International Women’s Day: A look at 13 influential Morinville women – then and now

by Lucie Roy

International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to look towards the progress made towards gender equality and to take the time to honour the many contributions women have made in our lives today. Morinville is no exception. Out of the listing of the top 50 women in Morinville that have made a difference in our lives today, the Volume 4 History Committee made a random selection of women throughout the decades.

1. Katherine Steffes the first English teacher in Morinville.

2. Chermaine Bulger. The first to serve in the RCMP. She served in the former Yugoslavia with E Division. All the contingents received praise for their dedication and hard work. One female member- Cst. Chermaine Bulger was commended for her actions and was noted for her outstanding work, compassion and general conduct and interaction with the public. From many favourable comments she set a high standard for others to achieve. It is therefore highly recommended that there be an effort to identify a greater number of female members for future missions.

3. The Four founding sisters of the Daughters of Jesus that arrived Jan. 1904 to teach in the convent; Marie Adeline, Superior, who was the Morinville Founder of the Notre Dame Convent 1901-1910, Marie Sainte-Tarcienne, Saint-Nicolas-Marie and Saint-Eutrope-Marie. Also teaching in Morinville was Sister Marie Anysie Deschenes who devoted 34 years of her religious life teaching little ones in Morinville and Sister Odelie Marie who taught for 43 years. Mere Marie Ste. Bathide Daughter of Jesus was the first provincial Superior of Morinville from 1901-1910.

4. The American “invasion” of Feb. 1943 for the construction of the Alaska Highway that gave an economic boost to the town. A fleet of trucks was requisitioned from J H Perras garage and American sponsored employment was prevalent. Working at the garage was Raymonde Riopel who went on to teach in Morinville for 47 years and is a strong voice for the French language.

5. Florence McDonald, the daughter of Louis McDonald who went to serve in the military in 1939 alongside her seven brothers.

6. Donna O’Flannigan, the first female fire fighter in the Morinville Fire Department that paved the way. In 1983 they had the first female addition to the ranks, Donna O’Flannigan (1982-1983). She proved that women could perform all tasks that needed to be done in the fire service. There was also Patricia Westover in 1985-1991 and Rae-Anne Houle from 1987-1988.

7. Lynne Rosychuk for her efforts to make the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation’s mission to open the door to domestic violence and abuse by providing safety, support, awareness and education a reality.

8. Sarah Hall, founder of the Facebook group Morinville’s Marvelous Moms, a group that unites mothers in Morinville for fellowship, communication, business networking and charitable volunteering.


9. Sister Alice Trottier Daughter of Jesus, author, writer, historian wrote numerous books including Faith and Tenacity and co-founded the Study Group for French-Canadian history. She received the Ordre des Francophones de l’Amerique given by the Conseil de la vie Francaise du Quebec. She taught history at the College St Jean and at Newman Theological College.

10. Sarah Rondeau midwife that delivered 1,108 babies and never lost a baby.

11. Louise Bourque who married Augustin Billo. She was involved in the establishment of the Morinville Savings and Credit Union, worked as Secretary-Treasurer for the Town from 1943 to 1961 and was one of the first Canadian women municipal administrators. And in 1972 was instrumental in obtaining a grant to establish the Rendez Vous Senior Citizens Club.

12. Thelma Chalifoux appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1997, and she served in the Senate till Feb. 2004. She was the Metis to chair the National Metis Senate and the Senate Constitution Commission, Co-chair of the Alberta Metis Senate, an appeal Panel Member with Alberta Family and Social Services and a Metis Elder for Nechi Institute. She was the first Metis female to receive a National Aboriginal Achievement Award presented in 1995.

13. Mary Anne Balsillie was the first female Mayor in Morinville. She was also the first female MLA for the Redwater Constituency.

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