The First Ladies of Calgary at the Earl & Lady Grey Tea - Lougheed House

Posted by | October 11, 2018 | Uncategorized | No Comments

by Adam Sarjeant, Admissions Assistant, and Sean French, Development Manager

In 1909, Calgary received quite a visit – the 4th Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, and his wife, Countess Alice Holford Grey! As soon as the Earl’s train arrived around noon, he was whisked away to a reception in the luncheon rooms of the Canadian Club by a detachment of the 15th Light Horse Cavalry, with the likes of R.B. Bennett, Patrick Burns, and our own Senator Lougheed.

Meanwhile, Calgary’s real movers and shakers, what you might call the “first women” of Calgary, attended a tea hosted at our very own Lougheed House with the Countess Grey and her daughters. Today, we’re joining the party! We’d like to introduce you to just a few of the fantastic women who gathered at the house that day…

Isabella Lougheed (1861-1936)

Courtesy Glenbow Archives

You’ve likely “met” our host before – wife of Calgary’s first Senator, Daughter to William Hardisty, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and a woman very much at the center of Calgary’s aristocratic life – although as of 1909, not yet a “Lady” herself (that would happen in 1916). But what you might not know is that she was tough enough, and politically connected enough, to keep pace with her husband, and then some!

For “Belle,” life was no cakewalk. She spent most of her youth, when not attending Wesleyan Ladies’ College, in Fort Simpson, headquarters of the Mackenzie River Valley section of the HBC. The Hardistys endured food shortages and harsh winters, often surviving on no more than flour and locally-captured whitefish. Her mother, Mary Allen Hardisty, taught her to drive a train of dogs and keep rabbit snares.

She certainly didn’t go soft after settling down in Calgary, either: in 1897, she became the vice-president of the National Council of Women, one of Canada’s earliest advocacy groups, where she fought for the improvement of the treatment of women. In 1909, she was named the first president of the board of the Calgary Victorian Order of Nurses, and became vice-regent of the Independent Order of Daughters of the Empire, a pro-imperialist women’s political organization. Despite being kicked out of her own home in 1898 during a meeting of Conservatives hosted by her husband (for being a woman, and therefore a non-voter), Belle was nearly as socially active as her husband throughout her lifetime.

Countess Alice Holford Grey (1858-1944)

In 1909, the Countess Grey (born Alice Holford) was just as much of a celebrity as her husband. The Countess was a voice for temperance and a vocal supporter of the Salvation Army, regularly making private appearances for members in the various cities she visited. Among Canadians, however, she was most famous for her opulent, old-fashioned taste and fashion. The daughter of British businessman and MP Robert Staynor, Countess Grey was born into wealth and married into peerage. She was particularly well known on Canada’s High Streets and to Ottawa and Montreal’s tailors and milliners, and personally “employ[ed] a small army of needlewomen on her lingerie and lace.”


Lady Sybil Grey (1882-1966)

The second daughter of the Earl & Countess was a real firebrand – and a soon-to-be war hero! As an MP, the Earl was a vocal advocate of a more liberal, humane British Empire, which he believed could serve the people of the colonies rather than redirecting wealth to Britain. This sense of “noblesse oblige” rubbed off on Sybil, and when war broke out in 1914, not only did she sign up for the British Red Cross and Order of St John of Jerusalem’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), she even turned her own ancestral home, Howick Hall in Northumberland, from one of the country’s most lavish mansions, into a hospital for the war wounded. But one military hospital wasn’t enough for Sybil – after less than a year running Howick, she travelled to Russia to convert Dmitri Palace, which belonged to Nicholas II’s first cousin Dmitri Pavlovitch. In spite of the deteriorating political situation in Russia in 1916 (the October Revolution being less than a year away), Sybil and her Field Hospital team inched closer and closer to the front. Even after an incident in which Sybil received wounds to her face from hand grenade flak, she couldn’t be kept from her work saving lives at the heart of the conflict.

Lady Evelyn Grey

Lady Evelyn Grey, the first daughter of the Earl & Countess was crowned Canada’s Women’s Figure Skating Champion in the Ice Waltz category in 1910, one year after her visit to Calgary.

 In those days the Championship was a one-day event, with figures authorized by the International Skating Union in the morning and “free” figures, with half the point value, in the evening. A live orchestra accompanied the free-figures competitors as they skated, according to the rules, “any figures or combinations thereof desired.”

Lady Evelyn (pictured second from left) went on to write a syllabus of lectures for the education of young girls in Ottawa with the help none other than future Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was a close friend of her father.[1]

Hon. Alice Jane Jukes Jamieson (1860-1949)

Courtesy Glenbow Archives

One of Lady Isabella’s personal friends, a fellow member of the Council of Women, was also one of Canada’s most important feminist figures. Raised in Chicago, Alice Jamieson didn’t arrive in Canada until she was 22 years, but would often say of her adopted country, “I chose to be Canadian.” After the death of her husband, Reuben R. Jamieson, the Superintendent of C.P.R.’s Western Division, she was instrumental in the Calgary Council of Women’s shift towards promoting Women’s Suffrage, and providing legal aid for women in need.

In 1916, Alice Jamieson was appointed Judge of Calgary’s Juvenile court, and later Magistrate of Calgary’s Women’s Court, making her the first female judge in the British Empire. For a woman in the early twentieth century, a career in law was a perpetual struggle for legitimacy and equality among her male peers. This battle reached its peak with her victory in 1917’s Cyr case, a pivotal legal battle in the enfranchisement of women. In the case, an attempt was made to appeal one of her rulings on the grounds that Hon. Jamieson should be declared “incompetent and incapable” due to her gender. Not only did the Supreme Court rule in her favour, but the case also threw shade on the constitutional assumption that women did not qualify as persons, paving the way for future legal victories for the women of Canada. In 2003, Calgary’s first all-girl’s school was named Alice Jamieson Girls’ Academy in her honour.

