonton woman’s experience of the First World War. 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of that tragic war, which has compelled me to research some of those stories. I was looking through Madeleine Jaffray’s scrapbook at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and her story touched me.

I titled the painting “Bluebird”, the nickname for the Nursing Sisters in the war who wore blue uniforms and white veils.

Bluebird by Marlena Wyman. Oil stick, graphite and image transfer on Mylar and birch panel, 2018.  16”x 20” diptych

Madeleine Frances Jaffray was born in 1889. She served as a lieutenant and nursing sister in the Canadian Army during the First World War. Madeleine was one of 10 nurses sent overseas in 1915 by the Canadian National Nursing Association in answer to an appeal made by the French Flag Nursing Corps.

Madeleine Jaffray [1917] Provincial Archives of Alberta A14050. Photographer: Milne Studios, Toronto

Face Patients, Gironde, France [1917], (Madeleine Jaffray marked with X). Madeleine Morrison fonds, Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1986.54.0012.35

On June 5, 1917 Madeleine was wounded in a bombing while stationed at a hospital at Adinkerke, Belgium. The injury resulted in the amputation of her left foot, making her Canada’s only female war amputee. In recognition of her service and injury, Madeleine was presented with the Croix de Guerre, the first Canadian woman to receive this honour.

My evacuation day, Adinkerke, Belgium, 1917. Madeleine Morrison fonds, Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1986.54.12

More than 2,800 nurses served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps as fully enlisted officers in the specially created all female rank of Nursing Sister, with relative rank and equal pay to men – the first women among the Allied forces to do so. There was a strong push back from British officials who initially refused to award Canadian nurses any honors because they were women.

The nurses often worked close to the front, and as patients arrived they were among the first to meet and tend to wounded soldiers. Of the 2,845 Canadian nursing sisters who served in the First World War, 53 died. A memorial to the war’s nursing sisters was erected in Ottawa in 1926, in the Hall of Honour of Canada’s Parliament building.

Detail of Bluebird by Marlena Wyman. Oil stick, graphite and image transfer on Mylar and birch panel, 2018

...at one o’clock last night the hospital was bombarded by German aviators and she was wounded in the foot by a piece of schrapnel [sic] from one of the bombs which fell quite near her. It is a bad wound…

Excerpt from letter to Madeleine Jaffray’s mother from Nursing Director Madame Border-Turner, June 6, 1917. Madeleine Morrison fonds, Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1986.54.9

In 1927, Madeleine married Byron Morrison, a watchmaker in Edmonton, Alberta. Among her other post-war activities, she worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses and was involved with the War Amputees of Canada and the Overseas Nurses Association.

Madeleine died July 23, 1972 and is buried in the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery. More photos from Madeleine’s album at the Provincial Archives of Alberta can be viewed along with other images from their Alberta and the Great War Flickr album.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

A Historian Laureate’s Sketchbook and some contemplations on sketching

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Research and painting for exhibits has kept me occupied over the last few months, and that will continue for the near future, but I have also taken out my sketchbook on occasion; mostly on Urban Sketchers Edmonton sketchouts. Here are a few pages from my non-daily sketchbook for August to November:

I just read the Artsy article Why You Should Keep a Daily Sketchbook—and How to Get Started. It contains very good advice, a fair bit of which I need to take. Here are their suggestions:

Suggestion #1: Got that one – check!

Suggestion #2: I must admit that I favour sketchbooks with pages that are perforated so I can tear them out and chuck the ones that make me feel like giving up on art altogether. However, I do keep, and even post, some that I am not happy with because they help to remind me of what does and doesn’t work.

Suggestion #3: I tend toward observation in my sketches and a combination of observation & imagination in my paintings. My friend, artist, and fellow urban sketcher, Karen Wall, is absolutely the best at observation and imagination in her sketches.

The article’s suggestion about blind contour drawing is a good reminder for me to do more. I love it and it helps loosen up my line, which gets a bit too tight sometimes. Here is a blind contour drawing that I did of a friend a few years ago.

Suggestion #4: I actually did this a few years back. My sketchbook is nestled in the stacks of the Brooklyn Art Library, and I get a notification every time someone checks it out to look at it. The one I deposited is a collage/sketchbook and it was a lot of fun to do. Anyone can give it a try, and become a part of the Sketchbook Project!

