A Friend in the Archive

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

By Courtney Maxwell-Alves, Archive and Library Assistant

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Without opening a single box, I knew I liked her: everything was meticulously labelled and organized. Considering most items arrive at the archive in a much different state, I was excited. I knew I had found a friend in Dorothy Wardle.

Courtney Maxwell-Alves, Archive and Library Assistant, processing photographs from the Dorothy Wardle fonds.

As the new Archive and Library Assistant at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, I have the privilege to delve in to our backlog and process diverse materials, making them available to our users. As I make my way through these materials, I will share the stories of the people I meet and the unique gems I find in the archive.

Dorothy Hope Wardle was born on May 23,1919 to James and Leette Wardle. Her father was a civil engineer for the Government of Canada whose work brought the family to Banff. Dorothy grew up in Banff, went to the Mountain School operated by Margaret Greenham, and participated in the official trail rides with the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies. Although the family had a home in Ottawa, Dorothy was fiercely protective of Banff. In 1975, she wrote a heated letter-to-the-editor of the Calgary Herald responding to an earlier editorial that applauded the renaming of Castle Mountain to Mount Eisenhower in 1946 under the Mackenzie King administration. In her diligent recordkeeping, Dorothy maintained a file labelled “The Castle Mountain Battle” and maintained meticulous records surrounding its renaming in 1946, as well as the fight to have the Castle name restored in 1975-76.

The Mountain School, Banff, Jan. 1932 [unprocessed, V75].

Dorothy Wardle’s records pertaining to the “Castle Mountain Battle.” [unprocessed, M521]

Dorothy was exceptional in many respects, including graduating from Queen’s University in 1942 and becoming the first female president elected for Queen’s Alma Mater Society in 1941. During her academic career, Dorothy was also a member of the Levana Intercollegiate Debative, University Centenary Committee, and Queen’s War Aid Commission. She was the first Secretary-in-Charge of Records of Carleton College (now Carleton University) from 1942-1944, a self-described “research type” as a secretary for the Glenbow Foundation in the mid-1950s, and from there worked as a freelance writer. As a young woman living and working in the middle of wartime Ottawa, Dorothy’s photographs and books from this period are littered with annotations of names of people she knew who went (and often died) overseas.

AMS election, Fall 1941 [unprocessed, V75]

Dorothy and her mother, Leette, in 1945 [unprocessed, V75]