A black and white photo of 11 women, some seated on chairs, some in front on the floor, with one standing in the back. They are in a room lined with bookshelves that has brick walls and several large houseplants/.
Members of the National Council of Women in Ottawa in 1898. Lady Aberdeen is in the centre, holding a book. Image courtesy: Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada / PA-028035

Gender Equality Week

September 18 to 24 is Gender Equality Week in Canada, and this year’s theme was “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities.” In an official statement, the Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, described the week as a time to “recognize the important progress we’ve made towards gender equality while also recognizing the important work that lies ahead of us.”

a local connection

One organization with local roots that was dedicated to the advancement of women was the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC). Founded it 1893, it is one of Canada’s oldest advocacy groups, and is still operating from its headquarters in Ottawa. The NCWC, a member of the International Council of Women (ICW), was created by its first president—and former Vernonite—Lady Ishabel Aberdeen.

Lady Aberdeen was the wife of Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s Governor General from 1893 until 1898. When she established the National Council of Women, she was also the president of the ICW. In 1895, Lady Aberdeen established a Vernon Branch of the NCWC, with Addie Cochrane serving as president.

Women’s Suffrage

The NCWC began fighting for women’s suffrage in 1910; however, the NCWC was considered to be an elitist organization by several well-known suffragists, including Nellie McClung, due to its middle-class composition and lack of French Canadians and women of colour.

The case was similar here in Vernon, in that the local branch was mostly made up of women from Vernon’s more wealthy families. However, both the local and national chapters of the Council of Women made important contributions towards gender equality in Canada.

ORGANIZATIONAL ACHEIVEMENTS

One of the most prominent accomplishments of the Vernon branch was the petition for a hospital, which led to the opening of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital in 1909. Meanwhile, the NCWC established the Victorian Order of Nurses to provide at-home nursing care, and supported the rights and opportunities of women in the workforce.

Mysteriously, the local branch of the NCWC virtually disappeared in 1920, and the reason for this is unknown. In 1959, it was resurrected as the Vernon & District Council of Women which operated until 1974 before folding due to low membership numbers. However, since then, other local organizations have continued to protect and promote the rights of women and gender equality for all.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

In the middle of the photo is a woman in a white dress with vertical pink red and blue stripes. She has short curly light brown hair, and is looking at a balding man in a beige trench coat. To her left, is a lady with dark grey short hair with glasses, a black shirt and blue blazer.
Elizabeth Nel (center) with Patrick Mackie and Edna Oram during her visit to Vernon in 1989.

HRM QUEEN ELIZABETH II

With the passing of HRM Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, the Vernon Museum has turned to the memories of a Vernonite who was not only received by the Queen during a visit to Buckingham Palace, but also served as Winston Churchill’s personal secretary.

Elizabeth Nel, then Layton, with her class from St. Michael’s School for Girls in 1926. GVMA #13678.

A Vernon girl makes it big

Elizabeth Nel, born Layton, arrived in Vernon with her family in 1924; they had emigrated from Suffolk, England, on the advice of a physician who thought the climate might ease Elizabeth’s father’s tuberculosis. In Vernon, Elizabeth went to the St. Michael’s School for Girls and later attended secretarial school in London.

At the outbreak of World War Two, Elizabeth served with the Red Cross, but in 1941 was sent to work at Downing Street, where she met Churchill for the first time. Initially, she would only sit silently behind a typewriter while he dictated his speeches to her, but she quickly earned his respect; while attending the 1945 Yalta Conference in Crimea, Churchill proposed a toast “to Miss Layton” during a banquet in which she was the only woman present.

NEL AND CHURCHILL

It is said that Churchill and Elizabeth wept together after his defeat in the 1945 election, and that they remained in contact even after she immigrated to South Africa with her husband Frans Nel, a South African soldier who had served with the British Eight Army.

Elizabeth was invited to Buckingham Palace in 1990 for the 50th Anniversary of Churchill becoming Prime Minister. In an oral history of her meeting with Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Nel described sharing fond memories of Churchill with the Queen between appropriately-timed curtsies. She also related her embarrassment during this visit while speaking to Lord Louis Mountbatten, who told her a bawdy joke with left him in chuckles, and her exchanging uncomfortable glances with the Queen. 

