Women’s History Month 2021
by Mel Toth
Women’s rights in Canada have come a long way since the start of the twentieth century. As late as the early 1900’s, women did not have voting rights, property rights, or even the right to be considered “persons” by law – a technicality that meant they could not become legislators, coroners, magistrates, jury members, or judges. It wasn’t until 1916 that women in certain provinces gained the right to vote provincially. Caucasian women finally won the right to vote federally in 1918, but it wasn’t until much later, in 1960, that women of every race and class also won voting rights.
Despite discriminatory laws and treatment, women have been shaping history from the earliest days of humanity. They have been mothers and warriors, scientists and artists, teachers and healers, businesswomen and farmers. Although sexism and inequality of opportunity have faced women of almost every culture for thousands of years, they have persisted in learning, creating, and shaping the course of history. Women’s history month is about celebrating their achievements, their struggles, and their fights for equality.
Here at the Cranbrook History Centre, our team is made up of four women with their own histories and achievements to celebrate. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to them!
Valerie Bourne is the Business Manager of the Cranbrook History Centre. She brings her expertise to many areas of management that include overseeing facilities rental, managing the guest services/front reception, managing the gift store, researching and obtaining suitable grants for the museum, arranging maintenance work on the centre, and planning, designing, and implementing events that fit with the museum’s mandate while generating revenue for the centre. Valerie has a strong background in sales and marketing, with over thirty years of experience. She also has experience in hospitality and retail sales and management. She obtained her BA in Anthropology at the University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge.
Honor Neve is the Chief Curator of the Cranbrook History Centre. She is responsible for developing and caring for the diverse collections, including the historic railcars, paleontology collections and archives. She also leads the growth and development of the programs which bring the collections to life. Honor has worked for heritage organizations all over the world, including The National Trust for Scotland, the Eastern Boeotia Archaeological Project in Greece, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and Fort Steele Heritage Town. The main focus of her first two years with the History Centre has been to bring rigorous and standardized systems to the Centre’s collections management and increase authentic community engagement. Honor earned her BA in History from the University of Victoria with a focus on the study of material culture. While earning her MSc in Museum Studies at the University of Glasgow in 2018, Honor also learned to appreciate everything her hometown in the Kootenays had to offer. When she isn’t at the History Centre, you can find Honor skiing on her favourite mountain in Kimberley, in her garden or reading. Honor is grateful to have the opportunity to return to the East Kootenay and play her part in preserving and advocating for the history of her community.
Native to Vancouver, BC, Nathalie has been interested in working in history since she started studying it in University. She received her undergraduate degree in History at McGill University and spent three years teaching English in Japan before returning to school to study Public History at Carleton University. For her Master’s thesis Nathalie worked with the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, BC to build education kits that teachers could use in their classrooms to teach about Japanese Canadian internment. Driven to use storytelling and curiosity driven learning to teach about history, she spent seven months at the Canadian Juno Beach Centre in Normandy as a guide before returning to BC and joining the Cranbrook History Centre Team. Here, as the Programming Coordinator, she continues to lead and develop tours for the Centre, and to envision and bring to life thought-provoking and engaging programs for her new community.
Mel Toth is the Visitor Experience Coordinator at the Cranbrook History Centre. She’ll probably be the first person you see when you come to the museum, since she’s responsible for front desk reception and administration. She’s also responsible for the museum’s social media accounts (including writing the monthly blog posts and newsletters!), guiding tours, and helping the Business Manager make sure the museum runs smoothly. Mel has had a career of diverse positions working with the public, including jobs at a library, community centre, tourism centre, senior’s home, daycare, university residence, and finally the Cranbrook History Centre. Here, she has been able to combine her passion for history with many other skills and interests, such as writing. She has a passion for reading books – anything from classics to comic books, sci-fi to ancient history – and spent several years volunteering at her local library to create inclusive after-school reading books for kids and teenagers. She is working towards her degree in English Literature in her spare time.
To read more about the history of women’s rights in Canada: