Cultivating Beauty: Ontario Horticultural Societies from 1906-Present an Exhibit by Royal Botanical Gardens
The Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies, a scholarly centre within Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), hosted an exhibit on March 14th at the Burlington Public Library detailing the history of Ontario Horticultural Societies. I curated the exhibit, Cultivating Beauty: The History of Ontario Horticultural Societies, and delivered an engaging presentation focusing on a history that spanned well over 100 years.
Prior to this, I happily organized a large collection, under the supervision of Erin Aults, Library and Archives Specialist, and David Galbraith, Head of Science, consisting of records from horticultural societies from across the country. With the burgeoning number of environmental histories being written, these documents fit nicely into the larger story showing how these societies altered the Canadian landscape. These documents also add to Canada’s rich social history, showcasing how motivated individuals came together to make positive contributions to their towns and cities, enhancing the social and cultural fabrics of their communities.
My favourite part of researching horticultural societies has been seeing how they have admirably responded to local, regional, national, and international events, planting flowers along the way. Originally, society members beautified towns and cities as a means of fostering good, moral citizens. They also raised their trowels to harvest and reap vegetables throughout two world wars. Many women also filled societies’ ranks participating in increased numbers throughout the century. During my presentation, I provided the audience with an overview of this wonderful history, showcasing the commendable efforts of these societies, who have worked hard to make Ontario beautiful. I felt honoured to read the words of horticultural society members who read those very words during their own speeches throughout the century. They spoke with such beautiful sentiment and I felt proud to share their story.
The exhibit, which can travel, details women’s involvement in societies, First and Second World War food production, rural school beautification, and other great stories.
There is also a focus on the Burlington Horticultural Society showing how its members were a large force behind Burlington’s beautification efforts. Their numerous projects fostered civic improvement and pride that still continues. This group is still active today, working hard to keep Burlington-and Ontario-beautiful.
The presentation was a success with approximately forty people attending the event. After my talk, I was asked by the Burlington Horticultural Society to present at their Annual General Meeting in 2019. A smaller (also travelling) version of the exhibit can be found at the Burlington Public Library for one month. After that, the exhibit will be featured at the Royal Botanical Gardens.
*All label reproductions are courtesy of Royal Botanical Gardens
If you would like to learn more about horticultural societies more generally, or the Burlington Horticultural Society more specifically, please check out my presentation.
As many of you know, it takes a lot of people to put together an exhibit. Erin Aults kindly organized the event with Michelle. Christie Brodie, RBG's Interpretation Projects Coordinator, did all of the wonderful graphic design for the exhibit's labels, printed and mounted them, and taught me about the process. RBG staff cut the mounts. Benjamin Peddle, Burlington Library's Service Librarian helped me locate the library's collection on the Burlington society, and then scanned images for use on the labels. Bill Kilburn of the Back to Nature Network and Erin watched me do a presentation run-through, giving me suggestions about how to make my speech better. Pat did a wonderful job of helping us set up the exhibit and to greet visitors at the door. Joyce Vanderwoudes, member of the Burlington Horticultural Society, met with Erin and I to discuss the society's history. A special thank you to W.H. Perron for letting us use one of their early advertisements in the display.
Thank you to everyone that helped me make this event such a success!
*For source information please look at the end notes at the end of my presentation.
HortiCULTURE: Artifacts from the Archives of the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies and Royal Botanical Gardens
Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) recently hosted the Hamilton Museum Educators group for a museums and technology conference. As part of the program, staff put together an exhibit to showcase two archives at RBG: the Centre for Canadian Historical Horticultural Studies (CCHHS) and RBG's institutional archives.
CCHHS collects and preserves literature, documents, and artifacts relevant to the history of horticulture in Canada. The topic of horticulture is broad in scope; it includes any resource relating to horticultural plants and their development and use in Canada. The archive has many important scientific documents on topics such as phenology and plant hybridization. Popular writings, pamphlets and brochures, government reports, seed catalogues, and correspondence, photographs, slides, among other ephemera, also make up the collection. There are also personal papers of many successful horticulturists, like Isabella Preston and Art Drysdale. CCHHS' records tell us a lot about Canadian plants and landscapes and how they have changed over time. They also offer us a larger view of societal changes in Canada.
Royal Botanical Gardens' archives keeps administrative records of the institution which includes historical samples of past stationary, plaques, china, photographs, and even drapes. This archives also has important papers of past employees including published papers, correspondence, and other intellectual works. Records of past events, corporate publications, and 80 years of photographs that capture the staff, gardens, and landscape make up a significant part of the collection.
Erin Aults, RBG's Knowledge Resource Management Specialist, and I worked to put the exhibit together. Marie Minaker, RBG's volunteer archivist, suggested artifacts from RBG's archives to include. Artifacts were grouped into five categories: Canadian horticultural education, women in botany, historic seed catalogues, ephemera, and other special collections.
All photographs are courtesy of CCHHS.
What was Quetico Centre?
Quetico Centre was an residential adult education centre in Northwestern Ontario, located approximately 26km east of Atikokan. In 1958, the Eva Lake Planning Committee purchased the Quetico Conference and Training Centre property from the Department of Lands and Forests. Shortly after, Cliff McIntosh was appointed director of the Centre. He worked with H.E. “Bud” Thomas, formerly the Regional Officer within the Community Programs Branch of the Department of Education of Thunder Bay, to bring the idea of a residential adult education centre into fruition. Quetico Centre quickly became a meeting place attracting people from the region and surrounding area to partake in art courses, outdoor programs, heavy equipment training and craft classes. The Centre's philosophy was based on the belief that learning was a life-long pursuit that informed daily life as well as fostered community development. It successfully brought many educational opportunities to individuals in Northwestern Ontario, other interested Canadians as well as some Americans.