My Sketchbook Project cover features one of my all-time favourite archival wedding photo poses. (Mr. and Mrs. Steven Stepchuk. Provincial Archives of Alberta#B7530 – E. Brown photographer). As is sadly so often the case, the newly wed Mrs. Stepchuk has been stripped of her identity – not even her first name is provided. Maybe that explains her attitude.

Suggestion #5: I need to work more on this one. My tendency is just to document, although I notice that my line and style change depending on how I am feeling while sketching. Maybe I’ll start to write a note about my mood on the back of each sketch, and see how that correlates. A little art/science experiment.

I will carry on believing that it is an excellent idea to keep a daily sketchbook.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Mat No More: The Diaries of Mary Capling Hyde

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I felt it would be appropriate to write this post on November 11, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.  The painting that I just finished, titled Mat No More, is based on the diaries of Mary Capling Hyde that are in the holdings of the City of Edmonton Archives.

Mat No More by Marlena Wyman. Oil stick and image transfer on Mylar and birch panel, 16”X24” diptych

Detail of Mat No More by Marlena Wyman

Originally from Ontario, Matthew (Mat) and Mary Hyde arrived in Edmonton, Alberta on April 29, 1911. They had four children, one who died in infancy. On July 7, 1915, Mat enlisted in the Canadian military. On April 21, 1916, he left with the 66th Battalion from Edmonton by train, and then departed for England on the S.S. Olympic from Halifax on April 28th. Mat was killed in action on September 26, 1916, likely near Courcelette, France on the Somme Front. His name is on the Vimy Memorial, one of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France who have no known grave.

The Hyde family. l-r: David, Matthew, Mary, and Alice; Robbie on Matthew’s knee, 1916. City of Edmonton Archives #EA-806-1

Mary’s diaries a cover a large span of time (1900-1944) and she writes about the many everyday activities of the family. While Mat was serving overseas, she noted in her daily diary entries “Mat in England” or “Mat somewhere in France”. After Mat died in 1916, Mary wrote “Mat no more” every day in her diary passages until her last diary entry on December 28, 1944, shortly before she died. Mary never remarried.

Mary did not know that Mat had died on September 26th until she received a telegram on October 13th. Particularly poignant is her October 4, 1916 entry, where she notes “Mat somewhere in France. Got a letter from him – seems to be fine”.  After hearing of his death, she went back into her diary and between the dates of September 26th and October 13th, she crossed out where she had originally written “Mat somewhere in France”.

Page from Mary Capling Hyde diary, October 17 – 18, 1916. City of Edmonton Archives, Mary Capling Hyde fonds #MS253 (Note: Mary referred to herself in the third person in her diaries)

In a further chapter to the tragic story, as he was dying, Mat handed a wallet of his photos to a fellow soldier. That soldier also died, and after passing through further hands, the wallet ended up with the chaplain at a hospital in France, who sent them to Mrs. F. Shortreed in Edmonton. Her husband had also been injured and was at that same hospital. Mrs. Shortreed did not recognize the photos so she sent them to the Edmonton Journal, who published one of the photographs on Oct 30, 1916 with the headline “Dying Soldier Sends Photos; Recipient Now Seeks Owner”. Mary saw the Journal article and in her October 31, 1916 diary entry she writes” …over to Mrs. Shortreeds to get the photo. Mat last dying message. Poor Mat.”

Mary’s diary tells a story of the war from a very personal perspective of heartbreak and mourning. Canada’s service and losses were extensive for our young country: more than 650,000 men and women from Canada and Newfoundland served, more than 172,000 were wounded, and over 66,000 gave their lives, including nearly 3000 Edmontonians.

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of 1918, fighting in the First World War ceased, but sadly it was not “the war to end all wars”. Nearly one of every ten Canadians who fought in the war did not return, and those who did were scarred both physically and emotionally. Remembering both the horrors of war and honouring those who sacrificed in that war is a task that is complex and difficult, and one that requires sincere reflection. We must learn from the past and remember.

I would like to thank Paula Aurini-Onderwater, an archivist at the City of Edmonton Archives, for bringing Mary’s diaries to my attention.

This is one in a series of paintings that I am creating as artist/Historian Laureate for an upcoming exhibit in 2019. More info to follow. 

