Tag Archives: Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month: Part III

As we’ve discussed in the past few weeks, countless women have contributed to Whistler’s success over the past decades.  This week, the last in Women’s History Month, we are featuring Stella Harvey, who over the last 18 years has contributed tirelessly to Whistler’s burgeoning literary arts scene.

Stella Harvey founded the Whistler Writers Festival after moving to Whistler in 2000.

Stella and her husband Dave moved to Whistler in 2000 from Italy.  She left behind a career as an international management consultant and planned to become a writer.  After struggling to to feel connected to the community, she decided to post an advertisement in the local newspaper looking for other aspiring writers.

She recalled, “When we first moved to Whistler, it was very hard to find a feeling of community.  Living in Rome, even though we were in the middle of the city, everyone in the neighbourhood knew who I was.  I felt quite isolated in Whistler, so I had to create me own community.”

The first meeting of the Vicious Circle, her newly formed writing group, attracted 26 like-minded individuals who were hoping to improve their writing skills and ultimately get published.  Stella organized the first Whistler Writers Festival by inviting a guest author to speak to her writing group.  The first year saw 20 participants gather in her living room.

These typewriters must have seen plenty of writing in their lifetimes, though largely replaced by computers today.  Whistler Question Collection.

In 2001 Stella and members of the Vicious Circle formed the Whistler Writers Society.  The Whistler Writers Festival remains the main event put on by the volunteer-led organization, but they have included more programs aimed at providing opportunities for writers and bibliophiles to enjoy the literary arts throughout the year as they grow.

Programs such as the Whistler Writer-in-Residence Program, which started in 2007, provide opportunities for local writers to work with a published author and help hone their skills through classroom sessions and one-on-one meetings.

The Authors in the Schools program began in 2013 and has included authors such as Richard Wagamese, Joseph Boyden, Katherine Fawcett and Eden Robinson.  Its aim is to engage youth in the literary arts and provide the opportunity for students from Squamish, Pemberton, Whistler and Mount Currie to ask questions and hear authors read from books they are studying in class.

Since its first year in 2001 the Whistler Writers Festival has grown into a four-day event with 60 guest authors and roughly 2,000 participants.  The theme for this year’s festival, held earlier this month, was: “No one succeeds alone.”

Stella Harvey has embodied this theme by working selflessly to put on the best possible Writers Festival and other literary events throughout the year for the community.  While living in Whistler she has published two novels, Nicolai’s Daughter in 2012 and The Brink of Freedom in 2015, and in 2015 was also awarded Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture at Whistler’s Excellence Awards.

While this concludes our celebration of Women’s History Month this certainly won’t be the last time we share the stories of women who have contributed to the valley, both in the past and present.

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Women’s History Month: Part II

If you read last week’s post (if you haven’t had a chance yet, you can check it out here), you already know that October has been designated Women’s History Month in Canada since 1992.  One of the reasons for choosing October to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women across Canada was the inclusion of Person Day.  On October 18, 1929 (only 89 years ago last Thursday) Canada’s highest court of appeal ruled that women are considered ‘persons’ under the British North America Act of 1867 and should be eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada.

For the woman we’re featuring this week, the Persons Day is of significance as it made her appointment to the Senate in 2009 possible.

Toni Sailer and Nancy Greene-Raine on the World Cup Downhill course.  Question Collection.

Nancy Greene grew up skiing in Rossland, British Columbia and was Canada’s biggest ski star during the 1960s.  After winning the inaugural World Cup in 1967 Nancy went on to win two medals in the 1968 Grenoble Olympics (gold in giant slalom and silver in slalom) and her second World Cup.  Nancy’s total of 13 World Cup Victories and 17 Canadian Championship titles remain Canadian records today.

Though Nancy retired after 1968, her two incredibly successful seasons had inspired hundreds of young skiers.  The Nancy Greene Ski League was formed to promote participation in ski racing and fun in competition nationwide.

Nancy married Al Raine, then the Canadian National Ski Team coach, and the pair built a home in Whistler for when Nancy was working as a coach at the Toni Sailer Summer Ski Camps on Whistler.  When the Resort Municipality of Whistler was formed in 1975 Al was appointed to council and the family moved to the valley permanently.

The group at the Sailer Fischer Ski Camp party catered by the Keg. (L to R) Wayne Wong, Wayne Booth, Schultz, Nancy Greene, Toni Sailer, Rookie, Alan White.  Question Collection.

