No name women

In Uncategorized by Lea

A just married man and woman in a car in the 1960s.
A just married couple in the 1960s.

I’m writing a memoir for a family who lived in Banff from the 1940s until now. Today, I’m researching Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s visit to the town in 1959. The local newspaper, the Crag and Canyon, writes that the hosts responsible for squiring the Royals around include Donald Cameron, a senator and director of the then named Banff School of Fine Art, and his wife, Mrs. Donald Cameron. She doesn’t get her own name.

I would like to use Mrs. Donald Cameron’s real name. I don’t want to put “hosts include Donald Cameron and his wife.” No, she’s a person and deserves to be named. I searched for about 45 minutes trying to uncover this no name woman. It’s a long time to look for a small piece of information that won’t make or break the story. But it’s an important piece of information. It turns Mrs. Donald Cameron into a person.

There is much about Donald Cameron as he’s a respected Canadian. Nevertheless, the name of his wife isn’t listed in any of his biographies. I did find the day he died and searched his obituary for details of his life that obviously connected to hers. Nothing.

After more digging, I found her: Stella Mary. Her name is mentioned in The Final Word: The Book of Canadian Epitaphs by Nancy Millar. Millar calls herself a graveyard historian and although some might think being in the cemetery is creepy work, it’s important work. Without Nancy, I wouldn’t know Stella.

Street shot of downtown Banff, March 2019.
Street shot of downtown Banff, March 2019.

The stories of women are often lost to history. Women were given their husband’s names and their identities disappeared. Many cultures and minorities in Canada have experienced this too. If you weren’t white, your history didn’t matter. Your stories didn’t make it into the paper. I’m hoping that by naming Stella, it’s one more name claimed.