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Organizing Leisure

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Hat-making contest, Innisfail, Alberta. [ca. 1911-1912]Women's organizations, from the large scale ones like the United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA) to the smaller scaled ones like the Red Deer Quota Club, became very active in introducing leisure and cultural activities into women's and community life. For many, just attending a meeting of one of these organizations was a social time in which they could meet with women from similar backgrounds and discuss issues they had in common. They organized activities that were just for women. For instance, starting in 1929, the UFWA held an annual Farm Women's Week, which ran for four days and offered a variety of educational and recreational activities.

 
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Heritage Trails #451  - Controlling Liquor In Alberta

In the late 1800's, the movement to prohibit liquor was gaining momentum. The topic became a major issue in the North-West Territories election of 1891. And as historian David Leonard explains, it also became the issue that helped women find their political voice.

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Women's organizations also sponsored recreational activities in communities. For instance, the Red Deer Quota Club brought to Red Deer such cultural activities as musical recitals, theatre, opera and ballets, and encouraged schools to take their children to attend these activities during school hours. Women's church clubs were devoted to introducing wholesome recreational activities, such as community picnics, fairs, annual Christmas and Easter events. They also promoted leisure time by campaigning for the following of the Sabbath - in other words, using Sunday as a day off work - as a day to improve one's spiritual, moral and physical condition. All these activities provided the opportunity for community socialization as well as the opportunity for women to spend time away from their home and families. 

Patrons at bar of Whitehouse Hotel, Drumheller, Alberta.While promoting some forms of leisure, women's organizations also tried to put a stop to others. They led a number of moral reform campaigns in which they wished to cure the society of its ills - in their eyes liquor consumption, gambling and prostitution. Unfortunately for a number of men, these activities constituted their primary sources of recreation. Organizations, like the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Alberta Temperance and Moral Reform League, were specifically devoted to lobbying government for Prohibition. In a rigorous campaign in which they accrued many signed petitions and demonstrated the cost of drinking to society and to the Alberta government, women moral reformers managed to overcome the strong anti-Prohibition forces. In 1915, they won the support of government in forbidding the consumption of alcohol for recreational purposes. Prohibition proved to be very difficult to enforce as the trade and consumption of alcohol continued on the black market and eventually in 1923, the UFA government passed a bill ending it. However, their success in lobbying government to pass Prohibition indicated the power women's organizations had achieved in controlling the recreational activities of Alberta.

 

Sources:

  • Wetherell, Donald and Irene Kmet. Useful Pleasures: The Shaping of Leisure in Alberta 1896-1945. Edmonton and Regina: Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism/Canadian Plains Research Center, 1990.

 

  
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