Elizabeth Nel passed away in 2007.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Undated view of the Campbell and Winter Funeral Home at 3007 28th St.; this facility was one of the first in the area to have a chapel attached.
a paved pathway leads to an entry way of a blue house with white trim under an arched verandah. To the left, a large, free-standing sign, painted yellow, reads "Sultenfuss Parlor."
𝘔𝘺 𝘎𝘪𝘳𝘭’𝘴 Sultenfuss Funeral Parlor.

Funeral Homes on the Big Screen

Much of the film My Girl, which will be the feature piece at a movie night in Polson Park on September 2, hosted by the Vernon Museum and the Polson Artisan Night Market, is set in a Pennsylvania funeral home; 11-year-old protagonist Vada is the daughter of a funeral director. 

William George Winter

William George Winter, a funeral director born in Birmingham, England, came to Vernon in 1936, when he was 63-years-old. He had previously operated a funeral parlor in Drumheller, but responded to a callout from Vernon City Council for someone to direct ambulance services in the area.

As well as taking on this task, William opened a funeral home on 31st Street, just across from the Campbell Brothers’ joint mercantile and undertaking business. By then, the Campbell Brothers had been attending to the community’s funeral needs for almost 40 years, but William was not daunted by this competition.

Winter and Winter  Winter and Campbell

William ran the Winter and Winter funeral parlor with his daughter Ivy until 1943, when he decided to join forces with Douglas Campbell to form Campbell and Winter Ltd. Together, the new merger was able to design and build a brand new facility on 28th Street, where the Vernon Funeral Home is located today.A large, free-standing black sign with white lettering reads "Vernon Funeral Home - Funerals - Cremations - Monuments." It is standing next to a beige building, and the sky is a pale blue in the background.

William Winter used to say that embalming was a lost art with ancient roots. He practiced his art until 1953, when he passed away at the age 79.

If you are interested in learning more about the Winter Family, we invite you to listen to this oral history interview with Arlene (Kermode) Smith, William Winter’s granddaughter, which is part of our archival collection. 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A black and white image of a 1910s house in Vernon. A tree partially covers a veranda over the front door and a white fence circles a small yard. A truck with a canopy is parked in front of the house.

The Atkinson Family

An unassuming house at 1900 33rd Street was once the site of a maternity home.

The house, located a few blocks away from the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, was built on what was formerly known as Sully Street in 1906. Carpenter/contractor Joseph A. Atkinson built the two-story building for his wife and five children, who had journeyed west from Ontario. In 1914, Joseph’s wife Angeline, a trained midwife, had it converted into a maternity home.

A Family Home Transformed

An obituary for Angeline Atkinson that appeared in the Vernon News a year after her passing, in 1938.

The building needed some remodeling to accommodate this change; the dining room was re-designed to serve as a nursery, and a small room off of the dining room as the birthing area. Meanwhile, the bedrooms upstairs were used as the maternity wards. The mothers were made very comfortable, as were their babies, nestled in bassinets made from old laundry hampers.

Babies R Us

Angeline worked closely with several local doctors, who often recommended her maternity home to their patients. When other business prevented them from attending their labouring patients, it was often Angeline herself who delivered the babies.

Angeline and Joseph Atkinson are buried in Vernon’s Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

During its 19 years of operation, hundreds of babies were born in the Atkinson Maternity Home. It closed in 1933, and Angeline passed away four years later, in 1937.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Vernon's Okanagan Indian Band Mural. An older indigenous man with gray hair wearing a cowboy hat is located on the left of the image. He is smiling and wearing a blue plaid shirt. Next to him is a woman, smiling slightly, and wearing an orange head scarf, and a white and orange scarf around her neck. To her right is a blue stylized eagle, wolf, and sea serpent design. The background shows a blue, multicoloured lake, with green forests and blue mountains in the background. The blue-black sky is doted with pink clouds.
Tommy Gregoire is immortalized on the left side of Vernon’s Okanagan Indian Band mural, which was completed by Michelle Loughery and her team in 2001. If you are interested in learning more of the stories behind the murals, take a tour

This weekend marks the 2022 Historic O’Keefe Ranch’s Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival.

Considering that the first non-Indigenous settlements to emerge in the Okanagan Valley were cowtowns—communities that appeared at the junction of railroads and livestock trails—Vernon has long boasted a healthy population of cowboys.

Men like Cornelius O’Keefe are often remembered for participating in the Okanagan Valley cattle drives of the 1860s, but even during their time, it was known that the best ropers and riders belonged to the Okanagan Nation. For instance, the Gregoire Family alone included several generations of talented equestrians.     

