Faithful fan sends friendly note

Wanda Backus Kelly's 25-year collection of Herstory calendars.

Wanda Backus Kelly’s 25-year collection of Herstory calendars.

Ending Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar after more than 40 years of publishing was a difficult decision to make, and has been especially disappointing to our fans who buy our calendar annually.

When Wanda Backus Kelly read that the Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective was unsure of 2016’s format, she sent us this photo of her collection, along with a wonderful message letting us know how much the calendar means to her:

Hi Ladies,

I am taking a moment, wringing out the last few glorious bits of holiday time, to switch over from last year’s HERSTORY daybook, as I have done at this time of year for 25 years now, to the new edition. Although I ordered it back in the summer, and have had it sitting on my desk for a while now, it’s usually only at this time of year, after the mayhem of the holidays begins to subside that I can take the time to wax nostalgic on the past year, transfer all the dates from the year-ahead section at the back of the past year’s into the new book, mark out dates I already know in advance, and generally get a head start on planning and organizing my precious time going into the next year.

However, as I looked through the 2015 edition, taking time as I like to, meeting all of the women for each week, and reading about changes to your cooperative at the end of the book, I am saddened and shocked, although not terribly surprised, to read that you’re unsure of 2016’s format. Hence, I am inclined to share with you the quarter century’s worth of paper HERSTORYs I have used, kept and valued.

Comparing a well-loved calendar to a fresh, new copy.

Comparing a well-loved calendar to a fresh, new copy.

Next I’ve taken a pic of what HERSTORY looks like when I first start of the year with it: new, crisp, clean and as-yet unadulterated with my appointments, ongoing rants, anecdotes, lists and general daily ramblings. Then, you can see what the poor thing looks like 365 days later: purse-worn, tea-stained, wearied and weathered – I think I must adopt the same appearance by year end, too!

HERSTORY has been a part of my life since a friend of my mother’s first introduced her to this calendar, as a gift one Christmas. My mom passed it on to me, as she kept her world organized on the ever-present beside-the-phone church calendar, and knew I liked to keep, smaller, portable versions at the ready in my purse. I have faithfully used your calendar since that first one was gifted to me in 1991. HERSTORY 2015 makes it 25 in total.

More than just an appointment book, I have used your calendar as a diary, confidant, confessor, counselor and budget spreadsheet. My best friend is under strict orders to find the box I store them in and burn them immediately, should I come to some premature and unfortunate end, because, beside herself and to a lesser degree my long-suffering spouse, these daybooks hold truths I’d prefer not to have laid bare to the likes of my children, or heavens knows where else for that matter! While I completely understand the turn of the tides in the ways in which people keep track of daily appointments, and manage their time, I wanted you all to know, for what it’s worth to you, that I still very much value and use a paper daybook, and that I would hope you’ll find some way to continue to publish the paper version for 2016. I doubt I’d find a similar organizer that both inspires and organizes in the same way your collective has created this product. All the best for 2015 – here’s hoping I can continue to add more HERSTORYs to my collection.

The members of the Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective were so happy to hear from Wanda, and we want to hear from you, too! What are your memories of the Herstory calendar? 

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This week in Herstory: Annie Maude McKay

Annie Maude (Nan) McKay via the U of S Centennial Scrapbook.

Annie Maude (Nan) McKay via the U of S Centennial Scrapbook.

Herstorian Ashleigh Mattern reflects on writing this week’s profile about Annie Maude McKay, and the help she received from historian Duff Spafford, who died in May 2014.

I first learned about Annie Maude (Nan) McKay from University of Saskatchewan historian Duff Spafford. He and I were both Sheaf alumni, although separated by decades. He’d worked at the U of S student newspaper in the 1950s, and I’d only finished my run at the paper in 2011. Along with several other outstanding alumni, we were tasked with organizing the Sheaf’s centennial celebration in 2012.

Duff worked tirelessly to dig up stories about interesting alumni from the early years, and he quickly brought Nan to my attention.

When Nan graduated in 1915, she became the first Métis and the first Aboriginal woman to graduate from the U of S, and in 1916, the SRC chose Nan, an alumnus, to fill in at the Sheaf while so many students were stationed overseas during the First World War, making her the first female editor at the U of S paper.

Nan was large in my mind when I met with the Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective in the fall of 2012 to help plan the 2014 issue. She would be the first woman I would research and write about for Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar, sparking in me a new interest in history and feminism.

