Madeleine Gould was outrageously nosy.
Although her friends prefer incorrigibly inquisitive.
As Dawson’s one-person Welcome Wagon, Gould was never afraid to introduce herself to newcomers and pepper them with questions.
And she wasn’t afraid to question the town’s staid institutions, either.
Gould, who passed away at the age of 88 on Sunday, was famous for her battle with the Yukon Order of Pioneers.
Encouraged by a few male members of the Order, Gould, along with three other Dawson women, Margie Fry, Vi Campbell and Susan Herrmann, applied for membership in the all-male organization in 1987.
But they were rejected by the Yukon’s oldest fraternal club because they were women.
The Yukon Human Rights Commission took up the challenge on the grounds of discrimination and nine years later, the case was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. It upheld the Yukon Supreme Court’s decision and rejected Gould’s complaint.
The ruling was made by nine Justices. The seven male Justices ruled against Gould, while the two female Justices ruled in her favour.
But the Supreme Court decision didn’t stop Gould from sporting a T-shirt that read “The Yukon: where men are men and women are Pioneers.” The feisty Dawsonite also participated in one of the Discovery Days parades with women from across the territory and beyond, all carrying placards. One said, ” No Yoopie, No Whoopie.”
During Gould’s husband John’s 90th birthday celebration in June 2009, he stood up and, rather than accept all the congratulations, acknowledged his beloved partner Madeleine.
“This lady here has been my wife and she is fantastic allowing me do to all these things and helping me tremendously,” he said. “She was a great mother, and she cooked for the people who were working with myself and my father on Nugget Hill, and she is not a Pioneer? I can’t believe it”.
Pierre Berton, as a panellist on the Front Page Challenge TV show, could not believe it, either.
When they filmed the program in Dawson in 1989, Berton identified Madeleine as a mystery guest, then took off his Pioneer sash in front of a national audience in protest. Berton vowed never to wear it again unless women were allowed to join the club.
But Madeleine’s fight with the Pioneers is not all that put her on the map.
She also made fantastic fudge. And locals with health issues always got a visit and some home baking.
Instead of a calling card, Madeleine would leave the fresh bread, buns or pies on the doorknobs of local homes.
Then, in her late 70s, at an age when others are content to put up their feet and watch television, Madeleine began gathering recyclables.
And she turned it into a major enterprise.
In the summer, the Dawson icon was regularly spotted putting around town on her electric scooter, often pulling two small wagons piled high with recyclables.
She donated the recycling points to deserving children and helped as many as 30 youngsters in Dawson and Whitehorse acquire new bikes, boom boxes, books and other gifts.
Even last summer, at the age of 87, Madeleine’s stubbornly independent personality enabled her to gather and sort the recyclables, while simultaneously baking eight fruit pies, four loaves of bread, a batch of fudge and preparing supper for herself and John.
Madeleine Anita Lavigeaur was born to French-Canadian parents in St. Chrysostome, Quebec, on October 4, 1921.
She came from a family of seven children. They moved first to Ottawa, when she was four years old, and then to Maxville, Ontario, where she attended high school until Grade 9. The Lavigeaur family eventually moved to the small community of Greenfield, Ontario, where there was no high school. So Madeleine went to work, instead.
She got a job as a housekeeper in Montreal, followed by employment at a cotton mill in Cornwall, Ontario.
In 1942, during the Second World War, she began working at a small-arms plant that manufactured Sten Guns. To boost employee morale, monthly dances were held, and at one of these she met and fell in love with Royal Canadian Air Force pilot John Gould.
She wanted to dance and so did he. And, as they both loved to tell you, they have been dancing ever since.
The young couple was married in Greenfield, Ontario, on October 6, 1945. And Madeleine got her first taste of Dawson City the following summer, when she joined John at the Gould family’s gold mining claims on Nugget Hill.
Used to rural living, she quickly picked up the daily chores necessary to keep the log cabin clean and tidy. And she often said the cabin had running water – but only when she ran up the hill with the buckets.
Madeleine worked at Chappie’s Drug Store as a clerk in the late 1940s, followed by many hours of babysitting, before becoming self-employed with a janitorial contract for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Madeleine was also a tour guide at the Dawson City Museum during the 1970s and assisted John when, for 11 years, they were owner-operators of the commercial campground at York Street and Fifth Avenue.
Madeleine left a lasting legacy through the multitude of volunteer activities she engaged in during her life. Her first Dawson volunteering was with the Catholic Church Women’s League from 1946 to 1960.
She also served with Dawson’s chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire from 1950 through 1968, eventually as Regent.
Madeleine was an active curler and associate member of the Top of the World Curling Club, beginning in 1950. She was also a founding member and vice-chair of the Golden Age Social Club from 1988 through ‘91.
As a founding member of the Klondike Sun, Madeleine took on the task of finding advertising for the community journal. And she was made for the job. Madeleine, it was said, could sell advertising to Martians.
If that volunteer workload wasn’t enough, she was on many committees, including the first Dawson City Boy Scout Troop, the Dawson Humane Society, the Dawson Centennials Society and the Dawson Radio Society, where she also sold advertising.
She was a long-time member of the Community Library Board and volunteered at Robert Service School. For her numerous contributions, she was given the Yukon Commissioner’s Award for Volunteer Service in 2000.
Madeleine passed away at home, surrounded by her family, after a brief battle with cancer.
She is survived by her husband John; daughter Susan; son Peter; grandchildren Nicole, Tim, Tina, Gemma, Ava and Holly; and great-grandchildren Calvin, Petyn, Harley and Tyrell. She was predeceased by son John (Jock).
A funeral service will be held for Madeleine at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Dawson. A reception will follow in the main floor hall.