As I’ve been working in the archives and reading about the history of CWLC, I’ve often wondered where our early club members obtained their books. Did they have personal libraries? Were they ordered by mail? Were there bookstores in Calgary in 1906?
I read (again) the minutes of the first meeting, 1906 February 9: “The 1st Vice President [Mrs MacDonald] was instructed to make arrangements with Osborne Bros Booksellers for the procuring of books.”
Later, in the minutes of the first meeting in 1909, October 9: “The question of books for the club was brought up….It was decided that each one should get hers at DJ [or PJ] Young’s bookstore.”
“Bookstores on 8th Avenue like Linton’s, Mackie’s and Osborne’s vied to satisfy Calgarians’ thirst for newspapers, magazines, books and educational texts. Citizens had their own private libraries, perhaps the most impressive being James and Isabella Lougheed’s, a collection said to have included 10,000 books.
Newspapers like the Weekly Herald, the Morning Albertan and the Eye Opener would have noted the progress of the city’s new public library in the final stages of construction in Central Memorial Park. The project was spearheaded not by city politicians, but by a group of avid readers: members of the Calgary Literary Women’s Club established in 1906. When the library opened in January 1912, chief librarian Alexander Calhoun noted that ‘the cupboard was bare in a few days.’ Over the decades, this jewel of a library would become a mecca for aspiring and established writers.“
Mackies Bookstore: Located on north side of Stephen Avenue in Thompson block (112A – 8th Avenue East). Shop also contained gunsmith business started in 1886 in partnership with Walter Grant Mackay. Bookstore begun in 1901; J. S Mackie was mayor of Calgary from 1901-1903. Image sourced from the Glenbow Archives.
Shaun Hunter spoke at our AGM (via Zoom) in 2021. She is the author of Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers and generously donated a copy of her book as the draw prize. More about Ms. Hunter and her work on literature and history can be found at http://shaunhunter.ca/.
On this April afternoon, snow was falling gently but steadily outside the Glencoe Club windows. Inside was nothing but cheer, as we still don’t take for granted the pleasure of meeting in person! Spring bouquets graced our tables. Our special guests were Calgary Public Library friends Sarah Meilleur (CEO) and Brin Bugo (Manager, Memorial Park Branch,) along with award-winning Calgary writer Sharon Butala. Cecilia read the 1927 poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann. Without knowing our guest speaker’s theme today, it was to be a perfect example of writing that remains relevant through time. Our buffet lunch was as delectable as it was a feast for the eyes!
Sharon Butala, a prolific author of fiction, essays, articles, poetry, and plays, has just published This Strange Visible Air: Essays on Aging and the Writing Life. Sharon began her talk by describing a time years ago when a press agent rejected her book for publication because it was “old-fashioned.” Feeling dismissed, then angry, this spurred her to publish an article in The Walrus, and since then she actively writes and speaks against “ageism.” She gave an overview of how writing styles have evolved from the 18th Century to contemporary authors. She concluded that she needn’t be apologetic for choosing to write in a style she prefers to call “traditional” rather than “old fashioned” (a term which has more to do with outdated words and syntax.) Personally, she is not fond of some current trends in writing and believes “traditional” humanistic stories will still be read with great pleasure by a multitude of readers today and in the future.
The Annual General Meeting was a celebration and a tribute. We surmounted the challenge of Covid this year by pivoting from in-person, to online, to in-person meetings. Our presenters introduced us to fascinating 21st Century authors, with lively discussions ensuing. Our Principles and Guidelines document was updated. Our website drew in 30% more visitors, resulting in some new members. This year, we began using online storage for Minutes and other important documents. Our Archivist ensures we continue to learn more about – and add to – our “story” in the Glenbow Archives. In short, the Club remains current, while honoring its past and traditions. We closed with our thanks to Helen who is leaving our executive team, to Natashia who is taking over as Program Chair, to all those who served last year, and to those who will serve on the new executive team. Our 2023-24 program will be “Authors who have never been presented to the Club, focusing on Canadian women writers.”
We may still be wearing our masks, but to be together in person was a breath of fresh air!
Amazingly, we have run meetings virtually for the whole of President Robin’s two-year tenure. This AGM was her first – and last – in-person meeting to chair. That might be something for the record books! With Moorea, our incoming 2022-24 President, they have hosted our online meetings and socials with panache. An unexpected silver lining has been the return of some former members who can join us online, but not in person. We look forward to new adventures in the fall!
