The “Feisty Females”
On April 19th, 1916, Alberta’s politicians passed a bill granting women the right to vote in the province. To celebrate and commemorate the 100th anniversary of this important step forward we feature the “Feisty Females” from The Cowboy Trail. Additionally, we recognize “The Famous 5” Alberta women who fought and won the right to have women legally recognized as persons in 1929. The ‘Famous 5’ women were petitioners in the groundbreaking Persons case led by Emily Murphy and included Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Irene Parlby.
Flores La Due was much more than the wife of Guy Weadick, cofounder of the Calgary Stampede. The 5 ft., one hundred pound cowgirl ran away from home as a child and changed her name to join a Wild West show. Later she won the World Champion Lady Fancy Roper title at the first Stampede with her amazing tricks. In one jaw-dropping feat La Due stopped 5 horses barrelling toward her at full speed with just her rope!
Anna Chevallier, another super brave cowgirl, wowed the crowds by riding her horse ‘Johnny’ off a 40-foot high platform into a small water tank as part of the Dr. Carver’s Diving Girls Show. And Chevallier couldn’t swim!
Feisty Movie Stars
Fay Wray was born on a ranch outside of Cardston in southern Alberta and starred in over 50 Hollywood movies including the original King Kong in 1933. She has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, a park named after her in Cardston, and Canada Post featured her on a commemorative postage stamp.
Miss Stasia Cross Carry started out as a circus performer who thrilled the crowd with her amazing riding and sharp shooting skills and ended up in a movie called Cupid the Cowpuncher with the one and only Will Rodgers.
Feisty Aboriginal Women
Evelyn Eagle Speaker from The Blood First Nation was the first aboriginal woman to be crowned Stampede Queen in 1954. All of the Stampede queens and princesses were expected to wear matching cowgirl outfits, but the feisty Evelyn, also known as Princess Wapiti, decided to wear the beautiful buckskin dress her mother made for her to the ceremony and Stampede parade.
For decades Josephine Crow Shoe from the Pikanii First Nation has educated Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people about native culture, tradition and history. Josephine received the National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the prestigious Order of Canada for her outstanding contributions.
Feisty Women of The Cloth
Mother Mary Green was an Irish nun who arrived in Calgary in 1885. She and her fellow Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) nuns started St. Mary’s school, Calgary’s first. While escaping the North-West Rebellion one of the large wooden wheels on her red river cart broke and she quickly jumped out and repaired it in no time!
French nun, Sister Horise Valiquette arrived in Calgary from Quebec in 1891 and with other Grey Nuns started Calgary’s first hospital, Hopital Sainte-Croix, (Holy Cross Hospital). When the deadly smallpox epidemic hit and victims were in quarantine in tents on the outskirts of Calgary, the brave Grey Nuns put their own lives in danger without hesitation to care for the sick.
Feisty Metis Women
Adelaide Belcourt was the Metis wife of John Glenn, the first documented European rancher in the Calgary area. They were married on September 1, 1873 in St. Anne, northern Alberta and settled on a ranch where the Elbow and Bow Rivers converge. Adelaide had 6 kids, ran a boarding house with her husband for travellers, and was a midwife who helped deliver countless babies including one belonging to Lady Belle Lougheed, wife of Sir James Lougheed, one of Alberta’s most prominent citizens. Lady Belle, also Metis, held several senior roles in communities organizations including vice-president of the Alberta district of the National Council of Women of Canada (1896) and president of the Calgary branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses. Lady Belle also hosted numerous dignitaries at their mansion. This includes the Duke of Connaught and his wife and daughter Princess Patricia in 1912 and the Prince of Wales in 1919.
Winnie Galen Reid played on the world famous Edmonton Grads basketball team. This squad won 502 out of 522 games between 1915 and 1940. A natural athlete Reid also shone in baseball where she pitched for the Army and Navy Pats softball team and even skipped a curling team to a provincial curling championship!
Becky Scott won the gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. She was the first Canadian and first North American to win an Olympic medal in cross country skiing.
Finally, we can’t forget about the remarkable and feisty folk singer Joni Mitchell. Born in 1943 in Fort Macleod in southern Alberta, Mitchell has sold millions of albums, won 8 Grammy Awards, and received the Order of Canada in 2004.
By: Rob Lennard