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Researcher seeks history on early teacher

Ladies of the Traveller’s Aid Society in Lethbridge, Alberta burning their mortgage in 1939. Teacher Edith Kirk is seated on the far right.   - Photo submitted
Ladies of the Traveller’s Aid Society in Lethbridge, Alberta burning their mortgage in 1939. Teacher Edith Kirk is seated on the far right.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Wendy Aitkens

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

In April 1905, at the age of 46, Edith Kirk sailed from Liverpool, England to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the steamship Canada.

She was listed as a governess and her destination was Vancouver.

Within months, Kirk was in the gold mining town of Atlin, B.C. where she spent her first winter in Canada just south of the 60th parallel.

She worked as a nurse’s helper in St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital and painted images of Lake Atlin and the mining community.

In the 1911 Canadian census, Miss Kirk was listed as living in Empire Valley, B.C.

She was a public school teacher and boarded with widow Jennie Woods and her two sons Charles and William H. on the Empire Valley Ranch.

There were eight children in the Brown and Bishop families which weren’t enough to warrant a school.

The Zimmerly family was promised land if they moved from Ashcroft and added their children to the school.

A new school building was constructed near Brown Lake in 1910.

How Miss Kirk found this job, how she got to the community, how long she stayed and how she faired as a school teacher is unknown.

What she painted of the area is also unknown.

But the Galt Museum and Archives in Lethbridge, Alberta is interested in learning the answers to these questions.

Miss Edith Fanny Kirk was born near Sheffield, England in July 1858.

Her mother died when Edith was only three years old.  She and her father and brother moved to the Manchester area where Edith’s father remarried in 1870.

Edith, who was 12 at the time, could not get along with her stepmother.

Edith was enrolled in Manchester School of Art to provide her an opportunity to expand her artistic talents and to alleviate the tension at home.

In 1888, Edith received accreditation as an art teacher.

Besides living in Atlin and Empire Valley, Kirk also lived in Vancouver and in Kelowna, BC and St. John, New Brunswick.

She attended several Alpine Club of Canada camps, not as a climber but as an artist.

She returned to England for a year in 1914-1915 but chose to return to Canada.  In 1918, Miss Kirk arrived in Lethbridge.

She was well known in southern Alberta as an artist and as an art teacher.  Edith died in Lethbridge, December 30, 1953 at age 95.

The Galt Museum & Archives is developing an exhibit and publication for 2015 about Miss Kirk and her life and is looking for information, photographs and paintings that will help tell more of her story in Empire Valley.

She painted watercolour images everywhere she lived, so there may be paintings still existing in the area.

Her paintings were signed E. F. Kirk.

If you have any information, photos or paintings please contact Curator Wendy Aitkens at wendy.aitkens@galtmuseum.com.

Wendy Aitkens is Curator of the Galt Museum and Archives which is located in Lethbridge, Alberta.

 

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