Women’s Auxiliary celebrates 120 years

Compassion and volunteerism a foundation of the organization

Canada has had 21 prime ministers and been through two world wars since the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s (RAH) Women’s Auxiliary first lent their compassion and fortitude to the hospital’s staff and patients. 

The impact is still felt today. 

“All you need to do is look at this garden,” said Gloria Bauer, Women’s Auxiliary president. “We buy plants, help staff to get away for a break and patients come and sit, to enjoy nature.”

Bauer shared these and other thoughts with about 50 people on June 26 in the sunny spaciousness of the hospital’s rooftop Ted and Lois Hole Healing Garden. The celebration was the 120th anniversary of the RAH Women’s Auxiliary.

Brian Tod, past chair of the RAH Foundation, encouraged the audience to honour the “women who dared and succeeded” to make the auxiliary happen.

“On behalf of the Royal Alexandra Foundation, thank you for volunteering your time in all that you do…None of us would be here today without the Women’s Auxiliary.”

In 1899, Edmonton city council launched the RAH Women’s Auxiliary in order to pay the mortgage on the new 25-bed Boyle Street hospital. Those first six women who stepped forward assumed responsibility for the $8,000 mortgage and for all furnishings, salaries, food, and other necessities. 

Twelve years later, the RAH was opened and again the Women’s Auxiliary took on the mortgage, also agreeing to supply linens, furniture, and essentials. 

Emily Murphy, the 20th century women’s rights activist, was an early president, Bauer told the audience. In those days, the women did what they could to raise money, such as organizing a well-known charity ball, holding raffles and bridge parties, and running a food booth at the Edmonton Exhibition.

“They used to go around in a rented horse and buggy and pick up from merchants and homes [the] supplies and donations,” said Bauer. “As far as I know, it’s the only auxiliary group in Western Canada made entirely of volunteers.”

Today, the biggest source of revenue is from the two gift shops located in the Robbins Pavilion and the hospital’s main entrance. 

In 2017, the Women’s Auxiliary split responsibility with the Hospital Foundation for maintenance of the rooftop garden, which had fallen on hard times. They’ll pay for planting annuals and general maintenance until 2023. They’ve also taken on a five-year maintenance project for Vivian’s Garden, the revitalized atrium on the second floor of the hospital. 

The auxiliary furnishes many areas of the hospital and buys equipment such as lifts and walkers. They’re the source of Christmas lights and festive plants in the hospital at Easter and provide clothing items to Social Services, which passes them on to patients in need upon discharge. 

“I don’t think there is an area . . . in the hospital that we haven’t had an influence in, in terms of furniture and funds for things like staff workshops,” said Bauer. 

The people you meet are wonderful, agreed Valerie Mudryk, a volunteer of 12 years whose daughter was born at the hospital. 

“You feel you are part of it, part of the organization,” she said. 

At the podium, Selikke Janes-Kelley, RAH site executive director, thanked auxiliary members.

“Starting with six women and look at the centre of excellence we have now,” she said. “When you retire, we’ll see you in the gift shop!”

To find out more or to volunteer, leave your contact information in one of the gift shops or email gloria.bauer@ahs.ca


Featured Image: Gloria Bauer, RAH Women’s Auxiliary president, shared stories about the early days of the auxiliary with the audience at the 120th anniversary celebrations in the Ted and Lois Hole Healing Garden. | Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson

Kate took up the reporter's pad and pen while living in northern Alberta. The writing bug stuck, and the next 20 years were spent covering everything from local politics to community happenings. She lives in Alberta Avenue with her daughter.

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