Eliza Van Bibber, Laura Berton and Martha Watson are part of a long list of Yukon women being recognized for their role as trailblazers who have played important roles in the Yukon’s history.
The three women are among a dozen featured in the 2021 Trailblazing Women of Yukon calendar produced by the Pioneer Women of the Yukon.
Ione Christensen, a trailblazer in her own right as the first woman to be elected mayor of Whitehorse in 1975 and the first woman appointed as Commissioner of the Yukon in 1979 along with a number of other roles throughout her career including as the Yukon’s former senator in Ottawa, is a member of the organization who has worked to write the approximately 300-word biographies and get photos of each trailblazer to be featured in the calendar.
With the 2021 calendar now released, she’s already doing research on more female trailblazers who have made their mark on the Yukon to get ready for the 2022 calendar.
“There’s no shortage,” she said of the many female trailblazers who have made the Yukon the territory it is today.
She recalled that after the Whitehorse chapter of the Pioneer Women of the Yukon got its start a few years ago, one of its first projects was a cookbook.
That was followed by a calendar produced last year for 2020, which proved quite popular and something the organization plans to continue offering every year in addition to a number of other projects it has on the go, including a collection of longer biographies planned to be featured as part of an interactive display at the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. That effort is “a work in progress,” Christensen said.
Christensen said the process for the calendars takes time from selecting a diverse group of women who have impacted the territory (including contacting their families about having them featured in the calendar), getting and selecting photographs, researching and writing the biographies for each, followed by editing before the calendar is printed and then sold through members of the group or at Mac’s Fireweed Books.
While it might sound like a lot of work and though Christensen is already putting her efforts into the 2022 calendar while selling the 2021 calendar, it’s something Christensen truly enjoys doing.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s a real treasure hunt.”
As Christensen began describing each of the women featured in the 2021 calendar, one word continued to come up, “tough.”
Hazel Meloy, who with her husband Jack were the first to be declared Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous’ Mr. and Mrs. Yukon, for instance, once fired a rifle (directed away from anyone) as a warning to the captain a passing steamboat to stop at Coffee Creek where they lived so she could get some mail on board. The captain hadn’t planned to stop, but soon did when they heard the warning shot and knowing Molloy well.
“She was a real tough girl,” Christensen said, citing that as just one example of many featured in the calendar.
Also among those featured in the 2021 calendar are Elly Porsild, Frances Watson, Lucy Drury, Adele McMurphy, Sadie Stringer, Alice Mitander, Elizabeth Vifquin and Christensen’s own mother Martha Ballentine Cameron.
Christensen said she hopes the calendar will give Yukoners a good sense of the history and what these women went through as they made their mark on the Yukon.
Along with each trailblazer’s history, the calendar also features the Yukon’s tartan on the cover.
The tartan was designed by Janet Couture of Watson Lake in 1965 and accepted as the territory’s official tartan in 1984. It is made up of green, dark blue, magenta, yellow and white stripes in varying widths on a light blue background.
The lighter blue background represents Yukon’s sky and the green symbolizes the territory’s forests, as noted on the Yukon government website.
“White symbolizes snow and yellow represents Yukon’s gold,” it continues. “Magenta is the colour of fireweed, Yukon’s official flower, and dark blue represents the mountains.”
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