Arts & Culture(Archives)
Moments in Time
IODE and Its Place in Local History
Have you ever heard of the Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire (IODE)?
WHEN I FIRST HEARD the name, Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire, it sounded a little intimidating, like a name fabricated for some science fiction movie. Saying it out loud, the Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire, sounds like a group of individuals that are part of British Royalty. The IODE is in fact just the opposite. The women that formed chapters of the IDOE all over Canada were everyday mothers, wives, daughters and sisters who all had a dream of improving their communities and reaching out to others.
Founded in 1900, the Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire (IODE) is a voluntary, patriotic non-political women’s organization that still exists across Canada. They endeavor to support the youth, assist the disadvantaged, provide emergency and financial relief, as well as create and sustain fundraisers, libraries, health care, and other initiatives within communities.
The first IODE chapter was called the Federation of the Daughters of the Empire. It was formed in Fredericton, New Brunswick on January 5, 1900, by Margaret Polson Murray of Montreal. Margaret was inspired to form an organization for women following a recent visit to England (which was in the midst of what is now referred to as the Second Anglo-Boer War) where she encountered many women who wanted to help with the war effort but were unable to do so due to the lack of availability for women in the workplace at the time. Upon her return to Canada, Margaret formed an organization where women across the country could contribute to the war and make a difference, while also having fun and socializing with one another.
As chapters of the IODE began to form across Canada, so too did their achievements. Nationally, the IODE chapters were making leaps and bounds in the overall quality of life for Canadian communities as well as overseas. Just a small sample of the selfless acts include; sending care packages to soldiers in the war, providing beds to sick children, adopting school programs, and fundraising for disaster relief. Fort McMurray was no different than any other western pioneer town and the women that lived here formed their own Fort McMurray chapter of IODE.
With the support of the provincial IODE chapter, the Fort McMurray Christina Gordon Chapter was officially established on April 12, 1935. The founding members were: Grace McCallum as Regent, Gladys Hill as 1st Vice Regent, Minnie Thorp, Clare Farrell, Olive Ross, Lillian Leigh, Violet Green, Jean Leggett, Angelina Macdonald, and Marie O’Coffey. The name Christina Gordon Chapter was chosen in honour of Christina Gordon who moved to Fort McMurray with her brother at the turn of the 20th century. Christina defied the odds in what was then a world dominated by male fur traders and travelers. Christina, being the first non-aboriginal women to permanently settle in Fort McMurray, was known as selfless, determined and noble. These characteristics became endorsed and honoured by the local women of the IODE as they selflessly and nobly provided to and for the community.
For over 25 years, the local IODE pledged to remain loyal, obey and maintain the constitution of the Order and contributed to Fort McMurray and Waterways in many ways. The IODE donated books, digests and calendars to schools and provided diapers, baby clothes and nursery bags to the hospital and local families in need. They also fundraised in support of community organizations and causes such as the Girl Guides, the Institute for the Blind and to provide scholarships and bursaries to students. In 1947, the IODE even petitioned for the construction of the highway from Fort McMurray to Edmonton to help ease the difficulty of traveling between the two places. The IODE’s focus also extended overseas during the Second World War, when the local IODE donated cigarettes and knitted garments to soldiers stationed abroad.
Following the end of the war, the local IODE continued to help others outside Canada by donating parcels and goodies to families in Britain, who were living under strict food rations. The Fort McMurray Historical Society holds copies of letters written by families expressing their gratitude and appreciation for the gifts and cans of food that the IODE had sent. It was this type of kindness for which the IODE became known. An organization that was formed based on supporting the needs of others and to assist in the health and well-being of community members. The local IODE women were strong leaders who, as a team, seemed to be unstoppable in their achievements and advancements for Fort McMurray and who served as an accurate reflection of the chapter namesake, Christina Gordon.
While the Christina Gordon Chapter in Fort McMurray disbanded in the 1960s, there are currently over 200 chapters of the IODE across Canada today, totaling over 4,000 members. The United States even has a counterpart organization, Daughters of the British Empire, which was granted affiliation with the IODE of Canada in 1921.
With a proud history, the IODE is now a federally chartered charitable organization that still holds its tradition of servicing children and those in need, as well as enhancing the quality of life for their communities. For more information about the Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire, please visit www.IODE.ca.
Parade photo courtesy of the Fort McMurray Historical Society (FMHS) • Charter image courtesy of IODE Canada