Former Orangeville organist being featured at DCMA ‘Woman’ exhibit

July 28, 2016   ·   0 Comments

Ethel Allen P-1769 DCMADufferin county Museum and Archives (DCMA) opened their newest exhibit “Woman” last week in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Canada.

“The display features some of the museum’s most previous textile pieces and accessories, representing women’s fashion through the ages,” says Museum Curator Sarah Robinson. “Also showcased are the powerful stories of women of Dufferin County, both past and present.”

Ms. Robinson says one of the most compelling stories of the exhibit is that of former Orangeville organist Elizabeth “Ethel” Allen. Born in 1882, Miss Allen grew up in Mono Mills and graduated from nursing school at Bellevue Hospital, New York, in 1913.

During World War I, Miss Allen “achieved the ranking of Chief Nurse, in the U.S.A. Army Nurse Corps. Between 1917 and 1918 she served in Britain and France, where she was in charge of over 2,500 nurses.”

“When she returned to Canada, she moved to a house at 249 Broadway in Orangeville, since demolished,” said Ms. Robinson. “She worked as a nurse in Orangeville for several years, and was also the organist at St. Mark’s Anglican Church. The DCMA is lucky to hold a very special photo album of Miss Allen’s time in the army, as well as several artifacts from her family.”

Miss Allen, who was organist/choirmistress at St. Mark’s for 30 years, from 1931 to 1961, passed away in 1976.

Women first won the right to vote in Canada on January 28, 1916 after Nellie McClung led a long fight for women’s suffrage in Manitoba. A bill to amend the Manitoba Elections Act followed, making it the first province to give Canada’s women the vote. Other provinces gradually followed, ending with Quebec in 1940, and finally First Nations women were allowed to vote while retaining their treaty rights in 1960.

Guest speakers for the opening reception last Saturday were well-known Canadian television reporter and talk show host Dini Petty and historian and author Ken Weber.

The exhibition, which runs until September 16, provides contrasting views of women’s roles in society in 1916 compared to 2016. “Not only has fashion changed,” says Ms. Robinson, “but also the opportunities that women in our community are afforded.

“This exhibition and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage is important to me personally, and as a historian, and to the Dufferin County Museum & Archives,” says Ms. Robinson. “This is an opportunity for our community to praise the women who stepped outside of the stereotypes.”

Dufferin County Museum is located at 936029 Airport Road at Highway 89. For more information call 877.941.7787

By Marni Walsh

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