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Red Deer Quota Club

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Annie L. Gaetz, author, Red Deer, AlbertaIn 1936, the Red Deer Quota Club was established under the auspices of the New York based Quota Club International. Elizabeth White from the International visited Red Deer in 1935 and held a meeting with 22 women, thus spawning the idea for the Red Deer Quota Club. It was modelled after the Rotary Club and was to be "a women's club that set out to do things that men's club did." Membership was by invitation and extended only to women in business, government service and the professions. The club attracted educated, married women who wished to socialize and make connections with other like-minded women. To continue its affiliation with the International, the Quota Club had to maintain 15 members. In its early years, this proved to be a challenge, as its social evenings did not seem to attract on-going interest and until the early 1940s the club almost disbanded a number of times.

It was not until WWII that the club really came into full being. The community of Red Deer itself became very involved in the war service; the Penhold airfield was used as a training field for pilots from Britain, Australia and New Zealand and a military training centre was built in 1941. Likewise, members of the Quota Club became very active in the war service. They put together care packages for troops and volunteered their time at supply drives for the military hospital. They also held annual Christmas and Easter dinners each year and put together gifts for the patients.

Around this time, the Quota Club International was encouraging its locals to promote women's accomplishments and, especially after the war, to help protect the gains made by women during the war. The Red Deer Quota Club contributed to this agenda by sponsoring talks on "Famous Women," writing biographies of prominent women, like Irene Parlby, and helping to lobby provincial and federal governments to look at women's issues and involve women in more committees. However, this interest in women's issues slowly disappeared in the 1950s and 1960s, as the club focused more on improving the community of Red Deer.Ethel Taylor, Red Deer, Alberta

By the 1950s, the Quota Club focused on improving the cultural landscape of Red Deer. Members saw a vacuum of activities that promoted education and good taste - "only by such good entertainment can our young people grow culturally to the stage where they will appreciate good music, art, drama and music - to the oblivion of cowboy music and 'corn.'" To fill this vacuum the club sponsored and organized symphonies, operas, ballets and plays. The club started the Young Canadian Artists' Series that showcased musicians from the University of Alberta and sponsored the Canadian Opera Company to perform in Red Deer. In 1952, it brought in the Winnipeg Ballet and encouraged schools to dismiss early so that children could attend matinee performances. It also sponsored the Canadian Players (the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Cast) to perform a number of plays and spearheaded the Provincial One-Act and Three-Act Drama Festivals.

The Quota Club's cultural development of Red Deer in the 1950s and early 1960s represented its high point. By the late 1960s its membership was declining and the club eventually disbanded, its cultural work taken over by the city's Allied Arts Council. One reason for the club's decline is found in the women it targeted for membership. - married, well-educated women had less leisure time as they increasingly balanced families and careers. Also, among young educated women, feminist organizations emerged and for these women the Quota Club's principles and ideals appeared outdated. In her article "Red Deer and the Roots of Feminism," Amy Von Hevking asks whether organizations like the Red Deer Quota Club were the forerunners of feminist organizations in the 1970s. Her answer is that although it did for a short time promote women's involvement in government and some of its members, like Ethel Taylor, went on to become the first women in Alberta politics, it still clung to traditional notions of motherhood and femininity. However, she points out that its legacy is still very important, especially to the people of Red Deer as it introduced vital educational, social welfare, and, especially, cultural programs to the community.

Sources:

  • Von Hevking, Amy. "Red Deer Women and the Roots of Feminism." Alberta History 1994 42(1): 14-25.

 

  
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