Quetico Centre Programming
Life at Quetico Centre
For the exhibit I created a ten page booklet that placed Quetico Centre into the larger adult education narrative. Rather than take a chronological approach, the booklet discussed how the Centre borrowed from the progressive and folk school traditions to create a successful teaching institution. As a parting gift, this booklet was given out to all guests who came to the opening. Additional copies are now sold at the museum's gift shop.
There were several reasons why I chose to have the museum's staff mimic the 1983 photograph seen above. For one, I thought that it was be a fun addition to the gallery space, especially since Joan is holding the book in both photographs. Second, I wanted to show guests that Quetico Centre's story is constantly evolving, with this exhibit being another chapter in its history. Third, curating an exhibit involves many hours of hard, unseen work and I wanted to put faces to those involved in the creation of the displays/opening event. I was tasked with curating the exhibit, which meant I researched, wrote labels, chose photographs, and assisted with exhibit design and event planning. I was also in charge of marketing, meaning that I recorded a radio ad, wrote a newspaper article, and (with the help from our volunteer Jim Blunderfield) handed out posters to local businesses. Lois provided feedback and assistance throughout the project. She also played a large role in planning the event. Nancy aided with exhibit design, cutting labels, mounting titles and helping to set up the room for display. Joan helped me select images, read the labels to ensure the information was correct and provided insight into Quetico Centre's history.
Creating the Fonds
The Quetico Centre archival fonds is kept in the museum's community room, the same room the exhibit was set up in. I decided to use this as an opportunity to educate the public about basic archival principles. I took "before" pictures of the collection to juxtapose against the nicely organized final product.
The day was a success, with 40 people attending the opening. It is always great to watch an idea become a tangible thing- and I am glad that I was able to share Quetico Centre's story with the local community.
We live in a web of ideas, a fabric of our own making.
-Joseph Chilton Pearce
This May, the Atikokan Centennial Museum is putting on a colourful exhibition, History in Stitches: Fabric Arts Throughout the Years, in collaboration with the Pictograph Gallery's exhibit, Wild Things ...We Quilt Everything. Both of these displays are created to showcase the vibrant quilting and fibre arts community in Atikokan. The museum's exhibit encompasses many unique pieces, including: doilies, various types of quilts, the Atikokan Tartan, crocheted placemats, children's clothing, wall hangings and a beautiful hooked rug. The museum wants to make this exhibit accessible to the wider community and other Canadians by creating a virtual exhibit. For the purposes of this online exhibit several of the quilts and the town's official tartan will be the primary focus of discussion. Please stop in to the museum to view the other exceptional artifacts on display.
The museum's staff has worked hard over the past month to prepare the gallery space for public viewing. Our Curator, Lois Fenton, has collected local artifacts and stories. Heather Hosick, founder of the Atikokan Quilter's Guild, happily shared many important insights into the town's quilting community. Laila Goranson and Wanda Bigwood, who helped to create the Fix-It Club quilt, also sat down with us to share their stories. The Museum's Assistant, Nancy Kozlovic, and volunteer, Jim Clark, worked tirelessly at exhibit design, ensuring the gallery space looked great. With their efforts many of the quilts on display were dramatically hung from the ceiling. Our volunteer, Joan McIntosh, lent creative vision to the space. My role was to photograph the artifacts for the blog as well as to provide a broader discussion of quilting for context. Many of the views expressed here are the ways in which I interpreted the artifacts and only offer a small glimpse (a sneak peek, if you will) of the material presented in the physical exhibit.
It is also important to acknowledge the many people who loaned artifacts for use in the museum's exhibit. Nancy Fotheringham kindly loaned many family pieces including, quilts, doilies, placemats, a knitting bag, knitting patterns and children's clothing. Dr. Walter Kristjanson allowed us to borrow his beautiful quilt, which was given to him for his retirement from the Atikokan General Hospital in 1991. Jim Blunderfield loaned an exquisite quilt and matching pillow that belonged to Evelyn Ashford, a head nurse who also received a quilt for retiring from the hospital. All of these contributions will be acknowledged in the photographs' captions.
Poster image featuring artifacts used in the exhibit. The bag, place mat, and cream coloured doily were loaned by Nancy Fotheringham. The multi-coloured doily belonged to Evelyn Ashford. Log cabin quilt block, circa 1887, 1967.1.1, Atikokan Centennial Museum. Wooden crochet hooks, 2017.2.1 & 2017.2.2, Atikokan Centennial Museum.
A Rich Artistic Tradition
For a small, isolated Northwestern Ontario town, Atikokan has a large and rich artistic tradition. This tradition was inspired by two important factors: the natural beauty of the surrounding environment, and necessity. Because of the town's location, two hours from any other population centre, its citizens learned to become self-reliant. This meant creating many articles, like quilts and clothing, for themselves and their families. For many women, these activities became important because they allowed for creative expression, an opportunity for social interaction, and meant that their families stayed warm and well clothed.
In addition to the town's quilting community, there are many other exceptional artists including painters, carvers and weavers. In 1981 Atikokan Reeve, Dennis Brown commissioned Irma Hicks and Jack Fraser to create Atikokan's tartan. A vibrant piece, the colours used in its creation represent many important aspects of the town's history and identity.
