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to write in a style she prefers to call “traditional” rather than “old fashioned” (a term which has more to do with outdated words and syntax.)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.”
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!
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.
Janet Halls has a fitting author event to showcase for Remembrance Day, for CWLC and others. When We Were Shadows was written by a Calgarian and former teacher (coincidentally, a neighbour of Janet Halls.) Janet Wees worked closely with “Walter” to bring his story to others. Even in the Netherlands, few were aware of this story. Although technically this is a book for youth, it is a riveting read for adults too.
Synopsis from the CPL Program registration:
Based on a true story, When We Were Shadows is the story of Walter, a young Jewish boy and his family. They stay one step ahead of the Nazis in Holland during the Second World War, eventually hiding in a hidden village deep in the Dutch woods, forced to rely on strangers for their safety. It is a story of human resilience, the power of family, and the kindness of strangers. Suitable for ages 12 and up.
WHERE? Memorial Park Library, Main Floor Salon
WHEN? Monday, November 11, 1-2 pm
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER: (Not required, but recommended, as only 42 spaces are available. Your CPL library card number is needed for registration.)
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.
Sept 27 2018 plaque unveiling at Memorial Park Library
CBC’s Rachel Ward was in touch with Mary Carwardine.
This month our city enjoyed Historic Calgary Week. The theme for this year was The Power of Partnerships and the Calgary Women’s Literary Club was pleased to be invited to participate. Held in the delightfully historic Memorial Park Library, Mary Carwardine, Sue Carscallen and Sandra Ens took part in an engaging talk which served to deliver a thoughtful and informative overview of the significant role that our club has played in Calgary’s history.
This presentation created an enhanced appreciation of the accomplishments of our founder, Annie Davidson. Annie we were told was a lady of quiet dignity and thoughtful opinions who overcame the many challenges and losses that were typical of her time. Buoyed by her love of books, she sparked intellectual and social discourse in a growing population of literate Calgary women. These women shared the scarce few books that they had brought with them on their journey to Calgary during their weekly meetings in Annie’s parlor.
Under Annie’s leadership, in a time when women had yet to win the right to vote, the Calgary Women’s Literary Club worked tirelessly to garner support and succeeded in obtaining the land and the funding to build the first public library between Winnipeg and Vancouver. The Memorial Park Library came into being in 1912.
Annie’s “book club with a difference” continues to meet on Tuesday afternoons in the library that she built. Today’s members hold dear the legacy left to us by Annie as we continue to discuss and analyze literature.
I have borrowed liberally from the talk in my efforts to capture and relate the flavor of this wonderful presentation.
With a photo of the front entrance and the bold headline “A National Treasure” on the front page of its January 19, 2018 edition, the Calgary Herald announced that Memorial Park Library has been designated a national historic site.
Although the article on page A2 doesn’t mention the Calgary Women’s Literary Club by name, it does explain that the library “was built thanks to the efforts of a group of local women, including one of Calgary’s cultural pioneers, Annie Davidson.” Memorial Park Library served as the city’s main library from 1912, when it opened, until 1963.
Although it may not be published, I did write the following e-mail to the newspaper:
Open old book, studio shot (with permission from Getty Images)
The Calgary Herald’s Swerve Magazine has once again given our Club a lovely tribute, this time to our founders who championed bringing the first library to Calgary. The article ends by reminding us that our Club has been using the Memorial Park premises for 103 years!
George Jonas (Image from Toronto Sun article Jan. 10 2016)
George Jonas escaped Hungary and arrived in Canada at age 21 without speaking English well. He went on to become a respected Canadian journalist, novelist, playwright and poet. He provided a unique point of view based on classical liberalism. Journalism lost an important voice January 2016.
Anita Madill’s presentation serves as a strong reminder of the importance of journalists and journalism, especially of the caliber of George Jonas.
Our March 14 meeting included a special guest, Julia Harrington, the new Community Outreach Librarian for the Memorial Park Library. With WordFest above us, extended library hours and more program offerings, our Memorial Park Library is hopping!
Next week’s meeting will feature special guest Shane Book, University of Calgary’s Writer in Residence. Get boned up (What an odd expression that is!):