Calgary group wants statue of first female alderman
On the centenary of her election to council, the Annie Gale Project hopes to honour a trailblazer
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Annie Gale was the first female alderman in both Calgary and Canada, and now a group of residents want to get her back to city hall permanently – in bronze.
Nancy Janovicek, associate professor of history at the University of Calgary, is chair of the Annie Gale Project.
She said their primary goal is to raise the funds to put a bronze statue of Gale in or near Calgary City Hall, but along the way they want to raise awareness of the problems women still face in the political sphere.
"Even 100 years later, women still face a great deal of difficulty asserting themselves as political leaders," she said.
Janovicek said the idea came up in the 2013 election when the number of female councillors dropped to two. In the latest election that number grew to three, with over 20 women putting their names on the ballot.
Sunday is the 100th anniversary of Gale's election to city council. Women had only gained the right to vote in Alberta in 1916, and the famous Supreme Court case that would declare that women were in fact 'persons' was still 10 years away.
Janovicek said Gale was already active in the city on various committees, and she had the backing of the Ratepayers Association in her run for office.
Gale had championed social justice issues of the day. She launched the Vacant Lots Garden Club, which promoted growing vegetables on undeveloped land around the city.
She championed the original farmers' market, which was meant to bring lower cost food to residents. Gale also pushed for free hospitals.
Elsbeth Mehrer, VP of Engagement and People at YW Calgary, said Gale was gutsy for her time, and needs to be remembered for that.
The YW featured Gale as part of 150 women who changed Calgary for the better in a project called She who dares.
"This was about recognizing the challenges of her fellow citizens," said Mehrer.
She said one quote that has been attributed to Gale is that she believed the mission of women in political life was to clean up politics.
"We're still dealing with that, 100 years later," said Mehrer.
Gale served three terms on council, but according to Janovicek, she was eventually forced out by the political elite who didn’t see eye-to-eye with her progressive agenda.
"Her husband at the time worked as an engineer for the city,” said Janovicek. “A group of people said if she ran again, he would be forced out of his job."
She instead successfully ran for a school trustee position in 1924. She and her family moved to Vancouver in 1925, where she remained until her death in 1970.
Janovicek has set up a twitter account (@anniegaleyyc) to promote the project, and provide info on Gale's legacy.
She hopes to really launch the project early in the new year, and already has some councillors who are interested in the project.
"People need to see different types of history commemorated," said Janovicek.