Blue recalls the blue skies and lakes so prevalent in Northwestern Ontario.
Red is symbolic of the Canadian National Railway which gave Atikokan its raison d'etre when the community was designated a Divisional Point at the turn of the century.
Green for the dominant conifers that blanket the area, and commemorates the logging industry.
Gold stands for gold mining which once drew prospectors and miners to the area and for the autumn colours which blaze throughout the forests.
Rusty Brown is a reminder of Steep Rock Iron Mines and Caland Ore Company which brought prosperity to the community.
Grey symbolizes the presence of the ageless rocks of the Canadian Shield.
White is a symbol of the winter snow that provides livelihood and recreation for so many.
The above information was copied from an Atikokan Centennial Museum label created by Lois Fenton and adapted from Jeanne Georgeson's Atikokan Progress article.
Through the generosity of local resident Don Meany the tartan was formally registered by the Scottish Tartan Society on June 14, 1999. This approval authenticated that there were no other tartans that followed its particular thread count and design. They described this thread count as follows: white (4), green (6), mid brown (6), maroon (6), light grey (6), light blue (28), and yellow (12). The tartan now hangs permanently on display at the Atikokan Centennial Museum as a silent reminder of the town's multi-faceted and vibrant history.
A Brief History of Quilting
Quilting has been performed by women for hundreds of years. Patterns first appeared in publications in the 1830s; however, it was not until the 1880s that printed patterns became mainstream. This phenomenon occurred because with better technology printing techniques became better and cheaper, which allowed for a greater dispersion of materials. Later, in the 1920s, many newspapers began to offer quilting columns dedicated to the craft. It was also popular among friends to share patterns with one another. During the Depression era many women continued to make their own quilts, rather than buy more expensive, pre-fabricated models from department stores. Quilts have gone through trends, much like anything else. For instance, the "crazy quilt" became a popular design in the late 1800s. These quilts were fashioned from fine silks, velvets, brocades and fine embellishments before falling out of fashion with urban women. This technique was used long after by women from rural communities because it allowed them to use many different scraps from worn out clothing. Fine silks and velvets gave way to cotton and wool materials. Crazy quilts became less about aesthetics; instead, they became more about a practical use of materials. Below is a beautiful example of a crazy quilt made by Anna Rawn in 1957. The names of her family members were tenderly stitched into the asymmetrically cut and sewn fabric. Anna cut pieces from old clothing and stitched them together in order to create an extra layer of warmth for her family.
A Language that Speaks Through Fabric
Quilts act as storytellers, depicting important community narratives spoken through the many voices of those who helped piece them together. Seen this way, quilts tell the stories of both the individuals who helped create them and the community in which they were made. Allison Carey, English professor at Marshall University, states that "quilts have a language that transcends national boundaries but also has a distinct local meaning communicated by fabrics, patterns and colours." Scholar Elaine Hedges also speaks to this when she states that quilting is both an "individual and collective art" where "no other art has ever brought together so many people."
The quilts on display at the Atikokan Centennial Museum were all hand-stitched, offering examples of earlier quilting techniques. In 1999, in time for Atikokan's 100th anniversary, two beautiful quilts were crafted, one by the Birch Studio Quilters and the other by the Fix-It Club Quilters. Both of these quilts captured imagery specific to Atikokan and were made using traditional methods. Many women contributed to the quilts, each bringing something of herself as a means for creating a community symbol. To offer an example, in the quilt below, created by Birch Studio Quilters, a large blue heron is noticeable in the centre right. This square was made by Sandra Nash. The imagery undoubtedly speaks to the wildlife of the region, but it also speaks to the fact that Sandra and her husband were birdwatchers. Likewise, the patch that depicts logging was created by Tanis Hampshire, who chose this subject matter because her husband worked in the bush. In these cases, it was women who decided what were important Atikokan symbols to include in the quilt's narrative. Quilts like these offer a great look at the town's history and identity as seen through the eyes of women.
The above quilt was made by: Karin Arif, Marilyn Barber, Eunice Hamilton, Shirley and Allan Cain, Maryann Couch, Ida Docking, Mary Elder, Tanis Hampshire, Heather Hosick, Lorena Jaman, Barb Kwasnicia, Sandra Nash, Teresa Larson, Janette Payne, Louise Sawchuk, Sally Speck, Chris Spilchuk, Lynn Enge, Linda Jung, and Barb Wiens.
The quilt below, created by the Fix-It Club, shares several similarities to that of the Birch Studio Quilt, namely the mining, logging and nature imagery. One of the differences is that these women also created patches that depicted architecture from Atikokan's rich pioneering past. For instance, the Pioneer Hotel is visible in the top left corner. This hotel was built by Tom Rawn, the man credited with being the town's founder. Atikokan originated as a Divisional Point on the Canadian National railway between Fort Frances and Thunder Bay; after this hotel was built in 1900 people began to settle in the area. Atikokan's first school and jail house (which were the same building, due to building scarcity at the time) and the first train station were also included in the quilt. Like the Birch Studio quilt, this colourful piece speaks to how its creators saw the town and its surrounding area.
The above quilt was made by Bev and Laila Goranson, Claraine Cavner, Wanda Bigwood, Diane McKay, Adeline McCormick, Linda Geurts, Ila Quinn, Beaulah Larocque, Anne Humphrey, Grace Chamber and Josephine Hart.