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Archived Land: Gladys Reeves Part II

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The exhibit Archived Land : Terrain Archivé that I am taking part in as one of my Historian Laureate projects will be closing on Saturday September 29th.  I will be there that day from noon to 5pm to give tours of my installation and if you come in you can also talk to some of the other artists about their thought-provoking installations.

You can read about Gladys Reeves’s many contributions that she made in the 1920s to 1940s for the beautification of Edmonton and the preservation of the natural beauty its ravines and river valley in my August 28th post.

For those who cannot come to the exhibit, here are some glimpses:

Back to the Garden by Marlena Wyman, Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 12”X24”

“Back to the garden” might well be a motto put into action by employed and unemployed alike; it costs little for seed, and the energy & time will be amply repaid by the fresh vegetables with which to help out our larder, & a few 10 cent packets of flower seed will brighten many a lot & cheer us up if we feel depressed.                            …Gladys Reeves

Excerpt from Gladys Reeves’s notes for her “Clean up, Paint up, Plant up” campaign, Edmonton, [1930]. Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.60. Photo of Gladys Reeves, [1910] Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.610. Photographer unidentified

I Love Trees by Marlena Wyman. Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 12”X24”

I love trees, I love beautiful home surroundings, & I want the visitors to our City to take home with them the impression that the People of Edmonton must love their City or they would not have taken the trouble to make it lovely.             …Gladys Reeves

Excerpt from a speech by Gladys Reeves [1925]: Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.39a. Photograph of Gladys Reeves, [1925]: Provincial Archives of Alberta #B7351. Photographer: Ernest Brown

Gladys as River Valley Warrior by Marlena Wyman. Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 20”X16”

Those of us who have lived among Edmonton’s ravines and river banks enough to know and love them, to have drunk in the beauty of the bursting leaf buds in the Spring; the restful swath of green in the Summer; the riot of color during our Autumn days & the magic of Jack Frost’s artistry on a hoar frosty morning in winter…wonder if the real beauty is better viewed from the top road, rather than by cutting a gash right through the centre of these lines of beauty…                              …Gladys Reeves

Excerpt from Gladys Reeves’s letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal protesting road development in the river valley, [1930]. Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.33. Photo of Gladys Reeves dressed as Britannia: Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.603. Photographer unidentified

Gladys promoted trees rather than peonies in her letter to John Blue, Secretary of the Edmonton Board of Trade, February 20, 1925. (Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.45a):

Re: the tree planting, I think I can say with truth that it was conceived in my studio when a Nursery representative called to ask me if the Horticultural Society would sponsor a peony planting campaign. I told him peonies were too much of a luxury…After further conversation the idea of a Tree Planting Campaign was formed.

Although I am very glad that she took on the planting of trees, I have always loved peonies and they remind me of visiting my Aunt Roberta in Calgary when I was little (as do Bleeding Heart flowers), so I included a painting of peonies in my exhibit.

Peony Garden by Marlena Wyman. Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 12” X 24”

It always seemed to me that the herbaceous peony is the very epitome of June. Larger than any rose, it has something of the cabbage rose’s voluminous quality; and when it finally drops from the vase, it sheds its petticoats with a bump on the table, all in an intact heap, much as a rose will suddenly fall, making us look up from our book or conversation, to notice for one moment the death of what had still appeared to be a living beauty.  …Vita Sackville-West

Photo of Mary Rose Carson and son Robin in garden with peonies, Edmonton, [1940]. City of Edmonton Archives, Rene Oswald fonds #MS-665, EA-597-21. Photographer unidentified

Dr. James Brander was the peony advocate for Edmonton. If you live anywhere from Vancouver to Winnipeg and have peonies in your garden, they are very likely descendants of peonies from his Silver Heights Peony Garden in Edmonton.

Dr. James Brander and children, Silver Heights Peony Garden. Provincial Archives of Alberta #B6794. Photographer: Ernest Brown

Dr. Brander came to Edmonton in 1911. He purchased 5 acres of land in the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood and established the Silver Heights Peony Garden there in 1921.  The garden was located between 84th and 96th Streets, and 92nd and 94th Avenues.

Both James and his father George, who helped manage the peony garden as a retirement project, had an avid interest in horticulture. As the garden grew, cut flowers and peony roots were sold to retail outlets across western Canada.

