In February 2021, the Calgary Women’s Literary Club celebrates 115 years as a home for women who love books. Since being started by Anne Davidson, the club has included many fascinating Albertans some of whom were (or are) members for more than 50 years. Well-known members have included the suffragette Nellie McClung.
Our Tuesday meetings on “Writers of Australia and New Zealand” begins via Zoom on March 2nd, 2021. Cecilia Krupa will be presenting on Miles Franklin. Existing members will receive an invitation to the Zoom call prior to the meeting.
On November 24, 2020 the club held the annual Winter Party by Zoom. For the first time ever, the party included a secret book exchange. Members gave a book from their shelf anonymously to another member and the gifts and givers were revealed during the Zoom call. This may be the start of a winter tradition.
The books, along with tea and cookies were delivered to member’s houses by couriers from the Executive. Many thanks to President Robin Stanford and all the Executive for making this happen seamlessly. Helen was a wizard at devising the exchange and the courier routes to minimize travel and keep anonymity up.
The Winter Party marks the end of CWLC meetings in 2020. We will resume in the spring of 2021 with the topic “Cultural Awareness/ Writers of Australia and New Zealand”. Greetings and best wishes to all CWLC members, their friends, their families, and other followers of this webpage, as 2020 – a year like no other -draws to a close.
On November 17, 2020 Anne-Marie Duma presented the two Norwegian authors who are credited with creating the popular Nordic Noir (Scandinavian Noir) genre. Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo created the 10 book “Story of Crime” series in the 1960’s and ’70’s – police procedurals that cast light into the dark side of Norwegian society.
The authors use plain language, a dark landscape, and slow multilayered plots to highlight the poverty, criminality and brutality underneath the welfare state. Anne-Marie read several passages that emphasized the bureaucratic failures, social ills and endemic petty corruption that contribute to crime and hamper police work.
These books are for the reader who likes to solve a puzzle.
The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s magazine Westword published an article about our Club in their October-December 2019 issue. Moorea Gray wrote the article, and we have been granted kind permission to post this article on our website.
Further information about the Club can be found by clicking on ABOUT US
THE CALGARY WOMEN’S LITERARY CLUB A book club with a difference (then and now) Moorea Gray
The Calgary Women’s Literary Club (CWLC) — founded in 1906 by Annie Davidson — is a self-described “book club with a difference.” With the diversity of book clubs emerging among friends and in communities, libraries and schools — some led by television and Internet celebrities — you might wonder what makes CWLC different. Although some elements of the club evolved over the past 113 years, the structured program, dedicated membership and rich legacy of literary study and community involvement all contribute to the club’s distinctiveness and long-lasting success.
Club meetings don’t consist of members reading and discussing the same book. Instead, one member prepares a 30-35-minute talk based on her choice of an author. Every two years, the executive committee selects a theme upon which presentations are based. This year, for example, the theme is “Cultural Awareness Through Literature” and presentations include the works of Richard Wagamese and Susanna Moodie, among others. In addition to member presentations, guest speakers make appearances. Distinguished guest authors have included W.O. Mitchell (1966) and Grant MacEwan (1981).
Membership comes with a yearly fee of $40 ($0.25 in 1906). Like Davidson and her fellow readers, CWLC members are creative, well-read, interesting and passionate about literature and learning. Members are expected to attend regularly and present every other year.
Since 1906, presentation summaries, meeting minutes and other documents of interest have been housed in the Glenbow Museum’s Library and Archives. Soon, the materials will move to the University of Calgary. These archives provide details of club activities and literary trends, community events, women’s rights and world history.
Although community engagement is not the purpose of the guild, when the opportunity arises, the CWLC gets busy. In 1915, members helped to pay for seamstresses for the Military Chapter of the Red Cross. In 2018, the club purchased a window in support of the Calgary Public Library’s Windows of Opportunity fundraising program with a bequeathed sum of money from a past member. Members take pride in honouring Davidson’s legacy; it’s not uncommon for the executive to ask, “What would Annie do?”
A widow in her late sixties, New Brunswick-born Davidson (née McKean) held the first CWLC meeting in her home on February 9, 1906. ” At the first meeting, by-laws were drawn up, officers elected and program topics chosen. Early meetings were devoted to rather heavy works, e.g. Shakespeare’s Henry IV and V, and world affairs and current events. By the 1920’s they were devoted to pure literature. Attendance ranged from 25 to 30.” (Source: “Our History,” CWLC website, calgarywomensliteraryclub.com)
Davidson, aware that the growing city of Calgary would profit significantly from a library, applied for a Carnegie Foundation library grant. From 1883 to 1929, Andrew Carnegie — a Scottish-American philanthropist — helped fund the building of more than 2,500 libraries worldwide, of which 125 are in Canada. “A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert,” said Carnegie. To obtain funding from the foundation, Calgary was required to provide land for the library site, and a petition of one-tenth of the male electorate’s signatures was needed. Thanks to Davidson’s leadership and determination, the foundation provided a grant of $80,000, and the Central Memorial Library opened in 1912. The first CWLC meeting held in the beautiful sandstone building was on February 6 of the same year. Unfortunately, Davidson died in 1910 — a few years before the library’s opening.
The CWLC is the oldest club of its kind in Canada. Today, the club meets every Tuesday afternoon in March, April, and October and November at the Memorial Park Library (previously named Central Memorial Library). Coffee and treats are served at 1:30 P.M. A welcome and administrative note from the club president is followed by the presentation and a question and answer period.
The CWLC has a current membership of 35 women. New members are welcomed and encouraged, and men are welcome to attend as guests. For more information and to submit an online membership application, please visit our website (calgarywomensliteraryclubcom). No longer are two written references required — as in the early years — but only a keen interest in literature.
Mooréa Gray holds degrees in English literature and education. She has been a member of the CWLC since 2016. Along with raising her family and teaching, Gray has devoted much of the last decade to researching Icelandic-Canadian poet Stephan G. Stephansson and published an anthology of his translated poetry in August 2019. She is a native of Calgary, where she lives with her family.
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!
It is always with sorrow that we announce a passing of one of our members. Kay Coutts was an enthusiastic member of the Calgary Women’s Literary Club. From 1989 to 2010, she entertained and educated us with presentations on a wide range of authors including Pearl S. Buck, Susanna Moodie, Sir Winston Churchill, Leo Tolstoy, and Doris Lessing to name a few. She did about fifteen talks in ten years! She continued to join our meetings thereafter. She will be missed.
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.
It has been far too long, yes it’s been quite a while, Since we greeted each other with a hug and a smile. And we listened intently to the paper being read, Agreeing to the comments with the nod of our head.
It’s been ages since the minutes were shared, And we nibbled on treats that a member prepared. The silence we feel brings a sigh to our hearts, This nasty Corona still keeps us apart!
But the good news is that we all still keep well, Just imagine the stories we’re saving to tell. Though our luncheon a virus has hauled off in stealth, Let us raise up our glasses with a toast to our health.