The Calgary Golf and Country Club has been our venue of choice for this event for many years, and for many good reasons. We love its friendly staff, a-room-with-a-view, and scrumptious buffet lunch! Thank you!
Doloris decorated the tables, with cheerful spring tulips.
Sarah Meilleur was joined by her colleagues Alexandra Runge (Calgary Library Foundation) and Leah McLeod (Memorial Park Library.) Sarah revealed how unreal it felt when she, by herself, was locking the front door to shutter our architectural marvel from Calgarians for an unknown time. That meant shutting out over 20,0000 Calgarians who enter our libraries each day! She then astonished us with stories of how library staff did somersaults to find ways to provide Calgarians service in new ways. They not only landed on their feet, but they won the Urban Libraries Association (North America) Innovators Award in 2020.
The excitement and pleasure of being together at last was remarkable. Lovely outfits have finally seen the light of day again! (The photographer botched some shots: Her apologies that a few attendees are not in the slideshow!)
I was lucky to get the yummiest book at our Christmas book exchange! It’s by Calgarian cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal and her friend, former Calgarian Sue Duncan. My Secret Santa chose a cookbook full of tempting recipes for my newly-vegan son and his rather bewildered Mom. Secret Santa has amazing powers of intuition and wisdom!
Here’s my Aloo (Potatoes) Gobi (Cauliflower) with Chickpeas!
In 2018, between one CWLC presidency and the next, Margaret Sparkes and Doloris Duval shared the honour of joining the Calgary Public Library CEO Bill Ptacek as he dedicated a plaque to the Memorial Park Library.
I have a hunch that being a President of our club is never dull, but Doloris had a few unique challenges (Ahem! opportunities.) Her presidency was book-ended by a blizzard requiring her to cancel the first meeting (ever!) in Fall 2018, and the pandemic which meant CWLC’s Spring 2020 season and all its fine plans were nipped in the bud. All in all, Doloris led us in times that often required more than the usual CWLC presidential intelligence, steady hands, grace and fortitude. Thanks so much from all of us, Doloris!
Ritta used the word mensch, a particularly good person,to describe author Chaim Potok. Ritta discovered his novels through her curiosity about religions.
Chaim Potok was raised in the Bronx in a conservative Jewish family, received a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, then became a rabbi. It was his three years as a chaplain in Japan and Korea after the Korean war that transformed his beliefs. He obtained a master’s and doctorate degree, led an active life as a Jewish academic and teacher, as a magazine editor and writer, in addition to being a novelist.
Not unlike Potok himself, his characters struggle to manage the tensions inherent in wanting to live for themselves against the backdrop of their families’ expectations and their traditional religious beliefs.
At 114 years young, the Calgary Women’s Literary Club will be meeting for the first time ever on Zoom, and not in our beloved Memorial Park Library.
If you are new to Zoom and need help getting started, please let us know. One of us will provide support and/or extra practise with Zoom, prior to the first meeting.
Our first meeting on Tuesday, October 6 will be an informal one, to let members visit and try out the technology. So… no commute, no parking woes! Instead, about 1:45-1:50 pm, take a last look in the mirror, grab a nice beverage and snack, and settle into a comfy chair at home across from your computer screen. Find the email you will have received from us containing the Zoom link. Click on it, optionally hold your breath or (better yet) take a sip, and you should be ushered in.
Guests are welcome: Email us at email@example.com
The following week, we will continue with our long-awaited Cultural Awareness Through Literature session.
On March 10, 2020, Sandra Ens introduced our guest speaker Sharanpal Ruprai, this year’s Canadian Writer-in-Residence at the University of Calgary. Dr. Ruprai is Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Her poems have been published in numerous anthologies including Exposed and Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets. She is also the author of two other volumes of poetry: Seva, a coming of age collection which speaks movingly about experiences from Ruprai’s Sikh girlhood; and her most recent collection, the humorous and evocative Pressure Cooker Love Bomb, which was named a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry. As Dr. Ruprai engaged us with readings from her body of work, we were encouraged as she was “to cut the noise out of the poetry” and to be mindful of the need for openness about the multiples of culture and religion.
CLICK HERE for more on Pressure Cooker Love Bomb and its poet.