As told in the book Q’Sapi: A History of Okanagan People as told by Okanagan Families, Francois Gregoire (1865-1944) was a successful rancher who owned a large herd of horses, some of which were used for racing and others for farming. By 1915, he owned a threshing wheat separator which he rented out to other ranchers.

Francois’ son Tommy (1901-2000) also went on to become a well-known rodeo rider. A celebrated Traditional Knowledge Keeper, Tommy was an adamant advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms, who, along with his wife Mary, ensured that his children learned nsyilxcən.

Tommy’s son Leonard (1929-2013) was a self-proclaimed cowboy from the start who began exercising his grandfather Francois’ horses at only eight years old. He later worked as a rodeo contractor with his father, and learned to ride broncos and bulls. He even went on to earn six track records in Canada and the U.S. racing quarter horses and thoroughbreds.

Like his father and grandfather, Tommy was proud to be fluent in nsyilxcən, and passed along his teaching to his own grandchildren and other little ones at the Okanagan Language Nest.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Two women in front of a beige, multi-storied building, holding botanical samples. The woman on the left is blond, and smiling at the camera. The woman on the right has dark red hair with bangs, with piercings on her hair and one below her mouth, and smiling slightly and looking off to her left. The left sample is a green plant with a white flower pressed flat on a sheet of paper between sheets of thin plastic. The right sample has pink, bell-shaped flowers.
Cheryl Craig and Jennifer Rhodes of the UBCO Biology Department displaying samples from Jim Grant’s botany collection in 2022.

A collection of 400 laminated botanical samples collected around B.C. by local naturalist Jim Grant has been transferred from the Vernon Museum to UBCO’s Biology Department.

A smiling man with short grey hair wearing a blue beret. He is also wearing a while collar shirt, with is peaking out from a being knit sweater. He is looking at the camera and has black binoculars on a brown strap around his neck.
Portrait of James Grant. Courtesy of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

James Grant, often known as Jim, was born in Trinity Valley near Lumby in 1920. Even as a child, Jim showed a keen interest in nature and art. At the age of 15, his lifelike sketches of birds had become so impressive that he won a bird-drawing competition conducted by the English magazine “The Bird Lover’s League.”

Jim later worked as a farmer and a logger before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1941. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals until 1946, when he returned to Vernon and was employed by the Federal Forest Entomology Lab.

His work took him throughout the province, and he quickly became a skilled ornithologist, entomologist, and botanist. He also spent a few years doing similar field work in Alberta. In 1970, he was appointed Field Studies Coordinator for School District 22, a position which saw him organizing and conducting student field trips to grassland, forest and pond sites, where he remained until his retirement in 1978.   

White orchid flowers on yellow-green stems surrounded by dark green words in a semi-circle that read North Okanagan Naturalists' Club.
North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club logo featuring a bog orchid.

Jim was a founding member of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club; in fact, during an excursion to the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve in 1965, he spotted a small, white bog orchid which later became the club’s emblem. He also operated a hospital for injured hawks and owls from his home in Lavington.

After Jim’s passing in 1986, his botany collection was donated to the Vernon Museum. However, earlier this year, the museum’s collection committee decided that it would be of more value to the Biology Department at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, and it was transferred accordingly, to the great excitement of the university staff.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A man in black and white wearing a loose, white button-up shirt standing in a pottery studio. He has a bushy mustache and furrowed eyebrows, and a partially bald head. He is showing a pottery bowl to the camera. To his left are three shelved full of different pieces of pottery, including bowls, mugs, and jugs.
Axel Ebring with some of his creations in 1953.
Axel Ebring’s article in the Vancouver Sun of April 3, 1943.

The Historical Record works in mysterious ways.

Around 1975, a newspaper dating back to April 3, 1943, was discovered beneath the floorboards of a North Vancouver home. 47 years later, in 2022, the newspaper has made its way to the Museum & Archives of Vernon

The North Van house was 80 years old in the 1970s when it was purchased by Jim Huffman, who now lives in Vernon. While renovating one of the bedrooms, Jim discovered two or three complete Vancouver Sun Newspapers dating back to the 1940s tucked beneath the old linoleum flooring. Being somewhat of a self-proclaimed history nut and hoarder, he tucked them away in safe place before passing them along to a museum staff member earlier this year.

What is interesting about one of these aged Vancouver newspapers (other than the fantastic Prince Valiant cartoons) is that it includes an article about one of Vernon’s very own—Axel Ebring. Long before the age of the internet, this celebrated local potter had managed to make a name for himself across the province.

