University women’s club on display

A column by Sheila Nickols, the past president of the Maple Ridge Historical Society

Louise Poole at a puppet workshop hosted by the Maple Ridge University Women’s Club in the 1970s.

Louise Poole at a puppet workshop hosted by the Maple Ridge University Women’s Club in the 1970s.

Thanks to some generous donations, the Maple Ridge Museum was able to purchase some professional display cases last summer.  All of the displays in the museum were changed, with the small front room devoted to one topic, the University Women’s Club of Maple Ridge.

When the group formed in 1964 as a branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the members decided to concentrate on two things – self-improvement and community education.  Fund raising was not even mentioned.  At each meeting, people took turns researching and presenting a topic of interest.

With the Century 74 celebrations for Maple Ridge’s 100th anniversary in mind, the 1970 theme was local history. So much fascinating detail emerged that the group decided to publish the first local history book.  After much more work, Maple Ridge: A History of Settlement came out in 1972. The group could afford to print only 500 copies, which quickly sold out.  The book is still available in its 5th printing at local bookstores and the Maple Ridge Museum.

Retired high school teacher Louise Poole was the instigator of the puppet group, another major project of the UWC. She wrote the first play it presented, National Crisis, in 1975.  It was a light-hearted political satire, with the premise that the beaver wanted to quit as Canada’s national symbol.  Group members made the puppets, rehearsed the parts, and took a series of plays to local schools.

Some of the plays were adaptations of Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Three Little Pigs, and others were original works.

Some of the most popular puppet plays presented at the Maple Ridge library and various schools were three episodes from Winnie the Pooh. The puppet group also offered workshops to school groups, where the children tried their hand at creating a scene and manipulating the puppets.

The Maple Ridge University Women’s Club began to decline in numbers in the 1990s, partly because most young women university graduates were working, not looking for volunteer activities.  In 2000, the local UWC disbanded, leaving behind a legacy for the Maple Ridge Museum. The archives of the group, the colourful puppet characters and scripts were not the only gifts.

The museum now has the remaining copies of Maple Ridge: A History of Settlement, which are still selling after 40 years. Much more information and many more historic photographs are now also available at the museum, but it is still a basic source of information about the district. The copyright for the history book is also the property of the museum, along with enough cash from previous sales to fund another printing when it is needed.

If you wish to see the University Women’s Club museum display, it will be open for viewing until the beginning of February. That is when the recycling society will be creating a display in the front room of the museum about its long history in Maple Ridge. Their display will be available until May 1, when we celebrate Earth Day.


Sheila Nickols is past president of the Maple Ridge Historical Society.