The extensive garden, that eventually included other types of flowers, shrubs and fruit trees, was closed in 1949. Dr. James Brander had hybridized several peonies from the garden and was awarded a lifetime membership in the Western Canadian Horticultural Society for his work.

Brander’s garden was the source for many of the peonies we still see across western Canada today. In 2002, Fort Edmonton Park completed a recreation of the garden, which includes 26 varieties of peonies as well as other flowers.

From The Silver Heights Peony Gardens Historical Research Report by Janne Switzer for Fort Edmonton: City of Edmonton Archives, Parks & Recreation Department fonds #RG21, Series 4, Sub-series 4.3, File 109

Garden installation by Marlena Wyman

As well as the historic didactic panels and my paintings, I have created a garden installation with potted perennials (that I will be planting in my yard after the exhibit), a bunch of willows cut from one of the other artist’s land, dried herbs and flowers hanging from the ceiling, and displays of seeds and dried flowers. In a corner of the exhibit, a chair invites visitors to sit and breathe in the scents of greenery, with the gentle sounds of wind chimes fashioned from broken teacups.

For the sheer curtains hanging in the exhibit, I used a staining technique of hammering fresh leaves and flowers onto the fabric.

Hammered leaf and flower curtain

All a tribute to Gladys Reeves and to our own gardens, both modest and grand.Marlena Wyman exhibit

And finally, here is a video that also includes some of the other artists’ works in the exhibit. I was interested to find that each of us has some aspect of sound in our installations. (Sorry, it’s a bit shaky – I shot it on my phone. Turn the volume up higher after Patrick’s car to hear some of the subtle sounds in the exhibit).

Sit back, put some greenery under your nose, and breathe in.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archived Land: Gladys Reeves

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As I mentioned in my August 21st post, one of the main subjects that I am focusing on for my installation in the Archived Land : Terrain Archivé group exhibit is early Edmontonian, and one of my heroes, Gladys Reeves. As Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, one of my objectives is to shed light on some of Edmonton’s lesser known stories, and Gladys Reeves’s legacy is one that deserves recognition.

Detail of “Back to the Garden” painting by Marlena Wyman – encaustic, image transfer and oil stick

“Back to the garden” might well be a motto put into action by employed and unemployed alike; it costs little for seed, and the energy & time will be amply repaid by the fresh vegetables with which to help out our larder, & a few 10 cent packets of flower seed will brighten many a lot & cheer us up if we feel depressed.           

Excerpt from Gladys Reeves’s notes for her “Clean up, Paint up, Plant up” campaign, Edmonton, [1930]. Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.60. Photo of Gladys Reeves #1974.173.610, Provincial Archives of Alberta (photographer unidentified).

Gladys Reeves was an important figure in many sectors of Edmonton’s history. She is perhaps best known for being the one of the first women to own a photography studio west of Winnipeg. However, one of Gladys Reeves’s most significant contributions to Edmonton was her tireless advocacy for the beautification of our city and the preservation of the natural beauty of its ravines and river valley.

Page from the Edmonton Horticultural and Vacant Lots Garden Association Prize List brochure, 1924. City of Edmonton Archives #MS 89, Class 4, Subclass 3, File 4

In 1924 Gladys became the first woman to hold the position of President of the Edmonton Horticultural and Vacant Lots Garden Association.

Edmonton Horticultural and Vacant Lots Garden Association, [1924], Gladys Reeves, President, centre front. Provincial Archives of Alberta #B7334 Photographer: Ernest Brown 

Gladys was instrumental in the formation of the Edmonton Tree Planting Committee in [1923], responsible for planting by hand thousands of trees along Edmonton’s boulevards, in parks and on school grounds. Many of the mature trees that line our streets today are thanks to Gladys and her Committee’s efforts.

Re: the tree planting, I think I can say with truth that it was conceived in my studio when a Nursery representative called to ask me if the Horticultural Society would sponsor a peony planting campaign. I told him peonies were too much of a luxury…After further conversation the idea of a Tree Planting Campaign was formed.

Letter from Gladys Reeves to John Blue, Secretary of the Edmonton Board of Trade, February 20, 1925. Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.45a

Since 1924, the Tree Planting Committee have planted over 12,000 native trees on streets of Edmonton & Public Places such as Churches, Institutions, & Schools…Ash seed was taken from the streets of Edmonton, & Elm seed from the streets of Winnipeg & we now have a good stock of trees ready for planting out.