The museum's staff had the pleasure of speaking with Laila Goranson and Wanda Bigwood, two of the quilt's creators. Wanda recounted that she made the jail house patch and that she learned about the history of this building from Anna Rawn. When asked about the quilt's brown trim, Wanda jokingly recalled that "years ago [Atikokan] was dirty, dirty, dirty" and that "on her first day in town she told her husband that she did not want to stay." When asked what changed her mind she said that "the community was so inviting." At that time, many young people moved to Atikokan and this contributed to a rich social scene. Wanda has called Atikokan home ever since. Laila told us that many of the quilt's squares were made from her husband Leo's drawings. She recalled that the women got together once a week to work on the quilt, but that many of them also worked on their own quilting projects at home.
Quilts capture many different types of stories. Below is a quilt that belonged to Evelyn Ashford, head nurse at the Atikokan General Hospital. It was given to her by hospital staff upon her retirement in 1984. The squares can be seen as a storyboard depicting important moments in Evelyn's life. She was an avid curler, a fact represented in a number of the quilt's squares. She was also a graduate of St. Joseph's Nursing School in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1951, an achievement also captured. These and other squares, including the nurse's needle, recount Evelyn's greatest achievements and varied interests.
Like Evelyn, Dr. Kristjanson was also given a quilt for his retirement from the hospital in 1992. He practiced medicine and served the community for over 40 years. When he started his career in 1951 he worked at Atikokan's newly built Red Cross Hospital. At that time there was no highway linking Atikokan to larger city centres. He stated that "we did have the train, and in a few cases we commandeered it to take patients to Thunder Bay." There are many interesting features of Dr. Kristjanson's quilt. The stork carrying the baby speaks to the many newborns that he helped deliver, which he has estimated to be 1,900 over the course of his career. This was an even more impressive feat considering that Atikokan had the highest birth rate in Canada in the 1950s. Many of the quilt's patches speak to his abilities as a doctor, while others showcase his interests.
The museum feels very fortunate to be able to exhibit many beautiful quilts as well as other exceptional fibre arts. These pieces speak vividly about Atikokan's history, capturing many aspects that make it unique. We invite you to come visit both the museum and the Pictograph Gallery's exhibit. The museum's opening reception will be held on May 4 from 1-4pm. This is a white glove affair; fancy hats are encouraged. Tea and dainties will be served and we look forward to seeing you!
 The Scottish Tartan Society, Atikokan Tartan Certificate, June 14, 1999, on display at the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 Allison Carey. Patterns: Continuity for Generations of Quilters. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Winter 2015., 18.
 The International Quilt Study Center and Museum/ University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Idea of Fairyland, http://www.quiltstudy.org/exhibitions/online_exhibitions/Fairyland/crazy_quil70.html (accessed April 18, 2017)
 Allison Carey. Patterns: Continuity for Generations of Quilters., 18.
 Elaine Hedger. Quilts and Women's Culture. Radical Teacher, No. 100 (Fall 2014), 12.
 Laila Goranson and Wanda Bigwood, Informal interview with Atikokan Centennial Museum Staff, April 25, 2017
 Carol Stanley. "Dr. Walter Kristjanson Honoured for 35 Years of Community Service," Atikokan Progress, December 3, 1986.
 Allan A. Viita. A History of Atikokan: 75th Anniversary Edition, 90.
In 1968 the Atikokan Centennial Museum received a donation of military artifacts from Florence Ransom. One of these artifacts was a Next of Kin War Memorial Plaque featuring the name of her husband, Reginald Ransom. During World War I over 1,000,000 of these plaques were issued to family members in commemoration of those who died in service.
In 2014 our Curator, Lois Fenton, researched Reginald Ransom and the 52nd Battalion he fought with. She noticed that his attestation papers named his next of kin as his mother, Susan. This information showed that Florence and Reginald were married while he was fighting overseas.
Sadly, Reginald Ransom never came home. He died serving our country on February 24th, 1917.
This information made us wonder, how did his new English bride end up living in Atikokan, Ontario?
Reginald became good friends with army mate John Alexander ("Sandy") Johnston. Before his death, he made Sandy promise to take care of Florence if anything should happen to him. Sandy stayed true to his word. The rest of this story will unfold throughout this exhibit as the lives of these two veterans are recounted.
This exhibit was originally put together as a special presentation for the Atikokan cadets, who were getting ready for a trip to Vimy Ridge. The displays were temporary, kept up for only two days. Aside from the cadets, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 145 members were also invited to explore the exhibit space. Due to the exhibit's short duration, we thought that a virtual exhibit was a great way to share these veterans' stories with the local community and other Canadians.
This virtual exhibit is an Atikokan Centennial Museum project. As it is hosted on my private blog, I feel that it is important to acknowledge the people who helped put it together. The local history was researched by Lois Fenton and Sandy Johnston's daughter, Nancy Fotheringham. Nancy kindly loaned many of the objects seen in this blog and this is acknowledged in the photographs' captions. I was responsible for giving the artifacts context through discussions of a broader military history. I also scanned and photographed all of the artifacts. The information presented has been fact-checked by military and medical historian Dr. Adam Montgomery.
Sandy Johnston (1889-1965)
Sandy was born in 1889 in Dresden, Ontario. Like many men of his period, he had different vocations throughout his life. He was mechanically and mathematically inclined, spending time in Detroit learning the mechanics of the new car industry. As a young man he also moved to Port Arthur (present day Thunder Bay) to work as an accountant in the lumber camps. In 1915, shortly after the war erupted, he volunteered for service as a Private in the 52nd battalion. That December, the battalion left for England, and by 1916 he was stationed in France.