The Potter of Vernon

Axel Ebring was born in Kalmar, Sweden, in 1874. At the age of only 12, he immigrated to Canada. He worked as a general labourer for many years, before adopting his father’s profession and building his first production kiln at Notch Hill, near Salmon Arm, in the 1920s. He discovered another clay deposit about ten years later in Vernon, and moved his operation here.

Axel Ebring’s photo in the Vancouver Sun of April 3, 1943

A Massive kiln and an even bigger legacy

As the Vancouver Sun article relates, Axel Ebring’s kiln was about 20-feet square and 8-feet high, with walls that were two-feet thick. After forming his creations, Axel would decorate them with naturally-produced dyes made from roots and berries. The article also includes an interesting discussion of the process Axel would take to break down chunks of scavenged quartz to form a glaze. Once decorated and glazed, the pieces were placed in large, heat-resistant crocks called “seggars,” which were then stacked on top of each other in the kiln. The pieces were fired twice for sixty hours, with a cooling period in between, and then were ready for sale.

Axel remained in Vernon until 1954, when he passed away. His legacy was marked in the naming of Pottery Road, near where his kiln and shop were located. Many of creations are preserved in both the Vernon Museum and the R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum, as well as in private collections. 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A black and white photo of a man lounging on the lawn with a dog. He has short, slicked-back hair, and is wearing a loose shirt, unbuttoned beneath the collar bone, and white pants. He has sandals on his feet. The dog has his mouth open with his tongue out and is looking away from the camera. The photo is framed in the background by overhanding bushes.
Leone Caetani sitting on the front lawn of his home in Vernon with a dog circa 1927.

“Enriched all aspects of our society”

In recognition of Italian Heritage Month, which is celebrated every June, Minister Hussen stated that “with more than 1.5 million people of Italian heritage, Canada is the proud home of one of the largest Italian diasporas in the world. From business to sports, cuisine, politics, and much more, the community has enriched all aspects of our society, and continues to do so.”

Italian immigrants in Canada and the Okanagan

A circular black and white photograph bordered by a white frame. A small child on the left is seated on a bench with a pillow. She is wearing a white dress, and her waved hair is pinned back at the ear with a white clip. She is not smiling, and looking away from the camera. She is hugging a woman in a white dress, who is leaning in to press her face against the child's. She is smiling slightly and looking at the camera. To her left is a man in a suit and tie, sitting upright and smiling slighty at the camera. One hand rests easily on his knee, and the other is behind the back of the woman.
Leone, Ofelia, and Sveve photographed in 1921, shortly before the family’s departure for Canada. Vernon Museum and Archives #12730.

The immigration of Italians to Canada is closely tied to political and social turmoil in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. In particular, the rise of fascism under Mussolini changed the fortunes of many Italians, and some decided to immigrate to Canada to seek out new and safer opportunities. Many settled in communities in B.C., including Vancouver, Trail, Rossland, Revelstoke, Kelowna, Powell River, Duncan, and Vernon. The Okanagan’s first Italian immigrant was Giovanni Casorso, who arrived in Kelowna in March of 1883, followed by his wife and children in 1884.

A black and white photo of a man standing, with one knee up on chair. He is positioned near a window through which light is streaming. He has one hand on his hip, and is wearing a bowler hat.
This photo of Leone, taken in 1921, shows him leaning on a chair in Ofelia’s villa in Rome “on the eve of their departure for Canada.” Greater Vernon Museum & Archives #12142.

A duke immigrates to Vernon

Meanwhile, one of Vernon’s most well-known Italian immigrants was Leone Caetani, father of Sveva Caetani, a celebrated local artist. Leone was born on September 12, 1869, to one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Italy. In addition to serving as Duke of Sermoneta and Prince of Teano, Leone was a gifted scholar with a degree in Ancient and Oriental Language and History, and fluent in 11 different languages.

A woman with salt-and-pepper hair is seated in a wheelchair and looking up towards the camera. She is not smiling, and holding a beige blanket to show the camera. On the blanket is printed a black horse rearing up on its hind legs.
Sveva Caetani at a solo exhibition in 1988 at the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Leone first visited Canada for a hunting trip in 1891, and was captivated by its natural beauty. This likely contributed to his decision to immigrate to the country in 1921 with Sveva and her mother Ofelia. As an avid socialist, Leone, like many Italians, was also no longer comfortable in post-war, fascist Italy. 