Notes by Gladys Reeves, n.d. Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.45a

Detail of “I Love Trees” painting by Marlena Wyman – encaustic, image transfer and oil stick

I love trees, I love beautiful home surroundings, & I want the visitors to our City to take home with them the impression that the People of Edmonton must love their City or they would not have taken the trouble to make it lovely.                     

Excerpt from notes for a speech by Gladys Reeves [1925], Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.39a. Photo of Gladys Reeves [1925], Provincial Archives of Alberta #B7351. Photographer: Ernest Brown

Gladys gave speeches and wrote letters to newspapers and City Council to champion and defend Edmonton’s ravines and river valley. She campaigned to restore and preserve these City treasures, which were being used for garbage dumps and other development that affected the beauty and environment of green spaces.

She encouraged her fellow citizens to participate in clean-up campaigns and avidly furthered the work of earlier citizen programs to plant gardens in vacant lots. These became relief gardens during the Depression, and Victory Gardens during the Second World War. The legacy of these gardens are seen in our community gardens and the Edmonton in Bloom initiatives of today.

City of Edmonton Archives #MS 89, Class 4, Subclass 3, File 1

In her archives, Gladys Reeves refers to making Edmonton a City Beautiful. The City Beautiful Movement was an early urban planning concept that first emerged from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and was popular in Canada until 1930. It emphasized city livability, planned green spaces, and historic architecture to counteract unsightly industry, pollution and congestion that had become the face of urban living.

It promoted the planned creation of civic beauty through architectural harmony, unified design and visual variety…the amateur side of the movement was lively and active on the local scene. It was sustained by concerned citizens working through horticultural societies, newly formed civic improvement associations and even boards of trade. These smaller groups often effected greater change than the professionals, bringing to pass flower boxes on Main Street, street tree plantings, landscaping of public buildings, railway station gardens, allotment gardens and park creation.        The Canadian Encyclopedia – City Beautiful Movement

Gladys Reeves fonds, Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.173.44

During the early years, the City saw the value of these citizens’ efforts, and supported the Horticultural and Vacant Lots Garden Association and the Tree Planting Committee in various ways such as financial and administrative assistance, the provision of City trucks for tree planting, and office space in City Hall. Unfortunately, not all later City Councils and management were as sympathetic, and Gladys was heartbroken in the 1940s when the City removed and severely cut back many of the boulevard trees that she and her committee has so lovingly planted.

Gladys Reeves died in Edmonton on April 26, 1974 at the age of 83, but much of her legacy of green remains.

Detail of “Gladys as River Valley Warrior” painting by Marlena Wyman – encaustic, image transfer and oil stick

Those of us who have lived among Edmonton’s ravines and river banks enough to know and love them, to have drunk in the beauty of the bursting leaf buds in the Spring; the restful swath of green in the Summer; the riot of color during our Autumn days & the magic of Jack Frost’s artistry on a hoar frosty morning in winter…wonder if the real beauty is better viewed from the top road, rather than by cutting a gash right through the centre of these lines of beauty…                      

Excerpt from Gladys Reeves’s letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal protesting road development in the river valley, [1930]. Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.33. Photo of Gladys Reeves #1974.173.603, Provincial Archives of Alberta. Photographer unidentified.

Archived Land : Terrain Archivé

Jackson Power Gallery, 2nd fl, 9744 60 Ave, Edmonton, AB

Opening reception 7pm, September 14, 2018

Exhibit hours: Noon to 5pm, Saturdays and Sundays, September 15 to 29

Or by appointment: 780-499-7635

Background information from the Provincial Archives of Alberta: Gladys Reeves fonds #PR1974.0173, the City of Edmonton Archives: Office of City Commissioners fonds #RG11 and Edmonton Horticultural Society fonds #MS-89, and Kathryn Chase Merrett’s book “Why Grow Here: Essays on Edmonton’s Gardening History”.

I would like to thank the Edmonton Historical Board and the Edmonton Heritage Council for their support.

