Submitted by Taryn Froese, Kayla Hammer, Shanna Reichert and Phillip Rocha
Millet and District Museum and Archives
The Millet and District Museum and Archives (MDMA) invites our community to celebrate Millet’s Pioneer Women and the lifetime accomplishments of five new inductees: Mary (Manson) Dowdell, Bernice (Inwood) Knight, Barbara (Parker) Linaker, Debbie (Brennan) Mardy, and Muriel (Kerr) Wilson. These inspirational women have all impacted Millet’s community through creating positive changes, shaping the landscape and volunteering, leaving a legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.
Millet’s Pioneer Women exhibit was established as part of the Central Alberta Regional Museums Network’s (CARMN) 1998 project “Women of Aspenland”. The MDMA alongside 46 other museums, collected the biographies, researched political, social and family lives of Aspenland Women that significantly impacted Central Alberta and displayed their histories in CARMN museums so that others could learn more about these remarkable women. Many of the exhibition pieces can be viewed at www.unlockthepast.ca.
This exhibit was made possible through the generous contributions of the pioneer women that were nominated to tell their stories, and to all the families of the other Pioneer women who are celebrated. As quoted by the CARMN project, “official” history all too frequently ignores the contributions of women. Where women have challenged gender boundaries as politicians and policy makers, they are captured in community histories. But all of those “nameless” and “faceless” women who are brides, mothers, sisters, aunts, teachers, nurses, and community members are frequently missing our historical record. The Pioneer Women Exhibit showcases women that shaped their communities and gives them visibility so that their stories can help us to understand the larger Canadian story. The Swedish concept of “home blindness”, that sense we are too close to those things that immediately surround us we may not appreciate them, also applies to the impact of women on community development and identity. As the MDMA celebrates Pioneer Women, executive director Tracey Leavitt indicates nominations are being sought to add to these women’s display binders.
The MDMA is grateful for the contributions and support for the Pioneer Women Exhibit from the Millet Lions Club, the Royal Canadian Legion Millet Branch #229, and the Millet Recreational and Agricultural Society. Raffle donations were received from the Millet Arts and Crafts Guild artisan Peggy Robinson who provided a wall hanging, and Martin Deerline of Wetaskiwin for the kids wheel barrow. Additionally successful grant applications from the Canada Summer Jobs Program and Young Canada Works along with the Town of Millet’s support, have provided employment opportunities for four exceptional and talented summer staff Taryn Froese, Kayla Hammer, Shanna Reichert and Phillip Rocha who have worked towards completing this exhibition. Many volunteers have also provided expertise to make this exhibition possible.
Come to the museum to explore the lives of these Millet Pioneer Women and be prepared to have your assumptions of the great moments and events of Albertan history challenged.
Mary (Manson) Dowdell
Mary (Manson) Dowdell was a dynamic and educated woman who came to the Millet area in 1928. She married her husband Charles Dowdell and moved to his acreage, where she became entrenched in Millet community life. Having completed several degrees and certificates at world renowned educational facilities such as the University of Glasgow and the University of Alberta, Mary continued learning about farming. Although she was working hard on the farm, she still believed in the importance of being educated. Mary struck a deal with the Edmonton Public Library and would have them mail her all the new government information about current policies and projects that they had received.
Mary was an avid volunteer, community activist and teacher. Students in Millet, Nanton and West Liberty benefitted from her education credentials as she taught in the small school houses for many years. Not only the students benefitted, but some of the teachers did as well. Mary was always willing to welcome new, single teachers to stay with her and her husband. Mary was also an outspoken political advocate. She volunteered to host political meetings and debates at the farm.
Charles and Mary did not have children of their own, but their door was always open to their nieces and nephews to come visit.
Charles would have them assist with chores on the farm while Mary ensured that everyone was well fed with her all of her fresh food and baked goods.
Mary was an incredible woman for the era she lived in, being as educated and outspoken as she was. She truly does deserve the title of pioneer woman as she helped to pave the path for many young women to follow.
