Calgary

Calgary marks Gender Equality Week by honouring 1st woman on council, promising change

The City of Calgary is marking the first Gender Equality Week by honouring its first woman on council, Annie Gale, elected 101 years ago, and promising change.

City working on gender diversity policy due next year, councillor says

Annie Gale was the first woman elected to Calgary city council. She continued to push for women's rights. (www.albertachampions.org)

The City of Calgary marked its first Gender Equality Week by honouring its first woman on council, Annie Gale, and promising change.

Gale's election in 1917 made her the first female municipal politician in Canada, and one of the first in the British Empire.

Gale became known for accomplishing her goals, including improving conditions for jailed Calgarians. She also remained an optimist, stating she believed women's involvement in government would improve.

"The time will come, I honestly and firmly believe, when women will be equally represented with men on all government boards and councils," Gale said. "The viewpoint of women in essential."

Annie Gale said this quote, which was shown to city council on Monday. (City of Calgary)

Gale, elected the year after gaining the right to vote, saw the slow progress of women's rights. Most women of colour would be barred from voting for decades longer than she was, as a white woman.

On Calgary's council in 2018, three of 14 councillors are women.

"Those were Annie Gale's words and they are no less significant today," Coun. Jyoti Gondek told council on Monday.

Gender policy coming

In speeches Monday, Calgary's female councillors promised the city would take steps to ensure improvements in gender equality. Administration, for example, is developing a dedicated strategy to support diverse people of all genders, Coun. Druh Farrell said. That should be ready in 2019.

"We know when we feel safe at work, both mentally and physically, we can focus on our common purpose: making life better every day for Calgarians," Farrell said.

The policy will apply to all city staff and councillors in the various services, boards, committees, commissions and departments, "so we can achieve Annie's goal 100 years later," she said.

Gender Equality Week is a federal designation that came into effect this year. The city has planned a series of events to mark Gale's legacy, from a feminist walk Monday evening to gender resource fair and panel discussion on Wednesday.

An archival display titled A Woman's Place will be shown in the Calgary Municipal Building until Oct. 19.

"It's incredibly important that we celebrate the symbolism of the contributions that [Gale] made while also recognizing the work that we have to do, that we continue to do, to create true gender equality in our community and in our institutions," Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said.