I fell in love with Annie, this woman I would never meet. She died the year after I was born. A librarian, an alpine hiker, a hockey player, and a Roughriders fan. Would we have been friends had our paths crossed? I like to think so.

In many ways, I owe my fledgling career as an amateur historian to Duff Spafford. He had a passion for history that was infectious, and if he hadn’t already shown me how exciting history could be, I may never have joined the Herstory collective.

Duff Spafford died on May 14, 2014. He was one of the many people who touch the pages of Herstory indirectly. While I haven’t been a part of the collective long enough to know for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out if he’d had an influence on the publication in previous years as well.

This week in Herstory, we feature a profile of Annie McKay, an amazing woman who set the stage for future generations of women during her time at University of Saskatchewan. A woman who might not have been featured in the pages of Herstory without the help of one Duff Spafford.

Duff Spafford, via the U of S Archives digital project "A Tribute to Duff Spafford."

Duff Spafford, via the U of S Archives digital project “A Tribute to Duff Spafford.”

Posted in 2014, Saskatchewan, This week in Herstory

Herstory 2015 launch a hit!

We had an amazing time at the Herstory 2015 launch on Thursday, Oct. 30! Many supporters came out to McNally Robinson in Saskatoon, including one of Herstory’s founding members, Erin Shoemaker. We’re so glad to have shared the evening with them all.

Cutting the cake with Herstorians both current and former, including founding member Erin Shoemaker front and centre!

Cutting the cake with Herstorians both current and former, including founding member Erin Shoemaker front and centre!

A close up of the delectable celebratory cake!

A close up of the delectable celebratory cake!

Yvonne Hanson makes open remarks to a packed crowd!

Yvonne Hanson makes open remarks to a packed crowd!

Kristine Flynn reads about the amazing Thelma Finlayson, who celebrated her 100th birthday this year.

Kristine Flynn reads about the amazing Thelma Finlayson, who celebrated her 100th birthday this year.

Posted in Uncategorized

A fond farewell to the SWCC and Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar

Herstory_2015After more than 40 years of creating an annual calendar, the Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective has decided to cease publication of Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar.

This was not an easy decision for the current collective! But with falling sales, and a trend toward using online applications in place of print calendars, we thought this might be the best course of action.

We are deeply grateful for the work the first five members began when the collective formed in 1972: Thanks to June Bantjes, Beth Foster, Gwen Gray, Colleen Pollreis, and Erin Shoemaker. More than 70 women have since been involved with the calendar, from various backgrounds and of various ages, bringing a wide range of perspectives and experiences.

The SWCC sought to make history, as defined by traditional academics, more reflective of the lives and achievements of the women who helped shape Canada — and it succeeded. At times, Herstory has hit bestseller status in Canada, and has become a staple of research library bookshelves.

This may be the end of the Herstory calendar and the SWCC as it has been known in the past, but we are also entering into a new era. The collective plans to rename and reform, launching as a new but familiar entity in 2016.

We’re considering many new possibilities for our brand, but one thing will remain constant: We will still be dedicated to telling and celebrating the lives and stories of Canadian women.

Until then, stay tuned to the Herstory blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for regular updates and news, and join us at the last launch on Thursday, Oct. 30 at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.

-Ashleigh Mattern, on behalf of the SWCC

Posted in 2015, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

This week in Herstory: Ruth Robinson

IMG_1321The week of Aug. 25 to 31 in the 2014 issue of Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar, we feature Ruth Robinson, who attended the issue’s launch last fall. Join us at our launch for the 2015 calendar at McNally Robinson Saskatoon on Oct. 30!

Community organizer Ruth Robinson has devoted much of her adult life to work in the service of others. Born in Toronto on February 28, 1939, Ruth moved with her family to Saskatchewan in 1946 and Saskatoon in 1954. She attended the University of Saskatchewan, where she received her certification as a teacher. She lived and worked both in and outside Saskatchewan, before finally settling in Saskatoon with her family in 1975.

Ruth developed an interest in community-based activism early in life. She first joined the Consumers’ Association of Canada in 1967, when she lived in Regina. She has been actively involved in the association at the local, provincial, and national level, primarily addressing issues of safety with consumer goods. Through her work with the association, she became chair of the Saskatchewan Child Safety Committee, an advisory committee to the Minister of Health.