The Caetani Family, with Ofelia’s secretary and personal companion, Miss Jüül, and a small handful of staff, arrived in Vernon in the summer of 1921.

To learn more about the Caetani Family, click here

 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

Happy Father’s day!

An Indigenous man wearing a blue ball cap is looking off to the left. He is wearing a black shirt and camouflage jacket. The background shows a wintery landscape.
Frank Marchand. Photo by Athena Bonneau, courtesy of https://thediscourse.ca/okanagan/frank-marchand-okanagan-changemaker.

Traditional and contemporary Indigenous culture emphasizes the importance of learning from one’s elders and passing along knowledge to younger generations. Frank Marchand, a member of the Okanagan Indian Band, epitomizes this cultural value in both the relationship he shared with his father and Elders, and in the role he has played as an educator to dozens of local students.

From Father to son

Frank Marchand’s late father, Gordon Marchand, was a Master Carver, a practice and designation he passed along to his son. Now, Frank has followed in Gordon’s footsteps in emphasizing the importance of dugout canoes and traditional waterways to the syilx and secwepemc people through public education.

A large trunk of a tree which is half-carved into a rounded, dugout shape. The legs of two people standing nearby are also visible, as well as a red chain saw. Wood chips cover the floor, but the far background shows that it is a winter's day.
A photo of the in-progress canoe constructed by Frank and students from SD22 in 2022. 

CANOE CULTURE REVITALIZED

In 2020, Frank and his apprentice William Poitras spent the summer working with youth from the Westbank First Nation. Together, the group took 21-days to construct a dugout canoe, which was inaugurated at a blessing ceremony at kłlilx’w (Spotted Lake), located near Osoyoos. Frank also worked with students in Kamloops’ School District 73 to create three other canoes.

That same year, Frank was nominated as a community changemaker, one of several individuals identified by IndigiNews as having a positive impact on his or her community.

Now, in 2022, Frank has spent several months working with students from Vernon’s Alternate Learning Program, Open Door Education Center, and Kal Secondary School to create another dugout canoe which will be unveiled at a ceremony at Canoe Beach. The canoe will then be on display at the Vernon Museum for summer 2022. 

In addition to revitalizing canoe culture across the Valley, Frank is also a member of the Okanagan Nation Response Team, a group of community members with extensive training in suicide education, community mobilization, and critical incident response.

FOOTAGE OF FRANK AND STUDENTS WORKING ON A CANOE IN 2018

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

 

A photo of Pauline Johnson, taken shortly before her death in 1913, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Talented Wordsmiths

Vernon has long been home to a plethora of talented wordsmiths, which a humble binder in the Vernon Archives titled “Writers” reveals. The binder is full of information about several of Vernon’s many authors and poets, arranged alphabetically from Thomas Andrews (author of Type: Writer) to Mark Zuehlke (author of Scoundrels, Dreamers, & Second Sons). The Vernon Museum is even lucky enough to have its own award-winning author and poet on staff, Laisha Rosnau.

In addition to these gifted locals, Vernon has also played host to several traveling writers over the years. One that caused a particular stir during her turn-of-the-century visit to the city was Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson).

Tekahionwake (Pauline Johnson)

Tekahionwake, born in 1861, was a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, and daughter of Chief Onwanonsyshon (G. H. M. Johnson) and Emily Howells. Tekahionwake began writing poetry in her mid-teens, after a childhood of poor health largely confined her to indoor pursuits like reading.

Sometime after 1884, following the death of her father, Tekahionwake began a career as a public orator and embarked on a series of speaking tours in Canada, the United States, and England. Her poems were largely patriotic in nature, but she also incorporated elements of Mohawk culture into her performances.

A visit to Vernon

Tekahionwake visited Vernon in 1907, where she offered a poetry recitation in the second-floor hall of the W. F. Cameron general store. By then, she had published two volumes of poems, “The White Wampum” (1894) and “Canadian Born” (1903), and the crowd was large and appreciative.

When she passed away in 1913, the Vernon News dedicated several pages to describing Tekahionwake’s life and many cultural contributions. Despite what her critics might have said during her lifetime and beyond it, this remarkable woman paved the way for other Indigenous female voices to be heard. 

The documentary Why We Write: Poets of Vernon, by Hannah Calder and Curtis Emde, delves into the world of poets and bookmakers living in and around Vernon, British Columbia. It will premiere at the Vernon Museum on April 29 and 30. Click here to learn more.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator