Women of Innisfil

October is Women’s History Month, and Innisfil has plenty of reasons to celebrate! Even the most cursory of glances at our collection reveals a long tradition of capable women playing important roles in how our community was shaped. Innisfil has always been a primarily agricultural community, which means long days in the barns and fields for men and women alike.

Two women milking cows near what is today St. John’s Anglican Church in Cookstown

Mrs. Latimer finishing barnyard chores in 1910

While men traditionally handled the physical labour of threshing and barn raising, women handled the task of cooking and preparing meals during these important community events. If you’re wondering just how many people were needed for this happen, the photo below gives a good sense of the numbers!

Women gather for a barn raising on the Grose property, west of Lefroy, in 1906

The women of Innisfil were not limited to just farm work, however, and have historically run and participated in numerous community based organizations. The primary goal of many of these societies was to improve the lives of those in need.

Holly Ladies Aid Society, 1930

Cookstown Red Cross workers, date unknown

Women’s Missionary Society in Churchill, 1932

Although women were unable to serve on the front lines of the armed forces during the First and Second World Wars, they supported the war efforts in a myriad of other ways including medical care and taking over tasks and businesses in the absence of husbands and fathers. Innisfil’s own Shirlie Toro-Fralick went overseas as a performer to entertain the troops – a job that offered incredible life experiences, but wasn’t always easy as a woman. Click here to watch Shirlie describe her role and experiences as an entertainer, and click here to watch Shirlie explain the challenges she and others faced because they were women. 

Of course, Our Stories itself owes a great debt to the Stroud and Cookstown Women’s Institutes. Both organizations performed the enormous task of collecting and documenting Innisfil’s history. Their influence is writ large across this project, and we are grateful for the fantastic work they did.

Cookstown Women’s Institute, 1965

Stroud Women’s Institute, 1956

It wasn't always serious business, either. There are scores of photos of ladies sports teams and picnics and all sorts of fun and leisurely activities.

Knock Ladies Baseball Team, 1931

Mabel Guest, Pearl Soules, and Myrtle Guest going on a buggy ride, 1908

Helen and Kathleen Blaine and another friend enjoy tea at Woodlawn in Gilford

If you have a few minutes to spare, try searching the term “women” in the Our Stories database. You will see all manner of inspirational women active in politics, taking prominent roles in the community as businesswomen, tradeswomen, and professionals, and supporting their families as mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters. Best of all you will see generations of women championing each other, and rightfully so: women in Innisfil have a rich history of which they can be proud!