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Home Community Voices Prince Albert’s first female alderman

Prince Albert’s first female alderman

Prince Albert’s first female alderman
Photo courtesy of the Bill Smiley Archives Ella Muzzy was unsuccessful in her first attempt to become an alderman in 1935, but she didn’t let that stop her.

From the 1996 YWCA fund raising calendar, called Y’s Emerging Women, for the week of August 3rd to 9th: “Ella Muzzy broke ground for women in Prince Albert when in 1937 she became the first woman to be elected to City Council. She served on a number of standing committees including Health and Relief, and Markets and Parks.

Ella Muzzy was an outgoing and controversial person who was interested in the welfare of children. She was very involved in activities that furthered their welfare, particularly summer programs for children. Her efforts were the beginning of youth summer programs in Prince Albert.

Ella was responsible for the building of the first children’s paddling pool at the corner of 13th Street and 1st Avenue West, just north of the old YWCA. The existing paddling pool in Kinsmen Park is named in her honour. Ella Muzzy was an intelligent and determined lady.”

Born in Port Huron, Michigan, Helen “Ella” Muzzy came to Prince Albert from Brainerd, Minnesota in 1906. She and her husband Galen, who died in 1931, raised three daughters, one of whom (Winnifred) was a teacher at the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute while another (Vera) became vice-principal of the 9th Street School. The third daughter was named Helen. In 1909, Galen was the foreman of the Prince Albert Lumber Company, and he continued to work in the lumber industry into the 1920s. Between 1924 and his death, Galen worked primarily as a farmer, while continuing to reside within the city.

From the date of her arrival in Prince Albert, Ella had been prominent in many church and social organisations. She was a life member of the Women’s Missionary Society of the United Church and held several positions in that organisation. At the time when the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was first organised in Prince Albert, she was the first president, an office she held for several years. She also served on the executive of the Children’s Aid Society, and on the executive of the Victorian Order of Nurses. Even after her election to Council, Mrs. Muzzy continued to work towards the advancement of women when she organised the local Women’s Civic League.

Ella Muzzy made her first attempt at gaining a Council seat in the November 1935 election. Although her vote tally was respectable, she was not successful. However, this did not deter her, or her supporters. At the time, half of the aldermen were elected each year, and the mayor was elected every second year. When nominations opened for Council seats in the 1936 election, Mrs. Muzzy’s name was once again on the ballot.

Ella Muzzy was nominated by Alexander Duncan, a local pharmacist and owner of Duncan’s Drug Store, and by Thomas J. Morgan, the manager of Morgan’s Ladies Wear. At the Labour Council’s candidates’ meeting, Mrs. Muzzy indicated that she has always been successful in whatever she had attempted, and that she would make every effort to succeed if she was successful in the election. At the Candidates’ Forum, she told those in attendance that she had always endeavoured to live by Christian principles and would carry those principles with her if elected to Council. She desired to work with the male aldermen for the mutual benefit of all the residents of Prince Albert. She felt that the city needed to elect a woman to Council so as not to lag behind other communities. Promotional material advertising Mrs. Muzzy’s candidacy indicated that she was an “independent candidate”.

The Prince Albert Daily Herald referred to the election held in November 1936 as the “Petticoat Election”. Ella Muzzy ran for City Council and was elected. Mrs. Mary Brodie sought election to the Collegiate board and was successful, while Mrs. Blanche Mitchell was returned by acclamation to the Public School board. The only unsuccessful female candidate in the election was a woman who had allowed her name to stand for the Separate School board.

Throughout her years on Council, Ella Muzzy was a member of the Assessment board, the Health and Relief committee, the Markets and Parks board (later the Parks board), and chaired the Fire board. As noted in the YWCA calendar, she was particularly interested in developing local programming for children. This led to several heated debates with other aldermen, particularly with Alderman Jack Sanderson. Mrs. Muzzy wanted to spend money on the development of parks and recreational opportunities for the youth of the city, while Mr. Sanderson was concerned with ensuring the city’s infrastructure, and the Daily Herald frequently reported on their debates.

The summer recreation programme of today had its foundation in the position which Mrs. Muzzy took. The first paddling pool established in the city, located on the southeast corner of 13th Street and 1st Avenue West, was the result of her firm stance with her Council colleagues. It had been demolished by the time that I was a youngster and replaced by a parking lot (known as the Muzzy parking lot), and is now situated within the Gateway Mall.

As noted in the YWCA’s calendar, Ella Muzzy was a controversial person, but the positions she took on Council must have been shared by the majority of Prince Albert’s electors. After her first election, she was returned to office in each subsequent election in which she ran.
At a meeting of City Council on October 20th, 1942, Mrs. Muzzy as chair of the Fire committee, indicated that as a result of concerns expressed about the safety of where wood piles were located in the city, she had spoken with the fire chief. Alderman Muzzy indicated that she would sponsor a bylaw to cover the placement of such piles and other materials.

However, at the Council meeting the following week, members of Council paid tribute to the retiring Lady Alderman. Deputy Mayor P.W. Mahon stated that “Our first lady alderman has served well and faithfully.” He went on to say “Alderman Mrs. Muzzy had always had only one thought in mind during six years of service on the Council and that was what would be best for the citizens and the city.”

Alderman C.S. Lacroix, referred to as “the dean of the councillors” due to his length of service, declared that Council was “particularly glad to have Alderman Muzzy on Council during the depression years when she took over much of the burden in this respect.” He advised that the citizens of Prince Albert certainly appreciated her work, and expressed best wishes and happiness to her on behalf of the councillors and official staff.

It was further reported in the Daily Herald on the 7th of November 1942 that Mrs. E. Muzzy, Prince Albert’s only woman councillor, having left the city to reside in Saskatoon would not be seeking re-election in that month’s municipal election.

Ella Muzzy passed away in 1961.

Editor’s Note: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated Ella Muzzy’s date of death, and the number of children she had. The article has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Herald apologizes for the mistake.