A Century of Service: Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire
Earl Grey Chapter members in costume to celebrate their 29th Anniversary.
(Grey Roots Archival Collection PF35).
The outbreak of the Boer War triggered the concept of an “organization of women, under the British flag, who would promote patriotism through service.” A Canadian institution, the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) was founded as an organization dedicated to education, patriotism, and charity. The I.O.D.E. Collections at the Grey County Archives house the stories of three local Chapters of the organization: The Earl Grey, The Captain Wm. F. Owen, and The Annie Jaffray Eaton.
The Earl Grey I.O.D.E. chose their name in honour of the then Governor General of Canada, Sir Albert Henry George Grey. The collection boasts a thoroughly documented history of the Chapter, including minute books dating back to the night of the Chapter’s inauguration on May 18th, 1905. The minute books allow a researcher to navigate the group’s actions through nearly a century of historical events, including both World Wars. One entry, dated just after WWI was declared, states: “A long depression from business was indulged in, when the war with its attendant horrors was talked over.” (October 2, 1914). The succeeding entries demonstrate the organization’s dismay, but also their resolve to move forward and assist the war effort.
An extensive scrapbook collection compliments the minute books with newspaper articles, letters, and Annual Reports. For the genealogist whose research includes an I.O.D.E. member, there are Records of Officers and Members spanning the years of the organization’s existence. Among the collection of correspondences are letters to and from Pauline McGibbon, Canada’s first woman Lieutenant Governor, and numerous articles surrounding her professional career. The activities of the Royal Family are followed closely by the Earl Grey, particularly Princess Anne’s visit to Grey County.
Numerous articles showcase the Chapter’s philanthropic work. One of Earl Grey’s larger charitable endeavours was the adoption of The Cape Croker School and Mattagami Indian Day School during which Earl Grey donated building materials and supplies. The Chapter was also a participant of a project headed by the Provincial I.O.D.E. to work with the blind and prepare textbooks in Braille for students across Ontario.
The Captain William F. Owen I.O.D.E. was founded in 1936 by seventeen high school students. According to a history of the chapter written in 1950, the minutes and Annual Reports for the years before 1945 have been lost. The Captain Owen Chapter was greatly concerned with the war effort. Donations and work surrounding World War II are described in their Annual War Work and Post War Work Report Forms. An excerpt from 1945 reads: Members donated blood and gave assistance at clinics… One member worked as assistant to the local Lieutenant Officer between Prisoners of War and their next of kin, through Red Cross. This included visiting British War Brides and seeing to the needs of wounded veterans.
Reports, minutes, and articles show the efforts of the Captain Owen members to serve veterans who had returned home, as well as those remaining in battle. One reappearing case is the Chapter’s adopted paraplegic veteran in Sunnybrook Hospital. Another story tells of when the Chapter joined forces with the Earl Grey members to adopt a ship. The vessel was tragically lost in action shortly after its adoption, but the group was reassigned to the H.M.C.S. Atholl. In the years after WWII ended, the Captain Owen I.O.D.E. hosted guest speakers who had experienced the war first hand: “Early in the year we had Mr. Peter Turk speak to us about his years in Buchenwald concentration camp” (from 1951-1952 Annual Report by Evelyn Cole).
Researchers can witness the changing cultural landscape in post-World War Canada by browsing through the Annual Reports: “The Captain Wm. F. Owen Chapter, I.O.D.E. has had a very successful year in Canadianization work. With the arrival of new Canadians to Canada every day, there has been an increased interest in the Chapter to welcome these new citizens and to assist them in every way possible.” Further reports outline the classes, greeting cards, and social events that the Captain Owen I.O.D.E. used to welcome new citizens.
In keeping with the educational interests of the I.O.D.E., the Captain Owen Chapter sponsored bursaries and scholarships for local children and laboured to inspire an interest in parliament in the younger generations. There is a written note stating “of this we are proud” by an entry in the Secretary’s Annual Report, 1953: “Again this year, the Chapter sponsored the sending of students to Ottawa to attend sessions of the Federal government.”
Chartered on May 21, 1987, the Annie Jaffray Eaton I.O.D.E. is Owen Sound’s youngest I.O.D.E. Chapter. The collection begins with an assemblage of charmingly written letters from one Adelaide Rattray Gremmel to her friend, Annie Jaffray. The letters are a diary of Adelaide’s life through adolescence into young adulthood and marriage. They are accompanied by a synopsis written by Jean E. Hart.
When Annie Jaffray Eaton’s only son was enlisted in World War One, she traveled to England to be near him. Along with Mrs. Howey, a woman whose husband was in the medical corps, Lady Jaffray Eaton opened the “Grey Rooms” in London, England. Here, “soldiers from Grey County met to write letters, meet friends or just relax in friendly and familiar company.” These efforts earned Lady Jaffray Eaton the respect and attention of the 147th and 248th Battalion, who erected a memorial cairn on the lawn of St. George’s Church in Owen Sound in her honour. The inscription reads: She mitigated to a marked degree the loneliness and suffering of the men and of myself. This memorial is erected as a humble tribute to a great soul by all ranks of the Greys. When Lady Jaffray Eaton died she was given full military honours at burial; a firing squad “fired a volley across the open grave and a bugler sounded the last Post and Reveille.”
The Chapter’s history states that members “have strived to improve the quality of life for children, youth and those in need, through educational, social service and citizenship programs.” The group made donations to the Women’s Centre in Owen Sound, the Second Avenue Lodge, the Grey Bruce Regional Health Centre, and the Salvation Army. At Christmas, the Chapter donated food to Bill Cherry’s dinner for the needy and made appearances to needy children as Mr. and Mrs. Santa.
The I.O.D.E. fonds are a kaleidoscope of events spanning a century in the history of Grey County. Each collection not only speaks the stories of the Chapters themselves, but is a vehicle to delve into some of the most pertinent moments in Canadian history.
Excerpt from the minute book of the Earl Grey Chapter’s inauguration, 1905.
(Grey Roots Archival Collection PF35).
Members of the Captain Owen I.O.D.E. at their Christmas dance in 1943. From Left to Right are: Edna Kyle, Louise Bowman (Middleton), Betty Cunningham (Rutherford), Jean McCullough (Brignal), Margaret Cameron (Follis), Lenore Bonnell (Cutter).
(Grey Roots Archival Collection PF96).
Arrival of H.M. Queen Mary’s Carpet at Malton Airport from New York, c. 1951. Present are members of the National Chapter I.O.D.E. and the Hon. Ray Lawson, Lieutenant Governor. The Queen Mother's Carpet was a worked by the Queen Mother herself as both personal contribution to Canada, and a fundraising initiative to help solve Britain's postwar dollar shortage.
(Grey Roots Archival Collection PF35)