A New Podium, A Tribute, and a Gift

Photo R. Stanford

As members may know, the speaker’s podium used in our meetings was beginning to show its age after years of faithful service. In early 2023, Ed Tickles, spouse of Lillian Tickles a long time member and former club president who passed away in 2019, offered to rebuild the podium. He supplied all materials and labour to bring us a new podium in memory of Lillian. On October 10, 2023 the podium was unveiled.

In turn, the CWLC donated the podium to the Calgary Public Library Foundation. Alexandra Runge, Donor Relations Officer with the Calgary Public Library Foundation (seen here to the left of Mr. Tickles) accepted the podium on their behalf. It will be available at Memorial Park Library for our use and for the use of other library patrons for years to come.

Thank-you to Mr. Tickles for your labour of love and your generosity. We will be reminded of Lillian every time we step up to speak.

S. Mattison

From the Historian

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.”

Who would know more about bookstores in Calgary in 1906?  Shaun Hunter, of course.   In her essay entitled “Seeds of Calgary’s Early Literary Culture” on the Chinook Country Historical Society website, she writes:   

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.

S. Hunter, Seeds of Calgary’s Early Literature on Chinook Country Historical Society blog, 20/11/2018

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/.

Sandra E. (CWLC Historian)

Interested in a club that celebrates Calgary’s history and future? Click here for more information.

Precise Language is Important

This excerpt is from Lois Cutler’s presentation to the Club entitled Notes, Memories, and Comments on The Calgary Women’s Literary Club, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Club (March 2, 1982).

“Mrs. J.E. Dunlop was secretary for 1920-21.  On November 9, 1920, she wrote that the Club had met in the Library at 3:00, half an hour earlier than usual, to give the members an opportunity to attend the reception for Mrs. Meighen.  “The meeting closed at 3:57, and members hustled to the Palliser.”  The following week she reported:  “Minutes read and adopted with the exception of one word, “hustle.”  The dictionary says the word means ‘to move with attempted haste, or to shabble hurriedly.’  Certainly the members did not shamble hurriedly:  the members of the CWLC are not so lacking in dignity.  Did they move with attempted haste?  In view of the undignified meaning one might take, the secretary begs to submit the words “expeditiously departed; but fearful of the consequences, the secretary hesitates to make the correction without the approval of the president and members.  The minutes in question would then read as follows:  The meeting closed at 3:57 p.m., the president and members expeditiously departed for the Palliser.”

Learn more about our history by clicking here:

Where they expeditiously departed from.

Sandra E. / Shawna M.

Remembering Lois Alger

With sadness, the Calgary Women’s Literary Club informs you of the passing of honorary member Lois Alger on January 6, 2021.  Lois was a club member for more than 60 years and served as president in 1964-1965.

Lois lived in the era when a woman’s role centered on service to family and community. She actively supported husband Ross Alger in his position as Calgary mayor in the late 70s. Lois, the intellectual and lover of literature and ideas found her own personal haven with the Calgary Women’s Literary Club as an active member from 1950 to 2010. Club records show she researched and authored 28 presentations several of which extended over 2 to 3 weeks. There was some very serious literary analysis in those days. For example, in 1988 Lois presented William Falkner over a two-week period. Other authors of note that she presented on include Jane Austen, Virginia & Leonard Woolf, Toni Morrison, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

There was a a gap in Lois’s presentation activity between 1976 and 1981 corresponding to her husband Ross’s term as Calgary mayor.  Even Lois Alger could not ‘do it all’.

Lois will remain a role model of personal friendliness and dedicated service to Calgary Women’s Literary Club.

Anita M.

Westword Article on CWLC

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

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.

CWLC in Westword

The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s magazine Westword published an article about our Club in their October-December issue. Moorea Gray wrote the article, and we have been granted kind permission to post this article on our website.

To read the article, click on its name, below.

A book club with a difference (then and now)
Moorea Gray

Plaque unveiling ceremony at the Memorial Park Library

On September 27th a special plaque was unveiled, commemorating the Memorial Park Library becoming a national historic site.  It details the vision and hard effort by Annie Davidson and the women of the Calgary Women’s Literary Club to build a library. Doloris and Margaret were delighted to be part of such a heartfelt ceremony, which was attended by CPL’s own Bill Ptacek, and representatives of City Parks and Parks Canada, among others.

Photo of Margaret Sparkes and Doloris Duval with Bill Ptacek CEO of Calgary Public Library

Sept 27 2018 plaque unveiling at Memorial Park Library

CBC’s Rachel Ward was in touch with Mary Carwardine.

Click here for the charming article that ensued.

… and click here for more on the Memorial Park Library.



A postscript to Historic Calgary Week: to CWLC from Annie Davidson’s Grandson

Mary Carwardine was able to connect with Annie’s great-grandson and invite him to the Historic Calgary Week presentation.  Sadly, Donald was unable to attend Historic Calgary Week but sent the following. He did attend the Library’s 100th celebration six years ago, which coincided with the release of Brian Brennan’s book, The Calgary Public Library: Inspiring Life Stories Since 1912.

“After travelling the world most of my life as an aviator, I am now limited by a debilitating walking disability which curtails most of my current travel. I will not be able to get to Calgary in July. I wish you all the best in executing an excellent program. I appreciate your consideration.

I have examined the “Historic Calgary Week” program and find it all very interesting. So many of those places and experiences were part of my life growing up in the City until I was eighteen years old and left for Military College in Kingston. During WW II we ( my brothers and sisters) covered the whole much smaller City by bicycle many times. The air was filled with aircraft training airmen for the war via the


and the streets with uniforms from around the Commonwealth and Europe. I attended schools in Capitol Hill, Mt. Royal, Bowness, Balmoral and Crescent Heights High. I got my first pilot’s license at the Calgary International Airport at the Calgary Flying Club.”

Donald A. Davidson, Great Grandson of Annie & Richard Davidson

Hooked? In addition to the link on BCATP above, here are links to two aviation museums in Calgary:

Hangar Flight Museum

Air Force Museum of Alberta