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Olds School of Agriculture, 1920.  Glenbow ArchivesIn reaction to new ideas about girls' education and education in general, many new secondary education institutions or colleges were constructed in Central Alberta. Some of these were designed particularly for women. For example, the Presbyterian Church opened the Alberta Ladies College in Red Deer in 1913. The college emphasized study of the scripture, but also combined domestic science training with business studies, art and music. However, the college soon proved to be too expensive and in 1916, its building was sold to the provincial government and some classes were moved to quarters at the University of Alberta.  


Most other colleges constructed during this time were co-educational, but they offered programs particularly designed for women.  The Olds School of Agriculture opened by the provincial government in 1913 offered courses designed for both future farmers and homemakers.  In accordance with progressive educational policies, the school combined both agricultural and domestic science skills, both of which female students were encouraged to learn. Students were to learn the practical skills necessary for farm life.  For instance, all students were expected to grow vegetables and grains, raise livestock and process the food they ate on campus. 


Like the Alberta Ladies College, many schools were denominational. The Camrose Lutheran College (now Augustana University) was founded in 1910 by the Alberta Norwegian College Association, Three Hills Prairie Bible Institute (PBI) was founded in 1922 by L.E. Maxwell. Along with theological studies, these schools also taught high school and university level courses, thus acting as a stepping stone for women entering further secondary institutes.  They have also been the stepping stones for women becoming leaders within religious communities.  For instance, despite objections, the PBI's president L. Maxwell hired a woman, Ruth Dearing to be principal of the PBI's high school 1946, a position rarely held by women in religious colleges.


Wauneita Club executive, University of Alberta, 1933.  Glenbow ArchivesSome women from Central Alberta, if they had sufficient primary education and could afford tuition and to move away from home, chose to attend universities in the urban centres.  The most common choice was the University of Alberta in Edmonton, which opened in 1906.  From the beginning, admission for men and women were the same and both could apply equally for scholarships.  Most female students in the early years pursued Bachelor of Arts degrees as choices were very limited.  Later the most popular faculties for women became education, household science, nursing and rehabilitation medicine.  Slowly women began entering the male-dominated fields, such as engineering, dentistry, law and medicine.  Women's clubs quickly developed on campus, the largest being the Wauneita Society (a Cree word meaning kindness), which held annual socials, such as teas and dances, helped introduce freshettes to university life and performed a number of volunteer community service activities. Later the Wauneita Society was replaced by more feminist oriented clubs during the 1960s and 1970s.


Women's demand for education in Central Alberta went beyond primary education. Increasingly, they demanded post-secondary institutions that would allow them to receive intellectual and practical training. Local colleges sprang up to meet these needs. Many were founded and run by the church and thus, stressed religious studies. However, they also provided training in business, arts, agriculture and domestic science - the new science that was designed particularly for women. As soon as it opened, women also began attending the University of Alberta. Here they most often entered studies that were in accordance with women's traditional domestic and care-taking work. However, colleges and universities also opened the door for women to enter fields previously reserved for men. As the years passed, women increasingly broke down the barriers in achieving higher education.  


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  • Byfield, Ted. Alberta in the Twentieth Century. Vol. 2. Edmonton: United Western Communications, 1992.

  • Chalus, Elaine.  "From Friedan to Feminism: Gender and Change at the University of Alberta, 1960-1970."  Standing on New Ground.  Eds. Catherine Cavanaugh and Randi Warne.  Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1993.

  • Dawe, Michael J. Red Deer: An Illustrated History. Red Deer: Red Deer and District Museum Society, 1996.

  • Fox, Utah H. "Reverend Mr. John Nelson: Missionary with an Impossible Mission." Aspenland. Eds. David Ridley and David Goa. Red Deer: Central Alberta Regional Museums Network, 1998.

  • Gagnon, Anne. "Our Parents did not Raise Us to be Independent: The Work and Schooling of Young Franco-Albertan Women, 1890-1940." Prairie Forum 1994 19(2): 169-188.

  • Mook, Laurie.  "Women at University: the Early Years."  Alberta History 44(1) 1996: 8-15.

  • Rennie, Bradford James. The Rise of Agrarian Democracy: The United Farmers and Farm Women of Alberta, 1909-1921. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.

  • Silverman, Elaine Leslau. The Last Best West: Women on the Alberta Frontier 1880-1930. Montreal: Eden Press, 1984.

  • Von Heyking, Amy. "An Education for 'Character' in Alberta Schools, 1905-45." Aspenland. Eds. David Ridley and David Goa. Red Deer: Central  Alberta Regional Museums Network, 1998.

  • Wilson, L. J. "Educational Role of the United Farm Women of Alberta." Alberta History 1977 25(2): 28-36.



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