Celebrating women of history


October is Women’s History Month in Alberta and women who have made an impact in their communities across the province are being remembered through stories – including those in Airdrie.

Laurie Harvey, curator at Nose Creek Valley Museum, said sharing stories of women from the past is important because they were often “silenced.”

“When you’re talking pioneer women that made an impact in Airdrie, they all made an impact because there were so few of them,” she said. “It’s hard to pick just one.”

Muriel Clayton (Mason) was the first teacher in the Airdrie district. She taught at Sunnyside School when it opened its doors Feb. 22, 1899, according to files at the museum. The school was located along the highway between Airdrie and Crossfield and Miss Mason taught a class of nine students.

In 1904, she married rancher Jack Clayton and they had 11 children. Muriel Clayton Middle School in Airdrie was named after her.

A school in Airdrie was also recently named after Heloise Lorimer, who was born in Airdrie in 1912, raised here and passed away at the Bethany Care Centre in 2010 at the age of 98.

Her granddaughter, Beth Francois, said Lorimer loved Airdrie and helping people in the community.

“She never left Airdrie for more than two weeks…. She didn’t really have a job but kind of made taking care of people her job,” Francois said. “Everyone in Airdrie was family…. Everybody came to her place for coffee. Some of her friends made a sign that said Heloise’s Coffee Shop and that sat in her window.”

Lorimer married Jim Lorimer and they had three sons – Gary, Buzz and Rick. Jim passed away in 1972 and Lorimer was a widow for many years.

She used to act as a hostess at weddings and enjoyed speaking at schools about the history of Airdrie in her later years, according to Francois.

“She loved to go in and talk to the kids about old Airdrie and when there was dirt roads and wooden sidewalks and no streetlights or anything like that…. She was so proud of the city,” she said. “I used to tease her when there was a new street named after McCracken or something I would say, ‘Grandma, you need a street,’ and she would say, ‘I don’t want a street. I want a school.’”

Francois said she nominated her grandmother’s name for a new school in Airdrie but didn’t realize many others did as well.

“Their policy is you have to be deceased for 10 years to have a school named after you, but they made an exception for her,” she said. “We were so proud. We just thought that legacy was very suited to her.”

According to a press release issued by the Province, more women ran in this year’s municipal election in Alberta than in 2013. In 2015, women held 32 per cent of public board positions, and that number has since increased to 48 per cent.

“Since Alberta’s founding in 1905, Alberta women have championed equality in Alberta and around the world. It’s because of their leadership and hard work that women have the right to vote, to equal pay for equal work and the freedom to make decisions that affect their health and safety,” Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean said in the release.


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