From its birth in 1905, Alberta has been home to several married couples who epitomized the spirit of volunteerism and social activism. One such husband-and-wife team was the duo of Maude and Harold Riley of Calgary.
Maude Riley knew how to get things done, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. As a lifelong activist for social improvement in Calgary, she fought for the well-being of children and for the rights of women. Among her notable activities were her campaigns to provide children with safe milk, to convince the Calgary Police Force to hire women, and her tireless quest to have health education be included as part of the school curriculum. In 1918, she helped found the Calgary Child Welfare Society and served as the president of the Alberta Council on Child and Family Welfare from 1923 to 1962. In addition, she held positions on the executives of many other organizations. These included the National Council of Women, the Alberta Federation of Women, the Calgary Playground Association, the Canadian Council on Child Welfare, and the Foothills Provincial General Hospital Board, among others. Along the way, she gained a reputation as a tough and determined advocate for the causes she championed. Maude Riley is regarded as one of the pioneers of social work in the province of Alberta.
Maude was married to Harold Riley, an equally civic-minded person. In addition to prior roles as Deputy Provincial Secretary of Alberta and as University of Alberta registrar, he served in the provincial government as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1906 to 1913. After volunteering for the army during the First World War, he returned home to play an integral role in the development of the Southern Alberta Pioneers' and Old Timers' Association, acting as its secretary for more than 20 years.
Harold passed away in 1946, while Maude remained active within the community until her death in 1962. This truly remarkable couple demonstrated that a combination of determination, idealism and social activism can be a powerful tool to make a community a better place.