Friendship and philanthropy sustain a century-old ladies’ club in rural Alberta

A well-known women’s club in rural Alberta marked a milestone this year.

In 1922, rural women living near the young farming community of Warwick, located near Vegreville, Alberta, about 110 kilometers east of Edmonton, formed a club.

One hundred years later, the Warwick Ladies Club is still active, holding monthly meetings which usually take place at each other’s homes.

The club celebrated its centenary with a tea party in October and members shared their favorite memories at their annual Christmas party this month.

Fairwood School, just east of the community of Warwick, Alberta, was used as a meeting place for members of the Warwick Ladies Club in its early days. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

« I never dreamed I would be at this club for so long, » said Jean Hughston, who lives in Vegreville and joined the club in 1959. She is the club’s longest serving member.

Hughston said his mother-in-law, Ada Hughston, started the club with her neighbors to support causes in their community.

Years ago, ladies held card parties, dances and bingo games at Fairwood School, which Hughston attended as a girl.

Over the years, annual membership dues have increased from 25 cents to $20, Hughston said, but many have remained the same. The group, which currently has 22 active members, holds an annual summer picnic in June and goes out for a meal once a year.

« It’s important because as a community we need to keep the men on track, » said Olga Jamison, a club member of 40 years.

She said the club had raised money for many charitable initiatives, including cancer research, and had stepped in to help people in difficulty.

Canned goods, pantry items and toiletries are stacked on a table with a framed picture that says "food bank donations."
Donations for the Vegreville Food Bank Society lay on a table at the Warwick Community Hall. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

At its most recent meeting, members discussed the need to replace the furnace at the Warwick Community Hall and collected donations for the Vegreville Food Bank Society.

Members believe their club is one of the oldest women’s clubs in the province. Earlier this year, the 103-year-old Forshee Ladies Group celebrated its belated centenary in the community of a hamlet about 50 kilometers northwest of Red Deer.

A green quilt includes squares that honor individual club members. The squares of Jean Hughston and Peggy Lobay are represented.
Members honored the club’s 80th anniversary with a quilt. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC News)

Wilma Cherniawsky said Hughston convinced her to join the club in 1969, when she was raising four young children.

Cherniawsky said it was a treat to get out of the house, hang out at someone else’s house, and meet all the women in the area, so she kept coming back.

« It’s very important to the social fiber of our community, » she said.

Two rows of women pose for a photo in a room with Christmas decorations.
Sixteen members of the Warwick Ladies Club gather for a Christmas party at Warwick Community Hall on December 12, 2022. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Club secretary Peggy Lobay, who joined in 1993, said she was proud to be part of a group of women with diverse backgrounds and values.

She and others are proud of the club’s history, which fills scrapbooks and hangs on the walls around the venue.

« It’s a remarkable feat that we’ve achieved, » she said.


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