I acknowledge that we are on Treaty 6 territory. I acknowledge all of the many First Nations and Métis whose footsteps have marked these lands for centuries

Posted by Marlena Wyman

 

Archived Land : Terrain Archivé

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Opening reception 7pm September 14, 2018

Exhibit hours: Noon to 5pm, Saturdays and Sundays, September 15 to 29

Or by appointment: 780-499-7635

This is the final exhibit at the Jackson Power Gallery – come and be a part of history

Image (altered): Provincial Archives of Alberta #GR1983.0421

I am excited to be exhibiting alongside these exceptional artists.  Each of us works in the subject areas of memory and land, and my contribution to the exhibit is also one of my projects as Edmonton’s Historian Laureate.

My installation is the result of my recent research at The Edmonton City Archives and the Provincial Archives of Alberta.  During the early 20th century, Gladys Reeves and other citizens advocated for the beautification of Edmonton and the preservation of our natural ravines and river valley.

This concern is being revisited today with the pressures of potential development that are putting this treasured natural asset of Edmonton at risk.

I was especially inspired by Gladys Reeves, who was most active from the 1920s to the 1940s, encouraging Edmonton’s citizens and politicians to take pride in the city’s natural beauty and help to preserve it and beautify the urban landscape.

Among other achievements, we can thank Gladys and her Edmonton Tree Planting Committee for planting by hand thousands of the mature elms and other beautiful trees that grace our boulevards today.

 I would like to thank the Edmonton Historical Board and the Edmonton Heritage Council for their support.

 I will be posting more about this exhibit over the next few weeks.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

A Historian Laureate’s Sketchbook – July 2018

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I took a lovely trip to Vancouver to visit my son this month. I have always found that I sketch more when I am not at home. Vacation gives me permission to disregard daily duties and open up my time.Vancouver

Vancouver

I also walk much more when I am on holiday, so not only am I happily sketching more, but I am living a healthier lifestyle and feeling less duty-bound. Of course, this can’t go on forever or the substructure of my life will crumble and there will be no more holidays and chaos will attend. Nonetheless, the impression of ample funds and time is sweet for a short time.

Vancouver

Vancouver

Which is all to say that although I did some sketching in my city, I did more while away.

Edmonton

Edmonton

Posted by Marlena Wyman

A Historian Laureate’s Sketchbook – June 2018

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My June sketchbook includes the subjects of heritage architecture and heritage trees and the efforts to save both. Progress and history can live comfortably side by side but it takes ingenuity and vision and the efforts of both government and citizens together. Hopefully, this will be the case here.

Urban Sketchers Edmonton are joining me in one of my goals as Edmonton’s 5th Historian Laureate: sketching Edmonton’s architectural heritage (or as much as we can!) You can see some of their inspiring sketches on our Urban Sketchers Edmonton blog.

For our second in this series of sketchouts, we sketched the historic A. Minchau Blacksmith Shop in the Ritchie neighbourhood of Edmonton. It was a clear choice because it is at risk of demolition. There has been a surge of support, including the Facebook page Save the Minchau Blacksmith Shop. It is a good example of vernacular architecture and represents the history of the regular folk of Edmonton who worked hard to support their families and help build this city. However, its fate is yet to be determined.

Heritage trees have also been in the news. The Manitoba Maple beside the First Presbyterian Church that I sketched here is thankfully not at risk, but it represents the fondness that Edmontonians have for their trees and green spaces.

The trees that citizens are concerned about are some of Edmonton’s signature elms and other mature trees that form a green canopy along Stony Plain Road where there is presently a plan for the Valley Line West LRT construction route. If the plan goes forward, over 1000 trees are at risk of destruction along with several historical buildings and residences, some of which date back to the early 1900s.

Heritage Manitoba Maple at the First Presbyterian Church, downtown Edmonton

The issue of preserving of Edmonton’s heritage and green spaces is not a new concern for Edmontonians. I am doing some archival research right now for a fall art exhibit, and I have been reading about the efforts of Gladys Reeves and the citizen-led Edmonton Tree Planting Committee. Many of the trees that grace Edmonton’s boulevards, school yards and parks were hand-planted by these publicly spirited citizens in the 1920s, keen on beautifying Edmonton and making it a lovely place to live.

Excerpt from a speech by Gladys Reeves [ca. 1925] (Provincial Archives of Alberta Acc# PR1974.173.39a)

Posted by Marlena Wyman