The 52nd Battalion was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The CEF was "the collective name given to the military structure created in 1914 in which some 620,000 Canadians served overseas during World War I." This Force did not include the Canadians who served in the navy, merchant marine, or the Royal Air Force. In other words, the CEF was "Canada's wartime army overseas." In total, 260 numbered CEF battalions were formed during the war.
Sandy worked within the Canadian Signal Corp, laying and maintaining communication lines. In 1916 he was promoted to Signalling Sergeant. 
Easter weekend of 1917 saw one of Canada's most iconic battles, Vimy Ridge. "Weeks of planning, map-studying and platoon tactics rehearsal climaxed when 15,000 soldiers charged into heavy German machine gun fire, behind a wall of precisely placed Canadian artillery shells." The troops stormed up the ridge, a task which had previously caused 150,000 French and British casualties, and were successful in dislodging the Germans from their strongholds. But this victory did not come without a loss. After three days of fighting 3,598 Canadian troops were dead and 7,000 were wounded. This event was the first time that all divisions of the CEF fought together, and this included Sandy Johnston.
It was also discovered that Sandy fought in the Battle of Passchendaele. In October of 1917 the 52nd Battalion led the 3rd division attack. An October 22, 1917 Battalion War Diary entry stated that he "went forward in busses (sic) to look at the new front line." This information was verified by John Easson, a retired major, after he corresponded with Nancy.
Sandy was awarded the Military Medal for the maintenance of communications while under enemy fire at Vimy Ridge. His award was listed in the London Gazette, 9 July 1917.
Sandy was awarded two other medals for his service, the first being the Allied Victory Medal. Approximately 5.7 million of these medals were issued during the Great War. To be a recipient "an individual had to have entered a theatre of war (an area of active fighting), not just served overseas." The rainbow ribbon represents the combined colours of the Allied nations. The front of the medal depicts a winged classic figure, an image that represents freedom. The back of the medal reads, "The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919." Each allied nation issued a medal of a similar design, similar wording, and identical ribbon.
The second medal was the British War Medal. Approximately 6.4 million of these medals were issued by the British government to those who had represented the British and Imperial Forces at any point of the war.
Before the end of the war, Sandy was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Flying Corp (which later became the Royal Air Force.) Nancy stated that her father "was given the chance to get a commission and learn to fly because of his bravery in the field at Vimy for which he received a Military Medal." Obtaining a position in the Air Force was seen as prestigious, as the task required more skill and innate physical characteristics such as good eyesight. Becoming an air pilot also meant an escape from the trenches. Nancy expressed that, "it was a chance [for her father] to escape with honour." His first flight was in August of 1918; his last was in January 1919.
Reginald Ransom (1887-1916)
Reginald Ransom was born on July 22, 1887 in London, England. His attestation papers stated that he was from O'Connor, Ontario and that he identified as a labourer. He joined the 52nd Battalion in Port Arthur on February 18, 1916.
As mentioned above, Reginald was a casualty of the Great War. Lois states that when, "reading the battalion's war record one feels the impending doom, the great carnage of war, the timeline to his death." He was buried at Petit-Vimy British Cemetery in France.
Florence Ransom (1888-1967)
Reginald's wife, Florence, moved to Canada under Sandy Johnston's care after the war. He provided her employment; she managed his general store in Atikokan for nine years. At this time, the store bought and sold furs in the fur trade. In an Atikokan Progress newspaper article, she fondly recalled her delight in the Indigenous population bringing in furs, stating that it "was a colourful occasion to see them trading their furs far into the night." At this time Atikokan was a very small, remote community with a population of 300. It was so small, in fact, that she recalled there being only two stores. Even after she stopped managing Sandy's store, Florence remained close to the Johnston family for many years.
Florence remained a widow for the rest of her life. She was very active in Legion activities, and it can be assumed that this was a way to honour her late husband. Below, among other notable artifacts, note her Certificate of Merit, awarded to her by the Ladies Auxiliary of the 145 Legion branch.
Sandy Johnston Post WWI
After the war, Sandy spent a year working as a demobilization officer in Port Arthur. He then became owner of the McKenzie Inn, east of Thunder Bay. As alluded to above, in 1925 he moved to Atikokan, where he purchased a general store from the town's founder, Tom Rawn. In addition to buying and selling furs, he acted as the postmaster for the community until 1947. He continued his military service later in life. During the Second World War he served as a recruiting officer for the Port Arthur area. After that endeavour he owned and operated the Imperial Oil Agency in Atikokan until his retirement in 1953. On top of his other great achievements, Sandy also served as reeve of Atikokan for five years, 1956-1960.
Throughout his life, Sandy maintained a strong interest in the Canadian Legion, Atikokan Branch No. 145. In fact, he served as its president from 1941 to 1948. The Legion offered a place for returning veterans to come together to discuss their shared experiences.
Sandy married Myrtle Rawn and they had three daughters: Judy and twins Nancy and Patricia. Although he had a rich post-war life, injuries to his feet were a silent reminder of what he had endured.
A museum label of Atikokan's World War I Veterans. This information was taken from an Atikokan War Veterans database created by Adam Montgomery & Stephanie Bellissimo on behalf of the Atikokan Centennial Museum. All Atikokan war veterans' gravestones with visible military markings were photographed and compiled into a list. This list is not conclusive. If a veteran chose not to have any military insignia on their stones, or if they were buried outside of Atikokan, their information was not included. If you have someone to add, please let us know! Leave a comment below. Include the person's name, corp, rank, birth and death dates (if known) and we will update our records.
This exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of the battle at Vimy Ridge and the sacrifices that individuals, communities and the nation made for our freedom. Commemoration is important; however, events like these should not just be remembered on anniversaries. It is important to take a moment every now and then to acknowledge the ever-enduring strength of the human spirit to fight for what is believed to be right. Many of these men paid the ultimate sacrifice for their convictions. Reginald's inscription of "death before dishonor" inside his Bible (seen above) speaks to this. We are eternally grateful for these men's brave actions. They will always be remembered.
 The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque & Scroll. http://www.greatwar.co.uk/memorials/memorial-plaque.htm (accessed February 27, 2017)
 Information gathered from Sandy Johnston's military records, form R-122, Reg'l No 438593.
 J.L. Granatstein and Dean Oliver. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Military History (Oxford University Press, 2011), 85.
 Philip J. Haythornthwaite. The World War One Source Book (London : Arms and Armour, 1992) 159.
 Ibid., 159.
 Information gathered from Sandy Johnston's military records, form R-122, Reg'l No 438593.
 Canadian Geographic and the Walrus, The Story of Canada in 150 Objects: Collector's Edition, 2017., 14.
 War Diary, 52nd Battalion, Army Form C. 2118., October 22, 1917.
 Philip J. Haythornthwaite. The World War One Source Book, 161.
 Unknown author, Service Chevrons, http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/insignia/service.htm (accessed February 27, 2017)
 Imperial War Museums. British World War One Service Medals, http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/first-world-war-service-medals (accessed February 17, 2017)
 Information recorded in Sandy Johnston's Flight Training Manual.
 Commonwealth War Grave Commission, Reginald Joseph Ransom, http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/531249/RANSOM,%20REGINALD%20JOSEPH (accessed February 27, 017)
 Atikokan Progress. Roles as Early Shopkeeper Here Recalled by Mrs. Flo Ransome, date unknown. [throughout the records Ransom was either spelled "Ransome" or "Ransom." The Museum has chosen to use "Ransom" as this is how the name is spelled on official records.
 Atikokan Progress. J.A. Johnston Obituary, May 13, 1965.
Wassy and Eddie Trudeau's Love Story Expressed Through Documentary Heritage and Material Culture: A Virtual Exhibit
P.E. "Eddie" and Wassy Trudeau (née Zdan) were married on June 26th 1948, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Throughout their marriage Eddie worked as a Bridge and Buildings Foreman for the Canadian National Railway (CNR.) Due to the nature of his work, the couple moved throughout the Port Arthur Division of the CNR until they settled in Atikokan. Before her marriage, Wassy worked as a school teacher. In Atikokan she performed office work at the General Motors and Ford dealerships.
A biography written about the couple by an unknown source described Eddie as a man who "loved his career and was a committed God fearing man and a loving husband..." Eddie and Wassy were married for forty-two years.
Wassy had a creative spirit. She enjoyed crocheting, knitting, embroidery, sewing and tailoring and crafts. Eddie "enjoyed being a critic of Wassy's knitting and crochet work" and encouraged her to showcase her work at local fairs. It should be noted that one of her afghans was valued at $1000 at an exhibition in 1986. She also made her wedding dress and veil seen in the photographs above.
The couple was stylish, as demonstrated by the hats above. Can you picture them going out for a night on the town?
Eddie traveled throughout Northwestern Ontario for his work. The envelopes addressed to "Mrs. P.E. Trudeau" seen above were stamped in Winnipeg and Sioux Lookout. Eddie never missed giving Wassy an anniversary, birthday or Valentine's Day card, even while away from home.
When reading Eddie's cards it seems he was a man of little words. However, the card's messages and artwork were filled with beautiful sentiments. The cards shown in this online exhibit make up only a small fraction of the cards that Eddie sent his wife; preserved by the Atikokan Museum.
There are many ways to analyze the sentiments of commercialized cards.
To offer an example, scholar Emily West explains that the ready-made statements suggest that people's emotions are universal, and that "the industry can meet the nation's social expression needs by customizing these core insights."
But for many, the meaning of greeting cards comes more from the time spent picking them out, rather than what they say. West states that "much of [the card's] communicative power comes from how they index the time and effort, both emotional and physical, of the sender who must leave their home, enter the marketplace, select the 'right' card, fill it out and mail it."
The sentiments that Eddie chose to express to his wife through greeting cards were very heartfelt. Giving cards to Wassy was something that appeared to be very important to him, so he most likely spent time trying to find the 'right' one to capture how he felt.
Wassy kept all of the cards given to her throughout the years, showing her sentimental nature. Of the cards that make up this collection, only a select few were from Wassy to her husband. This could be either because she did not send him as many cards, or for whatever reason those cards were not kept.
The card below sent from Wassy showcases her sense of humour.
Eddie gave his wife many cards throughout their marriage. The last one in the collection is from 1989, a year before his passing.
These artifacts represent a beautiful Atikokan love story, now captured in time for future generations to enjoy.
Happy Valentine's Day from the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
Ps. don't forget to spend time picking out beautiful cards for your partner, as they might end up in the museum one day!
 Biography of Wassy and Eddie Trudeau, Ed Brasseur Collection 2016.30.40.6, Atikokan Centennial Museum
 West, Emily. "Mass Producing the Personal: The Greeting Card Industry's Approach to Commercial Sentiment." Popular Communication. 2008, Vol. 6 Issue 4, 231-247., 231.
