From a driving force behind the town’s first healthcare facility to the builder of a former hotel, pioneering women were celebrated during the Community in Bloom’s “HERstorical” cemetery tour.
Thirteen women were featured, their lives testament to the hardships faced by those who laid the foundation for modern Maple Creek and helped open up this part of the West.
As tour guide, Savannah Mass, the Town’s communications and tourism manager, declared at the outset, some of these women were primarily noteworthy as housewives and mothers, raising families amid multiple challenges, while others bucked social trends to pursue enterprises outside their homes.
Among them were Susan (Burnham) Pollock, instrumental in the development of the 1904 Cottage Hospital, and Rachel (Davis) Biron, who ran a boarding house on Jasper Street until she built the Maple Leaf Hotel.
The other women were Elizabeth (Wilson) Beesley; Ethel (Brown) Burnett; Rose (Oxley) Chase; Jennie (McGarry) Cheeseman; Kathleen (Peecock) Fauquier; Ada (Cook) Hammond; Elsie M. (Hammond) Thomas; Anna (Boreman) Jones; Addie Jones; Emma (McKay) O”Hare; and Rachel (McKay) Quesnelle.
Seventy-two people took part in Friday’s event, which saw three hour-long trips around the cemetery.
Attendance figures for the trips at 1.30pm., 3.30pm, and 6.30pm were 22, 17 and 33 (sold out). The News-Times went on the second tour.
At each headstone of a featured woman, attendees would stop while Mass read out a biography, and displayed a photograph, if one was available.
In the cases of Elsie M. (Hammond) Thomas and Anna (Boreman) Jones, Mass read first-hand accounts.
Mass said researching women’s lives for the event had proved challenging.
“Most of the accounts had been told by men, from men’s perspectives,” she said, adding that women’s lives were often relegated to two sentences.
A major resource for Mass’s research was “Our Pioneers”, published by the Cypress Hills Pioneers Association.
Information had also been drawn from the green “Maple Creek & Area, Where Past Is Present” history books. Pictures were from the SW Sask Oldtimers’ Association Archives and the Esplanade Archives, Medicine Hat. Mass said she hoped the tour would give people a new appreciation of the role women played in the development of the area.
Today, the News-Times spotlights the lives of the 13 women mentioned in the “HERstorical” tour. Four of the photographs (Rachel Biron, Ethel Burnett, Kathleen (Peecock) Fauquier, and the McKay sisters, including Emma O’Hare and Rachel Quesnelle) were from the Donny White Research Collection.