The Legacy of Irma Dogterom

Irma Dogterom is a woman who has discovered a passion for history and pursues it to the fullest extent. She is also whole heartedly a Lethbridge woman. She grew up, she was married, and has lived in Lethbridge since she could walk. She has combined her passion for historical stories with her love for her hometown through countless hours of volunteering at The Galt Museum and The Historical Society. She is a true member of the Lethbridge community. And that is no small feat, to be honest. Few of us make the betterment of our community a goal or priority.  But there truly is something special about community; coming together, all having at least one thing in common; our lives’ setting. Irma has made this her mission.

One of her most remembered contributions to Lethbridge is also a perfect example of her devoted efforts to preserve history for future generations in the context of her much-loved community.

This example is the Legacy Ridge Project that Irma headed. Irma herself has written an essay on the subject, which I cannot do justice to. You should read it; it’s available at the archives. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to shed light on the subject. As she says, “it started with a question asked by a man.” Yet the whole project’s purpose was for Lethbridge's historical woman to have a chance to shine. The city developers had inquired at the Galt, while Irma was volunteering, for a name to use for the new planned housing development on the North side of Lethbridge. And there the idea was born.

What if a woman’s name was used? There were hardly any streets or parks in Lethbridge named after women at this time in 1995, only 17 years ago. The more she thought about, the more exciting the idea became. It was high time woman were recognized! But all of her letters and phone calls met with evasive answers that got her nowhere. So, she decided to strategize. That’s the sign that something special is brewing, isn’t it? When it is important enough that the person is brave enough to try again. So she decided to form a committee with eventually about 8 members. These 8 women banded together and insisted on creating an area that honored woman of Lethbridge’s past. They got a list of 145 names and narrowed it down, painfully, to 36 women. For example, one woman that was chosen was Edith Coe, who gave up a “lucrative position” in Paris to be Lethbridge’s first school teacher and later open a private school.

Eventually, after 10 years of hard work, research, and lots of letters, the request was approved. This was August, 2005; only 7 years ago. The area is now called Legacy Ridge.

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Irma leaves a legacy where ever she goes. She empowers those forgotten, by bringing them to our attention. Irma has donated much of her research files (and that’s a lot of files) as well as personal files to the Galt. This means that the legacy she has left and the legacies of those she has researched can be preserved and hopefully remembered. To be remembered, though, requires someone taking the time to look at them. Go check out the Galt archives online to learn more about Irma’s and other’s stories. They are meant to be shared and learned from, after all. 

By Steffi Reynolds.

Steffi Reynolds is a third-year English major at the University of Lethbridge whose passion is stories; reading stories, hearing stories and telling stories to others. This fall she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing some of the stories uncovered in the Archives.