By Wendy Elliott
For almost 40 years Herstory, the Canadian Women’s Calendar, has been documenting the lives of women across the country.
Patty Williams of Wolfville got involved in 1980 when she was living in Saskatchewan and since moving to the Maritimes several years ago has widened her research.
For 2012 Williams chose a number of fascinating Nova Scotian women to profile. Her first was Annie Prat, a semi-professional artist from Wolfville.
The three Prat sisters were adventurous young women who embarked on unusual artistic careers in the United States in the late 1890s. In 1896 when she was in her 30s, Annie enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A year later, her younger sister Minnie, moved to New York City to learn bookbinding.
May Rosina joined her shortly afterward to study decorative leatherwork and bookbinding. The sisters had a fascinating circle of friends, in the Wolfville area, including the poets Charles G.D. Roberts and his cousin, Bliss Carman.
Annie spent time in New York State, painting and teaching art. In 1900, Minnie and May's work was featured in an article in Harper's Bazaar. Minnie won a silver medal for her bookbinding at the 1900 Paris Exposition and a bronze medal at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo.
Williams also took a look at agricultural training for women immigrants. She discovered that in 1909 Eunice Watts of Waterville offered to prepare young women desirous of horticultural, beef, fruit and mixed farming training, also household training on a 280-acre farm.
Women’s hockey was another focal point. Williams found records of Marie Sexton Purnell who played hockey in 1920 while attending the Acadia Seminary.
Years later in the Acadia Bulletin, Sexton described her experiences playing center. “Three years of playing field hockey ... combined with after school skating in Windsor and Falmouth was the perfect background for hockey.”
Sexton described the uniform as “pleated black serge (a rough wool with a penchant for itching the wearer) bloomers,” thick socks, shoe skates and no pads or protection. The girls of the Seminary practiced regularly at the Wolfville rink and on Saturday afternoons played women’s teams from nearby towns, including Kentville, Bridgetown and Windsor. “Checking was encouraged and the young lady who skated into the corners without keeping her head up soon found herself being slammed into the boards.”
Researching other athletes, Williams learned about the late Aileen Meagher, who competed in the Summer Olympics in 1936.
Later a schoolteacher in Halifax, Meagher was a member of the Canadian relay team that won the bronze medal. In 1938 she was part of the Canadian team that won two medals. She is a member of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
Herstory began with the Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective in 1972. Five university students produced a popular history focusing solely on the lives and achievements of Canadian women. With assistance from a federal grant, the 1974 first edition of Herstory: The Canadian Women’s Calendar, was published.
Producing the Herstory calendar became an annual event. More than 50 women have been members of the collective.
The calendar sells for $15. For further information, Williams can be reached at 542-7848.