In honour of March being women’s history month, the District of Saanich and its archival staff took a trip down memory lane and selected photos of just some of the women who’ve worked for the municipality since the early 1900s.
Women have played key roles in the district’s history, and while the photo series from Saanich Archives only highlights six staff members, hundreds more have worked to make Saanich what it is today.
Currently, more than half of Saanich council members are women – two of whom have held political offices for more than 20 years. Coun. Judy Brownoff has been a councillor for Saanich since 1993 and Coun. Susan Brice was a member of the B.C. legislative assembly from 2001 to 2005 before being elected to Saanich council. Before working on Saanich council, Brice served as an elected trustee on the Victoria School Board from 1975 to 1980, was elected to Oak Bay council in 1980 where she then became mayor in 1985. She was also a Capital Regional District board director from 1985 to 1990.
Looking back to the early days of Saanich, Helen Elliott, Annie Robinson and Kathleen Warren stand out. Elliott was born in 1897 and moved to the region in 1911 – five years after the District of Saanich was incorporated. In 1916, she began working for the municipality as a stenographer. After 39 years of working and changing roles, she retired from her post as Saanich’s chief accountant and assistant comptroller in the ’50s.
Robinson worked alongside Elliott. She was born in Saanich in 1901 and grew up on a dairy farm in the Quadra neighbourhood. In 1917, she was hired as a scribe for the district’s tax department and earned just $65 a month. Nine years later, she quit after getting married but returned to work in 1949.
Warren, who was born in England in 1889, came to Canada in 1903 and worked for the district for more than 25 years – several of which were spent leading the tax department. Then, when Central Saanich was established in 1951, she went to work there as the municipal clerk and treasurer.
Longtime Saanich employee Myra Erickson, born in 1919, also worked for the school board and served in the Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
The first woman elected to Saanich council was Grace Shaw, born in 1913. She served a two-year term in the early ’50s and, in 1952, voted in favour of allowing married women to be hired and promoted by the municipality.
Saanich Archives was also founded by a woman. Jo-Ann Morrison, who worked for the district for many years as the deputy municipal clerk, established the archives in 1978 and served as Saanich’s first archivist.
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