 West, Emily. "Expressing the Self through Greeting Card Sentiment." International Journal of Cultural Studies. 2010, Vol. 13 Issue 5, 451-469, 453.
At the beginning of the summer I created a scavenger hunt encouraging children to run through the museum's hallways hunting for artifacts and historical tidbits. To find the answers, they had to look at artifacts, museum labels, and throughout the display cases. The questions covered a broad range of information asking them to look at many different aspects of Atikokan's history.
This scavenger hunt was created for older children. A simpler version was created by our summer student that asked younger children to match artifacts to images.
To spread the word, I wrote a newspaper article (featured in the Atikokan Progress), handed out fliers for local businesses to post, and advertised on facebook. The response we received was great. Throughout the summer we had dozens of young historians-in-training scouring the museum looking for the answers. From the enthusiasm they expressed, I think they had as much fun partaking in the hunt as I did in making it.
Can you find all of the answers??
An answer sheet was provided so that more information about local, regional and national history could be learned.
Did you know:
Want to learn more neat facts? Check out the answer sheet below.
Nurturing, Resourceful, Strong, Perseverance, Capable, Well-Rounded, Independent, Indispensable, Hopeful, Fun-Loving, Assertive, Caring, Capable, Awesome, Responsible, Loving, Determined, Kind, Caring, Stronger Emotionally, Competent, Conscientious, Adaptable, Enlightened, Intelligent, Flexible, Smart, Committed, Strong, Beautiful.
These are some of the words our visitors used to describe women during our celebration of 100 years of women's suffrage event. Thirty people came out to spend the evening engaging with women's national, provincial and local stories.
Our museum's Curator, Lois Fenton, asked me to create a public history evening so that I could gain experience in public programming. I worked hard all summer, with help from Lois and our volunteer Joan McIntosh, preparing a presentation and temporary exhibit. I spent much of the fall advertising for the event by writing newspaper articles, handing out posters to local businesses and doing a radio ad. I was very excited about the topic we chose because I thought this would be a great way to celebrate local women who live in a male-dominated environment. Also, as any archivist, museum worker or historian knows, collections often focus on male experiences. This event was not only a great way to highlight women's achievements but it acted as a stimulus for collecting their stories. It was a very successful event so I thought that I would share what was put together.
The signs below greeted guests as they walked toward our event space in the back of the museum. They were used to engage visitors and to get them to think about the progress women have made over the last 100 years.
I decided to focus my presentation around the larger provincial and national narrative. I focused my discussion on the women's suffrage movement and on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. These stories gave context so that the exhibit could be better appreciated. After my presentation, we asked our guests to spend time viewing (with their wine and cheese) the exhibit space that featured local women's stories and achievements.
What was Women's Suffrage?
The women's suffrage movement was a decades-long struggle intended to address fundamental societal issues of equality and injustice felt by women- and this included the right to vote.
Many credit Dr. Emily Howard Stowe with initiating the woman's suffrage movement in Canada. In the 1860s Stowe supported her invalid husband and three children. She scrimped and saved until she had enough money to enter the medical profession. The only problem was that women were not granted acceptance into Canadian medical schools. Undeterred from her goal, she entered the Women's New York Medical School. Doctors who were accredited in the United States needed to take further medical courses in Canada in order to obtain their Canadian license. Even with her degree, the University of Toronto refused her entry to their program. It was not until 1871 that Stowe and Jenny Trout were admitted. This was a momentous occasion as they were the first two women to attend lectures at the Toronto School of Medicine.
Click here to view a Heritage Moment Clip featuring Emily Howard Stowe and Jennie Trout. (Poor Dr. McFarland never saw what was coming!)
Throughout the rest of her life Stowe would be an advocate of Woman's Suffrage, creating groups like the Toronto Woman's Suffrage Association and the Dominion Women's Enfranchisement Association.
The suffrage movement was not just an Ontario endeavour; there were many women across the country advocating for similar goals of equality, basic human rights, and the right to vote. In fact, Manitoba was the first province to allow women the right vote in January of 1916, with many provinces and territories soon following in example. Women in Ontario were allowed to vote in 1917. Quebec was the last province to follow suit with women given the right to vote in 1940. All women were given the right to vote in federal elections in 1919.
However, these successes did not mean that all women could enjoy this new privileged. In fact, Asian men and women could not vote until after the Second World War. Likewise, Aboriginal men and women did not receive the right to vote until 1960. This was because they were seen as wards of the crown under the Indian Act, and were thus excluded from voting, except in rare cases.
Below are several of our museums labels featuring women from the time of suffrage, photographs courtesy of the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
How were Men and Women Viewed at this time?
To understand the suffrage movement better, we should look out how men and women were historically viewed. Men were seen to be of the public sphere: they were rational, motivated by reason, political, strong, and the breadwinner. Women were seen as quite the opposite being of the private sphere and being irrational, motivated by emotions, weak, and domestic. To offer an example, throughout history women were healers. They were early pharmacists; midwives; and doctors without degrees- healing family and community members alike. However, in the 19th century there was a rise in medical science that placed the specially trained medic ahead of the self-taught healer. Women were refused access to teaching institutions, much like what happened to Emily Stowe. Essentially, women were now refused technologies in the field that they had contributed to for hundreds of years. This is because the medical profession moved to the public sphere, somewhere inaccessible to women. Actions like these fuelled the suffrage movement, leading women to take agency in hopes of changing their social position and status.
Why was the Suffrage Movement Important?
During this time women were stepping into the public sphere to advocate for basic rights; pushing the envelop allowing for future generations to make a choice between the private and public sphere. Gaining suffrage did not just mean that women could vote- but they could step inside of a world that traditionally belonged to men.
