Then & Now

St.Albert Women Visionaries

March, 2022

10 incredible visionaries and their contributions to St. Albert

In honour of International Women’s Day taking place March 8, it’s a timely occasion to commemorate the work of some dedicated women who added to St. Albert’s history and quality of life. Thanks to the efforts of these contributors, the city has become a much better place. 

Susie Atkinson 

Atkinson was a graduate of Olds Agricultural College and the first woman elected to the school’s hall of fame as well as serving on a municipal counsel in Alberta. An ardent believer that one could learn almost anything from books, she worked very hard to push that education mission. Many years before the establishment of St. Albert’s first permanent library, she borrowed forklift-loads of books from the University of Alberta and loaned them out from the back of her car. She eventually joined the Women’s Institute and then rallied its members to found the first official library of St. Albert.

Victoria Bellecourt-Callihoo 

Five years old when Canada was formed and almost 44 when Alberta became a province, Bellecourt-Callihoo’s life spanned a time of rapid change to indigenous land and customs. The daughter of a medicine woman, Bellecourt-Callihoo became a teacher in her own right, bringing up 12 children in the process. When she became a Métis historian in her later years, her work had a profound impact on what we know about how Métis and pioneer culture evolved in the space of a century.

Thelma Chalifoux

In the late 1960s Chalifoux began a career as a social programs fieldworker, ignited by her passion for indigenous, Métis and women’s rights and need for assistance. During that time, she became the first Métis woman to broadcast on private radio. A decade later, Chalifoux was appointed to the University of Alberta Senate, making her the first Métis woman to hold the position. In 1997, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed her to the Senate, making her the first indigenous and Métis woman to serve in Parliament’s upper house.

Myrna Fyfe

Mrs. Fyfe held the position of President of the University Hospital Foundation for 22 years before her retirement in 2008. Previously, she served as a member of the St. Albert Municipal Council (1973–1977) and a Member of Legislative Assembly for the St. Albert Constituency for two terms. (1979–1986). She also won her second term election by the largest popular vote ever in the district’s history.

Lois Hole

Known to break protocol by embracing everyone she met, gardener and passionate education advocate Lois Hole served as a school trustee for St. Albert School District No. 6 for 17 years and was the second woman in Alberta’s history to become Lieutenant-Governor. The “Queen of Hugs” was so beloved that when her official term was about to end, Albertans requested she remain in office, which led Prime Minister Paul Martin to extend Hole’s term for one more year so she could preside over Alberta’s centenary ceremonies. Sadly, she died before the anniversary. Her legacy also lives on through various buildings and programs named in her honour.

Bertha Kennedy

Having moved to Canada in 1909 at the age of 12, a young Bertha was always adamant about education, going straight to post-secondary after finishing high school and graduating from Calgary’s Normal School as a teacher. She moved to St. Albert with her husband in 1938 and is held with so many fond memories by colleagues, a high school was named after her. Mrs. Kennedy was a true pioneer who remained committed to the community through her choir and music programs many for many years after her retirement from teaching in 1974.

Cathy King

Born and raised in St. Albert and curling since the age of 11, King is the first female skip to win Canadian junior, women’s and senior’s championships. She claimed her first title in 1977 at the women’s national juniors, and successfully defended her crown the following year. With a fresh team she won the finals of the 1988 Scotties women’s championship, followed by the seniors summit in 2012, making her the country’s first curling triple-crown winner.

Muriel Martin

With an inspiring belief in life-long learning and encouragement through financial and personal support for aspiring teachers, Martin was at the forefront of numerous innovations in education. She played a significant role in the introduction of adult education programs, kindergarten and French immersion studies and was the only woman to become assistant superintendent when she was appointed in 1970. 

Marie Poburan

The addition of a French immersion program to St. Albert’s Catholic School Division has the vision and leadership of Poburan to thank for its fruition. She was vice-principal of Albert Lacombe School for 15 years and principle of École Father Jan for her last eight years before her retirement. Brimming with passion for education, Poburan is remembered as a woman with the perception to help others find their gifted qualities, a strong yet relaxing presence, and as a fast driver!

Anita Rachinsky 

Not only was former Mayor Rachinsky St. Albert’s first full-time mayor when she was elected in 1989 for her first of three consecutive terms, she remained the only female to have held that office until 2017 when Cathy Heron became mayor. During Rachinsky’s time leading City Council, she lobbied for the Anthony Henday and Ray Gibbon Drive, saved the historic grain elevators from demolition, saw to the launch of the St. Albert Farmer’s Market and the creation of the Red Willow Trail system. 

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