Barbara Jean (Parker) Linaker
Barbara Jean Linaker had a huge impact on Millet society and the town. Barbara is known to her family as a woman who takes pride in everything she does, refusing to leave a task until she can be proud of the result. Barbara leads by example, displaying her passion for volunteerism throughout her life. Barbara played major roles in both the Lions and Lionesses of Millet, where she was involved in such aspects such as the scholarship committee, and aiding in coordinating the Lions Youth Exchange. The United Church of Millet was near and dear to Barbara’s heart, volunteering there for over 30 years. There Barbara taught Sunday school, as well as organizing various events including picnics and hayrides.
Barbara was deeply involved with policy making in the Town of Millet, as she was a town councilor from 2004 until 2007. As councilor, Barbara sat on numerous committees, attending meetings and making decisions that affected Millet and the surrounding area. Barbara worked for the betterment of her community both directly through volunteering, and through politics.
Barbara was committed to the welfare of others. She helped to establish programs where she saw community needs not being met, such as when she aided in pioneering the Millet kindergarten class. For the services she has performed for the community, as well as the values of pride, hard work, and caring she has fostered in those around her, Barbara Linaker is truly worthy of the Millet Pioneer Woman title.
Bernice (Wotherspoon) Knight
Bernice Knight “The Flower Lady” was a key component in bringing Communities in Bloom to Millet. She has a passion for gardening and through this creative outlet, she brought forth her ideas to beautify and improve Millet.
Bernice credits her success to all the volunteers and helpers she has had over the years, which speaks volumes to her character. Through her passion for Communities in Bloom, she played a monumental role in beautifying the town.
Many new projects were started by Bernice here in Millet. The Memorial Rose Garden and the re-creation of the Memorial Burns Creamery garden were all spearheaded by Millet in Bloom, a volunteer group Bernice created to bring community members together to work on various tasks in Millet.
In 2000, Bernice became the Western Canada liaison for Communities in Bloom where she traveled to Alberta and British Columbia. Her role was to encourage towns to get involved with Communities in Bloom competitions to beautify the landscape. She has won many awards through her exceptional volunteerism. Come visit the museum and learn more about this amazing woman and all the people who made her work possible.
Deborah (Brennan) Mardy
Deborah (Brennan) Mardy, “Debbie”, was a persistent, and influential role model in the Millet community. Growing up in Millet, she often enjoyed volunteering for her church and for community organizations. Her accounting skills led her to act as treasurer for several sporting clubs and for key boards in and around Millet.
Debbie became the first female mayor in 1978. Prior to that, she had been a councilor, and after her term as mayor, she was the school trustee for Millet. She was one of the founding members of the groups responsible for establishing the Millet kindergarten class and acted as treasurer for this board for nine years as well.
While raising her children in Millet, she worked many different jobs, including bank teller, secretary for the Village of Millet, and typist for the Tellim News. She enjoyed volunteering at bingos for various organizations too, a key source of fundraising for a small community.
Mary was always a fun, kind-hearted person that was determined to make Millet a better place. She was not afraid to speak her mind and continuously did the right thing. She would never take on a task that she did not think she was capable of. Due to all of the incredible things she has done for the community, generations will remember her for years to come.
Muriel (Kerr) Wilson
Muriel was an integral part of building community resources and preserving the historical assets of Millet. She felt as though it was her job to help those who were less fortunate than herself and that it was important to preserve the history of Millet for generations to come. She was a member or many different organizations and groups in Millet and the surrounding area including The Order of the Eastern Star, The United Church Women, The Agricultural Society and The Millet and District Historical Society.
While a part of The Order of the Eastern Star, Muriel was shown that she should try to help those around her as much as she could by offering her services to them with no questions asked. This idea was something the Muriel greatly cherished and it is clear in her actions that she did not just believe it but she lived it. For example, when she decided that Millet needed a skating rink, Muriel and her husband George assembled a group of individuals to help. This later turned into the Agricultural Society. Muriel was also very influential in the book Tales and Trails of Millet that was created by the Millet and District Historical Society. Along with this project, she was also the manager of the manor committee and was given the position of manageress when the John A. Smith Manor for Seniors finally opened.
Whenever Muriel saw a problem she was determined to solve it. This allowed her to play an important role in preserving the history of Millet and creating necessary community resources. She has always had a caring heart and will be remember for the work she has done in the community for years to come.
The official opening is Saturday June 4 at the Millet Agriplex doors open