First working full time as a teacher at the elementary and high school level, and then later working full time raising her family, Ruth stepped more fully into community organizing in the late 1970s, when her children were older. She has been actively involved in a broad spectrum of community concerns since she moved to Saskatoon, including mental health issues, consumer rights, public safety, architectural heritage, education, women’s issues, and with her church.

In her volunteer work, Ruth has worked with individuals as well as with many organizations. Amongst her many charitable initiatives, Ruth coordinates a class for those with intellectual disabilities at her church, calling it a “great spiritual outreach of her faith community. As well as operating on a grassroots level, building relationships across ability and difference, Ruth has also formally advocated for systemic policy changes in Saskatoon. As part of the Anti-Poverty Coalition, she and others lobbied the City of Saskatoon to subsidize bus passes for low income families. In 2006, the City of Saskatoon introduced the discounted bus pass as a joint initiatives between the city and the province of Saskatchewan.

Ruth has received many accolades for her community organizing, including the 1992 Saskatoon Citizen of the Year, the 2004 Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal, and 2003 Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. However, according to Ruth, such recognition was never the point: “It’s about building relationships, having fun, supporting one another, and trying to improve people’s lives.”

“I think supporting one another is more important than getting laws changed.” – Ruth Robinson, 2013.

Posted in 2014, Saskatchewan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From the archives: Aileen Meagher (Herstory 2012)

Aileen MeagherAileen Meagher represented Canada at the 1931 Olympics and went on to become one of Canada’s most successful athletes during the 1930s.

Born in Edmonton in 1910, Aileen grew up in Halifax and attended Dalhousie University, where she earned a teaching degree and began to run. She astonished the track world when she won a spot on the 1931 Olympics team. “Miss Meagher, who competed in her first major track meet on July 1, of this year, in the Maritime Olympic Trials, captured a berth on the Canadian contingent by outfooting the fleetest girls in the Dominion….”1 Aileen recalled, “Just running was a lovely free feeling, training a bit boring but pleasant. Competitive running was nerve-wracking lonely ordeal, good for one’s discipline, no doubt… winning and making the team opened up a whole new world of friends, experiences, and a lifelong itchy foot to travel.”2

In 1934, Aileen won three medals at the London British Empire Games (BEG) and was part of a medal-winning relay team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She later recalled, “Training as still not very scientific, nobody thought too much about food, nobody had medical exams so it must have been a natural gift and luck too.”3 Her final international competition was in Sydney as part of the 1938 BEG team, where she won two medals. Instead of returning home immediately, she used her travel money to purchase an around-the-world ticket and spent six months travelling – a pursuit she was to enjoy her entire life. In 1935, she was named Canada’s outstanding woman athlete and Canadian Athlete of the year.4 She is in both the Canada and the Nova Scotia Sports Halls of Fame.

Returning to Halifax, she resumed teaching elementary school and became known as “Canada’s Flying Schoolmarm”5 – she ran to work every day. Aileen became more and more interested in art, both as a teacher and as an artist. She studied art during the summer, took her sketchbook when she travelled and exhibited her work in a number of venues, winning prizes. Aileen died in 1987. Since 1992, the Aileen Meagher International Track Classic has been held in Halifax, attracting an international slate of athletes.

“Postmaster-General Ouellet introduced me as ‘Mrs. Aleen Meeger’ gymnast in the ’36 Olympics – grr. When I corrected him he asked if that was the first time Canadian women were in the games – grr, grr.” – Aileen Meagher, 1974

Barnard, Elissa. “Meagher Makes Both Shows, One as Artist, Other as Runner,” [Halifax] Chronicle-Herald, 25 September 1985, 3-E.
[Halifax] Chronicle-Herald, 13 July 1985, 26.
Meagher, Aileen, Fonds. Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, MG 1 vol 2994-2999 & 3660-3661.
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management. “Aileen Meagher Olympic Medallist and ‘Canada’s Flying Schoolmarm’.” Virtual Exhibit available:
O’Brien, Betty. “The Flying schoolmarm.” The Nova Scotian, 26 November 1983, 3.
Townsend, Hugh. “Memories of Berlin.” Unidentified clipping found in Meagher, MG1 vol 2996, file 1.
1. 11 July 1931, unidentified clipping found in vol 3360, file 8.
2., 3. Meagher. Handwritten memoir found at vol 3360, file 1.
4. Meagher, MG 1, vol 3360, file 1.
5. O’Brien.

Posted in 2012, From the archives, Nova Scotia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,