Mrs. Jean Ann Pinkham (née Drever) (1849-1940)

Cyprian William Pinkham was born November 11, 1844 at St. John’s, Newfoundland and died at Calgary July 18, 1928. He was married in 1868 to Jean Ann Drever who was born on May 6, 1850 and died February 1, 1940 at Calgary. They had a family of seven children. William was named the first Anglican Bishop of Calgary in 1888. The diocese covered an area of over 300,000 square miles. Mrs. Pinkham was disturbed because there was no hospital in Calgary in 1888 and many women were dying in childbirth, as well as laborers injured on the job and left unattended. She and other ladies of Calgary organized teas, dances, concerts, dinners and raised enough money to have the first hospital opened in a house on 7 Avenue S.W. Mrs. Pinkham was the President of the new hospital board. The hospital was eventually expanded with a new stone building on 12 Avenue East, which was later converted into an isolation hospital.

Eileen Louisa Francis Anna Burns (nee Ellis) (1873-1923)

Eileen was from a ranching family and grew up near Penticton BC. She and Patrick Burns were married in London in 1901 when she was 27 and he was 47. They had one son Patrick Thomas Michael who died at age 30. Their mansion, finished in 1903, stood near the Central Memorial Library was said to be the finest, and largest, in Calgary. It was demolished to make way for the Colonel Belcher Hospital (later renamed the Sheldon Chumir Medical Centre). Remnants of a sandstone fence from the mansion are visible today at the Southwest corner of the Medical Centre.

Mrs. Mary Jane Cushing (née Waters) (1852-1924)

William Cushing was born in 1852 in Wellington Co. Ontario and died at Calgary in 1934. In 1877 he was married to Elizabeth Rinn, who was also born in Wellington Co., but died in 1880. In 1883 He married Mary Jane Waters. There were two children. William took up building as an occupation and his first contract was building two churches in Calgary in 1883. He contributed much to public life, as an Alderman in 1910-1911, and in the Alberta Legislature in 1905 as Minister of Public Works. He was also a member of the hospital board. Mary Jane Waters was born 5 August 1849 in Ontario, and died 25 July 1924 in Calgary. She is buried in the Pioneer Section of Union Cemetery, as are all of her children.

Mrs. Mary Bernard (née Morton) (1840-1911)

Mr. Bernard was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1840 and died in Calgary in 1911. He married Mary Morton, who was born in Ireland in 1840 and died in Calgary, Alberta in 1929.

They had seven children, all born in Ireland. A descendent of a noted Irish family, William Bernard had been a brilliant lawyer in London, England. On arrival in Calgary in 1888 he set up a law office and also purchased the Daily Tribune from Thomas Braden, one of the founders of the Calgary Herald. He was later joined by his son Michael Charles, at which time the firm was renamed Bernard & Bernard.

Mrs. Margaret Pearce (née Meyer) (1853-1943)

William Pearce was born in Ontario, in 1848 and died in Calgary in 1930. He was married to Margaret Meyer in 1881, who was born in 1853 and died at Calgary in 1943. They had a family of seven children and came to Calgary in 1887. William was a Civil Engineer and held several positions in the Dominion Government. Before and after the Riel Rebellion he was in charge of the Metis Land Claims and was the official representative of the Department of the Interior. The Pearce family settled permanently in Calgary in 1887. Mr. and Mrs. Pearce were instrumental in the establishment of the General Hospital. In 1904 he left the Dominion Government and worked in administration of Irrigation and C.P.R. Lands. In 1916, he became a statistician for the C.P.R. Their children were; Frances, Adolphina, Seabury, William E. and John (Twins), William M. and Harry. William Pearce’s name was inscribed on Memory’s Roll of the SAPD with dates 1873-1883.

And finally… the Tea?

You might be wondering: what’s connection between the Greys and Earl Grey tea? The tea blend might not be named after the 4th Earl Albert Grey who visited Calgary in 1909, but it is named for his predecessor, the 2nd Earl Charles Grey, who as British Prime Minister oversaw the Reform Act of 1832, as well as the abolition of slavery in the commonwealth.

How Charles Grey became associated with the tea is unclear. There are stories of good deeds in China that resulted in the recipe for the tea coming to his ownership. Another version tells how the blend was created by accident when a gift of tea and bergamot oranges were shipped together from diplomats in China and the fruit flavour was absorbed by the tea during shipping. Yet another version of the story involves a Chinese Mandarin friend of the Earl blending this tea to offset the taste of minerals in the water at his home (Howick Hall, Northumberland, England). None of these stories are confirmed, but all speak to Grey’s association with trade and international affairs, and offer a general idea of why he may have come to be associated with this particular blend.

Jackson’s of Piccadilly say that they introduced the blend in 1836 “to meet the wishes of a former Earl Grey.” Researchers at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) issued an appeal in 2012 to find the earliest evidence of Earl Grey referring to tea. The first reference to bergamot-flavoured tea was found in 1824. In contrast to later associations, it seems that at that time it was used unfavourably to enhance the taste of low-quality tea. This led the OED to conclude that it was “rather unlikely” that the Earl championed or recommended the tea.

Lady Grey tea, on the other hand, was invented in the 1990s by Twinings, who were hoping to create a less bitter tea to market to Norwegian and British tastes. The name was intended to convey the tea’s milder taste, and doesn’t refer to any Lady Grey in particular.

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