One of the greatest challenges faced by pioneer women was loneliness. Before the opening of good lines of communication and transportation, such as the telephone lines and highways, women's interaction with the outside world was limited. While their husbands had the opportunity to travel periodically into town and to meet with neighbours, farmwomen were often stuck at home caring for the children and performing their household chores. Especially during the prolonged Canadian winters, women suffered from severe cases of cabin fever.
Heritage Trails #128 Community Halls
In the early years of settlement, pioneers often held their dances and
political rallies in nearby schools. But these often conflicted with
educational needs, and, by 1913, with the consolidation of school districts,
it was apparent that rural communities needed their own permanent halls.
Women's organizations offered a solution to women's loneliness, as they provided them with a social outlet. Club meetings allowed women to escape their home and family for a few hours or, in the case of club retreats, like Farm Women's Week, for a whole week. Often these meetings were scheduled at the same time as men's,
such as those of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) and United Farm Women of Alberta
(UFWA), enabling men and women to travel together. Often clubs would organize social events around their
meetings and at special times of the year. The Rebekah's
Lodge together with its male counterpart, the Oddfellows, would organize a large
New Year's dinner and dance for its members.
organizations allowed women to come together with other adult women and discuss issues of common interest. Many organizations believed in promoting the education of women and, therefore, they brought in guest speakers to give lectures and held discussions. These lectures and discussions often focused on improving women's domestic skills, but they also informed women of the political situation and farm technology. They allowed women to exercise their minds and form opinions on the political and social issues of the day.
Sources and Suggested Readings:
Cole, Catherine and Ann Milovic.
"Education, Community Service, and Social Life: The Alberta Women's
Institutes and Rural Families, 1909-1945." Standing on New Ground.
Eds. Catherine Cavanaugh and Randi Warne. Edmonton: University of Alberta
Holt, Faye Reineberg.
"Women's Suffrage in Alberta." Alberta History 1991
Langford, Nanci. Politics,
Pitchforks and Pickle Jars: 75 Years of Organized Farm Women in Alberta.
Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 1997.
McManus, Sheila. "Gender(ed)
Tensions in the Work and Politics of Alberta Farm Women, 1905-29." Telling
Tales. Eds. Catherine Cavanaugh and Randi Warne. Vancouver:
University of British Columbia Press, 2000
Von Heyking, Amy. "Red
Deer Women and the Roots of Feminism." Alberta History 1994
Wilson, L. J.
"Educational Role of the United Farm Women of Alberta." Alberta
History. 1977 25(2): 28-36.
Alberta: Home, Home on the Plains
- An introduction to the early settlement history of the province. Learn about the various cultural groups that came to Canada and Alberta to make their homes and settle the West.