BY MARK WEBER
This year marks a special time for the village of Alix, as residents celebrate the community’s 110th anniversary along with the nation’s 150th anniversary.
Part of observing such a significant occasion includes taking a look into the community’s past, and there is no better place to do just than then by a visit to the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum which features a fine and extensive collection that reflects the story of Alix from the start.
The Museum doesn’t officially open until early May, although special events are held through the year.
There is plenty about the village that particularly stands out, including the story of resident, the late Irene Parlby, who was a very well-known feminist, a politician and an ardent activist and of course a member of ‘The Famous Five’ - a group of women who advocated for a women’s rights. The group asked the Supreme Court to answer the question - ‘Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act,1867, include female persons?’
They sought to have women legally considered ‘persons’ so that they could be appointed to the Senate. A petition was filed in the summer of 1927.
According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, the Supreme Court denied the petition inApril of 1928.
“However, the fight was not over. First called the ‘Alberta Five’ and later ‘The FamousFive,’ the women took their request to the highest court, the Judicial Committee of thePrivy Council in England.
“On 18 October 1929, Lord Chancellor John Sankey read out the names of the fiveAlberta appellants. He then thoroughly explained his legal argument in what became known as the Persons Case. Sankey summed up his decision: women are persons under the law. As a result, women were eligible for Senate appointments.”
It was a sweet victory.
“She was someone who worked so hard and really accomplished a lot,” explainedElaine Meehan, treasurer for the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum Society. The Museum opened in 1974 and focuses on a number of areas, including the ‘Women of Aspenland’ which features a section devoted to Parlby.
Parlby was born in England in 1868. In 1897 she originally travelled to Lacombe to visit friends and later married Walter Parlby in 1898. She promptly became involved in political and business affairs, landing, for example, on the University of Alberta’s board of directors in 1920.
She was also elected to the Alberta legislature in 1921 as a United Farmers of Alberta candidate from Lacombe. In 1921, she was appointed as the first female cabinet minister in Alberta, and the second in the British empire. In 1930, she representedCanada at the League of Nations in Geneva, and in 1935 was the first woman to receive an honourary doctorate of law from the University of Alberta.
She passed away in 1965 and was buried in the local cemetery.
Many of her descendents continue to live in Alix and the surrounding communities,according to the display.
Aside from the Parlby’s, another of the original families to settle in the area wereJoseph and Cynthia Todd.
The couple, originally from Ontario, had lived in the U.S. for a number of years prior to heading to western Canada.
According to a document at the Museum, “Arriving where the village of Alix now sits,Joseph was taken with the land around Diamond Lake. He settled his family on the bluff overlooking the lake and meadow lands in the spring of 1900.
“He was a far-sighted man, keenly interested in the development of the community and had a portion of his land surveyed for a township, naming it Toddsville.”
Meehan said the benefits of the region no doubt appealed to the Todds - with the nearby creek and lake and the quality of the land.
For Meehan, preserving the history of Alix and the surrounding area is simply something that just has to be done - there is much to learn and to appreciate from those who worked so hard to settle the community.
“The Museum’s job is saving and displaying (items), but it’s also about educating,” she said. Part of that includes having fun events for the younger set during the summer months, too.
“Kindergarten and Grade 1 students are particularly good at coming for visits,” she said with a smile. “We are also trying really hard to have more hands-on activities.”Even something simple like making butter is a real hit with the youngsters.
“My particular interest in history is that I want to know how people lived,” she added,reflecting on the colourful and rich displays set up in the Museum. “I want to knowhow they managed to do the things that they had to do. I also think that it’s much easier to lose this knowledge than to just keep it going.”
Indeed - the legacies of ordinary people working hard to build a community are in themselves worth celebrating, she added.
Meanwhile, part of the coming line-up of special events in Alix includes a visit fromMetis artisan Samantha Lafontaine, who hails from Mirror. She will be doing a presentation on March 16th at the Museum, starting at 7 p.m. “She’s going to talk about the development of her craft, and she will also be bringing some samples of her work.”
Also, the Village will be including the Alix birthday with Canada’s 150th.
On July 1st, the Village is hosting a live band playing throughout the day, bingo, street hockey a barbecue, a dunk tank, a Canadian Jeopardy Game (Double Jeopardy has two Alix categories and the final jeopardy question also will involve Alix), other games and face painting.
A second celebration runs during Alix Days on Aug. 12th. This event is also the same time as the rodeo and will feature a pirate ship bouncy house, glitter tattoos, crafts,games, a barbecue, Alix trivia and much more.
For more information, check out www.villageofalix.ca.