International Women’s Day
Guest Blog By: Beth Boyce from the Museum at Campbell River
International Women’s Day serves as an important reminder to remember the local women who have moved mountains to improve our community.
Ann Elmore Haig-Brown was a woman whose work was for many years overshadowed by the work and reputation of her famous husband, author, conservationist and magistrate, Roderick Haig-Brown. And that was just the way she liked it. Shy of both the camera and the spotlight, Ann preferred to do her work quietly in the background, not drawing attention to the many activities she engaged in. But when you actually look at the scope of her influence in Campbell River, there were few organizations she was not involved in, in one way or another.
Ann worked as the Librarian at the local high school through the 1960s and early ‘70s. And to many, she will always be Mrs. Haig-Brown the librarian first. However, Ann was also a champion for social justice, and supported many organizations and causes to improve the lives of women, children, and youth. Paul Barnett, former director of the John Howard Society, said, “When it came to social justice issues, Ann had a very pragmatic approach to how society should deal with both victims and offenders…She had a natural understanding of justice and was ahead of her time in recognizing best practices.”
She helped to develop many of the supports that we see here in Campbell River today. Ann was an outspoken and active member on the board of the John Howard Society, serving on several focused committees. She was a sponsor for the Campbell River chapter of the BC Parents in Crisis Society. She regularly volunteered for Women’s Place, an early centre where women could go for resources and support. She was a founding member of the Catholic Women’s League and the University Women’s Club.
Although the bulk of her work was through organizations and societies, arguably her most important role began without any formal organizational involvement. Before Campbell River had a transition house for women and children fleeing abusive relationships, Ann’s home was the only place for women to go. For decades, Ann welcomed them into her home, either in the small cottage on her property or in one of the spare bedrooms upstairs, to stay for as long as was needed.
In 1987, when Campbell River finally had a formal Transition House, it was named for Ann, called the Ann Elmore Transition House so as not to confuse her work with her husband’s. Even after it was opened, Ann continued to volunteer at the house, and occasionally sheltered women in her home. In 2008, the city of Campbell River declared her birthday, May 3, to be Ann Elmore Haig-Brown day.
If you’re interested to learn more about the life of this remarkable woman, you can come by the Museum at Campbell River, who are hosting an exhibition about Ann, opening March 15th. The exhibit will be on display until June 9th, and they will be celebrating Ann Elmore Haig-Brown day on May 3rd. For more information go to www.crmuseum.ca.