Over their 25 years in Whistler Al and Nancy were very involved in the community.  Active in early bids for the Olympics and founding members of the Blackcomb Ski Club, they were also involved in other aspects of the community.  Nancy served as School Trustee for the local school district during the early years of the first Myrtle Philip School and they were both involved in the Alta Lake Ratepayers Association.

In the early years it was hard not to be involved.  As Nancy recalled, “You had to go to every little sort of festival or function as a person who lived in the valley, ’cause if we didn’t all go there weren’t enough people.  And between volunteering for it, and driving the trucks, or putting your kids’ bikes in the parades and cutting the cake, we were all there.”  In 1990 Al and Nancy were jointly named Whistler’s Citizens of the Year.

Al and Nancy opened the Nancy Greene Olympic Lodge in 1985 (the word “Olympic” had to be dropped after protests from IOC lawyers), one of the first few hotels in Whistler Village.  They ran the lodge until 1994 when it was sold and renamed the Crystal Lodge.

The Raines: Willy, Charley, Nancy and Al, returned to Whistler just before school started after two years in Crans, Montana, Switzerland. Al and Nancy were ski instructors in the 1,500-person resort while the 14-year-old twins went to school in the French speaking community.  Question Collection.

The family left Whistler for the newly developing Sun Peaks resort in 1995.  There they continued to be involved in creating a new ski destination.  In 1999 Nancy was voted Canada’s Female Athlete of the Century.  Nancy has also received the Order of the Dogwood, the Order of British Columbia and been named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Nancy was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2009, where she served until her retirement this past spring.

It’s Women’s History Month!

October may be more widely known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but in 1992 the Government of Canada also designated October as Women’s History Month to “celebrate the achievements and contributions of women and girls across the country and throughout our history.”

Though any month could have been selected, October includes two important dates: the International Day of the Girl on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18.

Persons Day commemorates the decision Edwards vs Canada (AG) – also known as the Persons Case.  On October 18, 1929, Canada’s highest court of appeal (which at the time was in England) ruled that women are considered “persons” under the British North America Act of 1867 and should be eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate.

Countless women have contributed to Whistler’s community over the years.  Some, such as Myrtle Philip and Nancy Greene (whose own appointment to the Senate was made possible by the Persons Case), are well known while others are less acknowledged though no less important. To celebrate Women’s History Month we’ll be sharing the stories of a few of these women, beginning with a group of young women who first came to the valley in the 1950s.

(Left to right) Florence Strachan, Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Betty Gray and Eunice “Kelly” Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.  Petersen Collection.

Eunice “Kelly” Forster, Better Gray, June Tidball, Jacquie Pope and Florence Strachan were all teachers in the Lower Mainland when they first visited Alta Lake.  Together, the five managed to purchase a lot along the railway from the Massons.  While the asking price was $2,500, the group was able to get a reduced price of $1,500 due to their obvious love of the area and offer to pay in cash.  This price included a furnished summer cottage, dock, rowboat and toolshed.

The cottage, named Witsend after a particularly long and rain-soaked voyage up from Vancouver, became the women’s summer home for the next 10 years.  In 1956, some of them even bought the lot next door.  Sadly, Witsend burned down in November 1965.

June Tidball sold her shares after the fire, but by this time most of the women had ties to Alta Lake and the others remained in the valley, at least part-time.  Kelly Forster had married Dick Fairhurst in 1958 (the same Dick Fairhurst who would later recall Paul Golnick) and moved to Cypress Lodge.  She and Dick were active members of the growing community and Cypress Lodge acted as the base for the Alta Lake Sailing Club.

Cypress Lodge as seen from the lake. Fairhurst Collection.

In 1965, Jacquie bought another lot on Alta Lake and, with help from friends, had a house built in 1965.  She kept this house, nicknamed the Vatican, until 2001 when she moved to Squamish.

This left Witsend and the other shared lot to Betty and Florence.  Betty kept the site of Witsend until 2000.  Next door, Florence had the lot cleared and a house built under the supervision of Andy Petersen.  She and Andy married in 1967.

Even before retiring and moving to the house on the lake permanently in 1983, Florence was active in many of the community groups in first Alta Lake and then later Whistler.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1997: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.  Petersen Collection.

In 1986 she founded the Whistler Museum & Archives Society and, with a group of volunteers, gathered the beginnings of our current collection.  While serving as a marriage commissioner Florence performed over 1,000 services.

In recognition of her volunteer contributions, Florence was made Citizen of the Year in 1986 and awarded the Freedom of the Municipality of Whistler in 2012, the second woman to receive this honour (the first was Myrtle Philip).  Florence passed away in 2012 and is remembered today in Florence Petersen Park.