A Guide to Women in Canadian History
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Annie Rolinson Gale (1876-1970)
Annie Gale with her sons William and Henry
Annie Gale was a gutsy lady who became the first alderman in the British Empire when she won a seat in the 1917 Calgary Civic Election. The following year she was elected Acting Mayor by her fellow members on the city council--and for the first time in the British Empire a woman performed the duties of a mayor.
Hannah Rolinson (who was soon nicknamed Annie) was born in the West Midlands of England. The daughter of a merchant grocer and his wife, Annie attended a school for girls and passed the Oxford Entrance Examination. She wasn't able to become a student at Oxford, and began helping run the family business after her father died of pneumonia when she was a teenager. In 1901 Annie married an engineer called William Gale, and the couple eventually decided to join family members who'd emigrated to Canada. The Gales and their two young sons arrived in Calgary, Alberta in 1912.
Annie soon began taking an active role in her new community, working to solve problems related to the poor quality and high costs of fresh vegetables as well as the lack of affordable heat and free hospitals. She organizeed Canada's first Women's Ratepayers' Association and, after women in Alberta gained the right to vote in 1916, she accepted the group's invitation to run in the 1917 city council election in Calgary. At a time when there were no women in government across Canada, Annie managed to win a seat.
The Canadian Magazine noted in a 1917 article about Mrs. Gale, "She is exactly the type of woman who should be in public life--a feminine, gracious, magnetic personality without agression or bombast; a woman with a charming platform manner which does not come off the instant she reaches the bottom step and stands on the floor of the hall; the type of woman of whom the West is justly proud." Annie Gale served three terms as alderman, though she was unable to win a seat in the 1921 provincial election in Alberta.
Annie was a hard-working alderman determined to make changes, and she never shied away from controversy. As she once said, "I have always believed that the mission of women in political life was to clean up politics." She retired from the Calgary City Council in 1923 after making many notable contributions to her adopted home. Annie and her husband William moved to Vancouver in hopes that the coastal climate would be beneficial for his health.
The famous feminist Nellie McClung paid tribute to Annie Gale and her many contributions to her community: "Women haven't an easy time in public life and Mrs. Gale has played her part courageously and intelligently. Mrs. Gale could always be depended upon to take a sane, forward, dependable view. Her tact and charming personality have carried her through many difficulties. Women haven't an easy time in public life but they count the cost before they enter. Mrs. Gale has always upheld the standards of womanhood and we cherish the hope that she will come back to us again."Discover more
Short biography of Annie Gale.
Photo of Annie Gale with the Calgary Ladies Cricket Club, when Annie was the captain.
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