Behind the Exhibit : The Stories

Mountain Women: The Lives of Pearl Brewster Moore and Edmée Moore Reid of Banff 

by Amie Lalonde

Amie Lalonde joined the Whyte Museum in November through the Young Canada Works internship grant. Amie is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto where she completed her Masters in History in June 2017. Amie’s work in the archives includes, yet is not limited to preservation, arrangement and description of collections in the archives, Amie’s main project is to digitize and curate a digital exhibit on Pearl and Edmée Moore. Amie has researched and pulled images and text from various collections to create the online exhibit. This exhibit will provide visitors, local and non-local alike, with a valuable peek into the lives of two Banff women and the community that surrounded them.

The Stories

Mountain Women: The Lives of Pearl Brewster Moore and Edmée Moore Reid of Banff started off several months ago with an idea to tell the stories of two women born and raised in Banff. From there, months of research, planning, digitization, and writing followed in order to craft a narrative that would show not only the lives of Pearl and Edmée Moore, but the rich Banff community they were a part of. 

I started out researching Pearl Brewster Moore and her daughter, Edmée Moore Reid using the collections held within the Whyte Museum Archives and Library. The Moore family fonds made up the bulk of my research and the photographs, diaries, letters, newspaper clippings, and personal ephemera (including an invitation to President Hoover’s White House in 1931!) painted a picture of the rich lives that Pearl and Edmée lived from the end of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.

V439/PA-229, "At Home", [Pearl on horseback],
Moore family fonds
The photographs presented Pearl as an adventurous young woman who was an excellent rider and a keen hockey player. Two of my favourite photographs of Pearl show her on horseback: one shows Pearl in front of Tunnel Mountain and Mount Rundle and is captioned “At Home”, while the other shows Pearl on a horse that appears to be trying to buck her off. However, writing on the back of the photograph reveals that this is Pearl’s horse and she taught it to walk on its hind legs. Another photograph that stands out in the collection shows Pearl with the rest of her hockey team: eight stoic-faced women in turtlenecks and full skirts holding hockey sticks and sitting behind a trophy.

V439/PA-279, [Studio portrait of women's hockey team. Pearl Brewster Moore in centre.], Moore family fonds
While Pearl was not a stalwart diary keeper (most of her diaries end after only a few weeks, a habit I can certainly relate to), Edmée faithfully wrote in and kept a daily diary. Unfortunately the Archives is only in possession of three of Edmée’s diaries, from 1926, 1928, and 1930, plus two travel diaries, so we can only peek into three years of her life. Edmée’s diaries indicated she was an average young woman who enjoyed hanging out with her friends and got frustrated when her parents didn’t let her attend dances. Additionally, the photo albums that she created demonstrated Edmée’s daily life and the fun she had on trail rides in and around Banff and Yoho National Parks. The photographs held in Edmée’s albums, were it not for some of the hair and clothing styles, could have been taken by teenagers out on a trail this past summer.

The best story that I came upon while preparing this exhibit is the story of how twelve year old Pearl got out of babysitting her younger brother. While Pearl’s brothers were out exploring, Pearl,was responsible for babysitting the youngest Brewster child, Pat. Pearl grew tired of watching her five year old brother and being stuck around the house, so she hatched a plan to free herself from the responsibility. She repeatedly suggested to her mother that her father was lonely out on the ranch in Kananaskis and that Pat should be sent out to Kananaskis to keep him company. Eventually her mother agreed and Pearl's last duty was walking Pat to the train station. Pearl’s commitment to freeing herself of babysitting responsibilities so that she could get out and have fun is something that anyone who has ever had to babysit a younger sibling can definitely relate to.

When I had a handle on who Pearl and Edmée were, I began exploring other fonds to help complete the picture. A photograph of an early school class in Banff held in the Jim Brewster Family fonds presented a young Pearl (with the hint of a scowl) in the front row. This photograph then led me to the Banff School District No. 102 fonds to find out more about the earliest schools in Banff. I found school attendance records from as early as 1888, and found that Pearl started school in 1895 in a class with her brothers Jim, George, and Fred as well as others such as Ada Wilson, who remained friends with Pearl into adulthood, and Tressa (Lade) Bagley, who married Jim Brewster in 1901. 

V90/PA-472, [School picture, Pearl Brewster? in black dress in centre of first row, Jim Brewster? at right in back row,
[ca.1896], Jim Brewster (family) fonds

In a way, looking through archival collections to build an exhibit is like a treasure hunt. Each little bit of information leads to another and as you go from file to file and fonds to fonds you get closer to revealing the bigger picture of exactly who a person was. Once that picture is revealed you can start to build the exhibit… a process I will go over in Part II of this blog. Stay tuned!

In the meantime check out the online exhibit here to discover more about Pearl and Edmée!


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