The Catherine McVean Chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire has played a prominent role in the life of my hometown, Dresden, for the past 100 years. In the photo to the left, IODE members are front and centre for the Remembrance Day service, November 11, 1956. My mother Grace can be seen standing to the left of the kilted honor guard in the centre of the photo. The pin in the photo below belonged to my grandmother Harriet Perry who was a member of the organization from 1914 to 1940. At right, Catherine McVean Chapter President Sandra Thompson signs a Certificate of Appreciation in Recognition of Outstanding Support which was presented to my mother, January 28, 1993, along with a special pin signifying her 60 years of membership. My cousin Norma Johnston served as Municipal Regent of the IODE in the 1970s and her mother Harriet Sharp (my Aunt) was also a lifetime member.
A new entry to my Dresden: Father and Son Turn Back the Clock site references the IODE placing crosses at the entrance to the Dresden Cemetery in 1925 and again in 1946 in memory of local boys who paid the supreme sacrifice in two world wars. The feature includes photos, one of which shows a neighbor lad, Roy Dusten, holding me as an infant a year or two before he was killed over Germany as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
I mention "war" a lot in my reflections because it was the era in which I grew up and, regardless of our generation, we should not "forget" the reason we enjoy freedom in our society today.
But, back to the IODE which was founded in 1900 by a Margaret Polson Murray of Montreal, who envisioned an organization of women devoted to encouraging imperialism. Beginning with an educational mandate promoting Britain and British institutions through schools, it became actively involved in both world wars by supporting Canada's effort on behalf of Britain and its allies. IODE chapters are now made up of women from many walks of life with a common interest in volunteering their time to improve the quality of life for children, youth and those in need, through educational, social service and citizenship programs.
Although membership has declined, IODE still has 8,000 members in 400 chapters, raising $2 million in 2007 for equipment, furnishings, hospitals, nursing homes, crisis centres, women's shelters and homes for youth. Close to another $million went to scholarships and bursaries across Canada last year.
Long live members of the IODE and the wonderful work that they do. I am honored to have had firsthand exposure to these benevolent, strong women of action.