Honouring Women of Lethbridge 1

Legacy Ridge in north Lethbridge is one of the few communities in Canada where only the names of women are used. When the housing development was proposed, many in the city – led by the Centennial Committee for Recognition of Women – championed the idea that streets and parks in the new community be named after women. Priority was given to those who were ‘first’ in an achievement and had not been recognized previously. The exhibit Honouring Women of Lethbridge currently at the Galt Museum & Archives highlights fifteen women and, starting with this first monthly installment, we will also share their stories here.

Florence Ho Leong entered Canada a year before the 1923 Canadian Immigration Act denied Chinese access to the country. She became the fourth wife of Way Leong, who was twenty years her senior, the only wife to make the move to Lethbridge from China. Together they ran the Bow On Tong (Good Health) store in downtown Lethbridge, and Florence also worked in the New China Chop Suey restaurant next door. She was known to many as ‘See How Poo’ or ‘boss lady’, a name which described her hard work and determined attitude. Florence raised their thirteen children in the basement of the store, and in her limited leisure time she would join a game of mahjong or dominoes.

Janet McIlvena McLeod, who had moved to Lethbridge in 1910, was a well-known woman in the community. After attending musical training in Toronto, she became the Supervisor of Music for the public schools in Lethbridge. Janet was a member of the First United Church choir, and became choir leader at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in 1927. She continued her love of music by organizing the Lethbridge Music Festival in 1930; this turned into the Kiwanis Music Festival in 1953. A scholarship in her name was created to support the most promising festival participant. For 20 years, Miss McIlvena hosted a CBC Radio broadcast called “Sing and Play.”

Honouring Women of Lethbridge is on display at the Galt Museum & Archives in the main level hallway through February 16. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.