Royal Commission on the Status of Women
Fast Forward fifty years to 1967. Women now had the right to vote. More and more women had jobs outside of the home. A greater number of women were becoming educated. Progress had been made, but there was still a long way to go. Sensing the gender gap, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson decided to establish a Royal Commission on the Status of Women. This was a direct response to a months-long campaign by a coalition of 32 women's groups led in Ontario. Tensions were high, and these groups threatened a march of two million strong on Parliament.
The mandate of this Commission was to inquire into a report on the Status of Women in Canada, and to make specific recommendations to the federal government to ensure equality. 468 briefs were reviewed; 1000 letters read, all confirming the widespread problems faced by women in Canadian society. Some of these issues included: equal pay; establishment of maternity leave; a national child care policy; birth control and abortion rights; family law reform; education; and women's access to managerial positions. There was a large section that also addressed issues specific to Aboriginal women. This movement is considered the second wave of feminism, with women's suffrage being the first.
All 167 recommendations made by the Commission were based on the core principle that equality between men and women was possible, desirable and ethically necessary. The findings led to the creation of the Minister responsible for the Status of Women in 1971. By 1980, most of the report's recommendations had been partially or fully implemented.
Below find a sample from our exhibit that features women from the time of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.
Why was this significant?
The Commission helped unite women to a great extent, by giving them a voice in shaping gender-responsive policies. Not only did it shine a light on the problems faced by women, it also led to important social victories like an equal minimum wage and maternity leave. That is not to say that this commission fixed the equality problem. Presently, women still face challenges in society. However, the gap is slowly shrinking, with help of initiatives like women's suffrage and the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.
What was life like for Atikokan Women?
The story of women in Atikokan was born when Mary Rawn and her husband Tom founded the town in 1899. Many women, like Mary, were faced with battling the wilderness for survival. Over the years, Atikokan developed and thrived largely due to the extraction of resources in the surrounding area, at the time requiring male strength to conquer. Men put the town on the map; women made Atikokan what it is today. As the population grew, and women were stepping further into the public sphere, many positive changes began to take shape. For instance, many clubs, like the Women's Institute, did immeasurable things for the community. We also begin to see women stepping up to the entrepreneurial plate, and now women own most businesses in town. There are also many examples of women entering male dominated industries and professions, like rangering and mining to name a few.
A display featuring Janice Matichuk's hard earned awards - the Award of Valour, the Governor General Award for providing assistance to others in a selfless manner, the Award of Merit and the Ministry of Natural Resources PRIDE Service Award, among her other outstanding achievements. Janice worked as a Park Ranger for Quetico Provincial Park, a very male dominated profession, in which she excelled. All objects are on loan.
Lois, Joan and I spent three days setting up the exhibit space. We split the display areas into three sections: women at the time of suffrage, women at the time of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and a display featuring the contemporary story of Janice Matichuk as a Park Ranger at Quetico Provincial Park. The lists and labels we created for the display were not comprehensive, there were women that we missed. For instance, we did not include Aboriginal or Metis women in the displays. This is not because we do not consider their experiences as part of the narrative. It is because, unfortunately, we do not have any archival records in our collections that share their stories. Thus, this exhibit became a stimulus to enter a wider discussion of women's experiences within our community. During the event we handed out forms asking visitors to record stories about themselves or other women from the community. By filling out these forms they helped add to our collection, which will allow us to craft a more encompassing future narrative.
Quiz on the Status of Women
I created a quiz that was administered to guests as they entered the event space. The purpose of this quiz was to either challenge or reinforce visitor's perceptions of women. We took up the answers together at the end of my presentation. The quiz was an eye opener; I was surprised by some of the findings when I put it together.
I asked our guests not to change their answers when we took up the quiz because I wanted to quantify their responses. Our guests answered the majority of the questions correctly. However, there were a few that stumped them. For instance, 69% thought that women held 1% or less of the top corporate positions. 69% also believed that women did not mostly work in traditional female roles. This quiz was a powerful exercise that not only had visitors actively participating in the event, but it also challenged what they thought they knew about women. See how you fare on the quiz. Find the answers below.
The information used to create this quiz came from Women at a Glance: Statistical Highlights, 2012. The answer stating that 8.5% of women hold top corporate jobs came from a 2015 CBC article.
This event had a great response from the local population. A woman from the Metis Council approached Lois and I after the presentation because she liked what was said about wanting to include Aboriginal and Metis stories in the collection. She said that she will bring this up at their next meeting. We also had more men show up than was originally expected. A father brought his two young daughters, and many husbands came with their wives. I was pleased with this, because I believe that women's stories and experiences should be acknowledged by both sexes in order for positive societal changes to occur. The evening was a success and we were pleased with how it came together.
 Cleverdon, Catherine. The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974), 19-27; Library and Archives Canada. "Dr. Emily Howard Stowe." collectionscanada.gc.ca/physicians/03002-2500-e.html, accessed August 4, 2016
 Historica Canada, "Women's Suffrage in Canada" http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/suffrage/ (accessed August, 2016)
 Coburn, Judy. "I See and am Silent": A Short History of Nursing in Ontario," In Women at Work, 1850-1930, edited by Janice Acton, Penny Goldsmith and Bonnie Shepard. (Canadian Women's Educational Press, 1974), 127-155.
 Historica Canada. The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/royal-commission-on-the-status-of-women-in-canada/ (accessed August, 2016)