Some of the women who part of the Shirley Women's Institute.

The real power of women

Historian Elida Peers writes about the past in the Sooke region

Women have always played a large role in a pioneer community, and never more so than in Shirley. Organized in 1924, the Shirley Women’s Institute provided an opportunity for these women to come together, support and encourage each other and work for betterment of the broader community. After the Shirley Hall was built in 1937, the group met there.

Central in the photo collage presented to the museum is the Cross family matriarch Elizabeth Cross, president when these snaps were taken in 1940.  Elizabeth was mother to Frances, who is pictured in the photo at upper right of collage, and who was married to Jeremiah Sullivan, a teamster.  Jeremiah and Frances Sullivan were parents to Tony Sullivan, who was to marry Frances Arden.

On the right of Mrs.Cross is Mrs. Edwin Clark who wrote historical reminiscences of pioneer life under the name of Jean Stuart Clark. Mrs. Clark raised nine sons and a daughter Christine (shown lower left) who became a nurse serving in the Yukon. Left of Mrs. Cross is Mrs. Asprey, vice-president, whose home was on the ocean side at Coal (Kirby) Creek.

Far left, top, is Mrs. Percy (Margaret) Clark (later Mrs. Ted Perron) who raised a family of seven, including two sets of twins. Beneath her photo at left is Mrs. Herbert (Margaret) Anderson, her brother’s wife.  Beneath Mrs. Asprey’s photo is Mrs. W.H. (Azuba) Anderson, pioneer of Malahat Farm, and great great great grandmother of Laurie Szadkowski, now principal of Journey middle school in Sooke.

At far right, lower photo, is Mrs. Tom (Lydia) Cross who raised a large family at Cross Point Farm on Sheringham Point Road, and is grandmother to Shirley’s Colleen Minten. Bottom row, after nurse Christine Clark, is Mrs. Edwin (Frances) Banner, mother of Ed, Cliff, Walt, Shirley, Ruth and Bob Banner.

Lower right is Mrs. Eustace (Anne) Arden, daughter of the Sooke River Road Sandersons who served with her husband at Sheringham Lighthouse from 1912 to 1946. Wendy (Wilson) Milne, wife of Sooke’s Mayor Wendal Milne is a great-granddaughter of Mrs. Anne Arden and also of Mrs. Frances (Cross) Sullivan.

While a number of women’s institutes have closed down in recent years, Shirley Women’s Institute is still going strong today.

Elida Peers, Historian

Sooke Region Museum