The Empire’s Dutiful Daughters

Debunking its reputation for snobbishness the IODE, behind its tireless waving of the Union Jack, raises cash for needy causes and crusades for democracy — so successfully that the Reds consider the Daughters their No. 2 enemy in Canada

McKENZIE PORTER August 15 1952

The Empire’s Dutiful Daughters

Debunking its reputation for snobbishness the IODE, behind its tireless waving of the Union Jack, raises cash for needy causes and crusades for democracy — so successfully that the Reds consider the Daughters their No. 2 enemy in Canada

McKENZIE PORTER August 15 1952

The Empire’s Dutiful Daughters

Debunking its reputation for snobbishness the IODE, behind its tireless waving of the Union Jack, raises cash for needy causes and crusades for democracy — so successfully that the Reds consider the Daughters their No. 2 enemy in Canada


ONE DAY last year the Labor Progressive Party, Moscow’s fifth column in Canada, drew up a list of its enemies in order of importance. At the top, of course, was the RCMP. But foe number two, incredibly enough, was a women’s organization known as the IODE.

Husbands who find supper uncooked because their wives are at IODE meetings wTyly interpret the initials as “I Often Don’t Eat.” Children who have spied through sitting-room keyholes to see their mothers engaging in solemn IODE rites derisively translate the initials as “Idiotic Order of Donkey Engines.” Critics of the IODE, exasperated by its ubiquity, say the initials mean "In and Out of Every Damned Enterprise.” IODE members who fag themselves out wearily define the initials as “I Ought to Do Everything.”

But. as most Canadians are aware, the letters cover the grandiloquent title — Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire.

The IODE is in alliance with the Victoria League in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There are IODE chapters, answerable to Canadian headquarters, in Bermuda, the Bahamas and that most celebrated of imperial outposts, Poona, India. The IODE is in alliance with the Daughters of the British Empire in the United States. It is, therefore, a potent unit iñ a vast alliance of women over much of the world who are dedicated to the promise that the sun shall never set on the Union Jack.

Even so, at first glance, it seems ridiculous that thirty-two thousand Canadian business girls, young mothers, bustling matrons, stylish dowagers

and spry old women, whose defense of British traditions has earned them the reputation of “Blimps in Petticoats,’’ and wrho appear at teas, rummage sales, bazaars, sewing l>ees and charity concerts, should be rated by the Communists as second only to the Mounties among their adversaries.

Many radicals far to the right of Communist persuasion have ridiculed the Daughters’ unqualified faith in the motto, One Flag, One Throne, One Empire; their reverent chanting of prayers heavily larded with monarchial eulogy; their profusion of Union Jacks carried at a slow march on ceremonial occasions by white-gowned standard bearers; and their soft dirge-like rendering of Land of Hope and Glory at most of their big meetings.

Wherever they went in Canada last year the

Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh encountered the steadfast loyalty of the Daughters. At Halifax IODE standard bearers stood for two hours in driving rain awaiting the royal visitors. Among them was Mrs. F. A. Lane, a local newspaperwoman, broadcaster, and Nova Scotia president of the IODE. She wore a hat shaped like a saucer and this was steadily filled by the weeping skies. When she was presented to the Queen Mrs. Lane curtsied and lowered her head. A Niagara of water poured down over her face. Neither sovereign nor subject batted an eyelid.

At Newfoundland on that blustery day as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh departed by tender for the Empress of Scotland an IODE standard bearer, rigidly at attention, was slowly wrapped up in her Union Jack as the wind wound

it round and round her body. Elizabeth was confronted by what looked like a red, white and blue cocoon. One of the Duke’s aides sprang to the rescue and, by running in circles round the Daughter with the edge of the flag in his hands, he finally exposed her to the Queen’s gaze. The Daughter curtsied gravely.

Yet it is not so much for their royalist fervor nor for the gravity of their ceremony that the IODE evokes hostility in many non-Communist camps. It is rather for their habit of springing with the fury of Kilkenny cats into the middle of hot constitutional issues and sending the fur flying from many sensitive backs.

With flashing eyes and scolding tongues the

IODE tore into the recent decision to appoint a


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governor-general on the grounds that this hinted at “an insidious and determined plan towards the gradual emergence of a republican state.” The IODE vociferously attacked the decision to discard the Privy Council in London as the final court of Canadian appeal: cried “No!” to the creation of Royal Canadian Corps of Infantry in place of the old regimental order of battle: denounced the Defense Department for discouraging Rule Britannia as the RCN song: howled down the proposal to erase “Royal Mail” from postal trucks, and threw up their hands in horror-at the dropping of the word “Dominion” from Canadian statutes.

Mrs. B. B. Osier, the fashionable wife of a Toronto lawyer and boss of the IODE’s anti-Communism campaign, sustained the order's fame for strong punching by writing in a recent issue of Echoes, its quarterly magazine:

Every one of the reasons the Prime Minister has given us for abolishing the term Dominion is fatuously irrelevant and an affront to the intelligence of the public.

Six months ago a northern Ontario 1 chapter rubbed vinegar into many raw wounds by demanding a period of two years’ militaryconscription.

In 1950, looking down their noses at shows of Canadian ignorance on how to drink the royal toast, the IODE circulated an outline of correct procedure and got, in some quarters, satirical press.

Many Daughters are married to politicians and thus are open to suspicion of backstairs finagling. It is no secret that it was the IODE which cajoled the Ontario Government into restoring the emblem of the crown on automobile number plates.

One of the biggest political gaffs ever made by the IODE was in 1948 when they fought to prevent Dr. Hewlett Johnson, the "Red” Dean of Canterbury, from getting permission to address so-called peace meetings in this country. For this failure to remember the principles of free speech the Daughters were described by the Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student paper, as “roughly equivalent to the USA’s Daughters of the American Revolution” and equally intolerant.

To the Daughters this was a sabre cut. Somewhat humbled by the memory, they admit today they were then sadly at fault.

But Lord Alexander, the former governor-general, told the IODE at their fiftieth anniversary meeting in Montreal two years ago that their impact on Canadian life had been stupendous. Most people who judge the Daughters for their works as well as for their sometimes inflammatory words can find ample reason to agree.

Last year the thirty-two thousand Daughters, unaided by any outsider, raised just under one million dollars, or about thirty dollars a head, and spent nearly every penny hitting Communism in its breeding grounds of want, ignorance, and prejudice.

The money came from making jam, knitting sweaters, embroidering tablecloths, collecting junk, sponsoring stage shows, running raffles, fashioning jewelry. rearing indoor plants and a gamut of other household handicrafts.

It was spent on bursaries at English universities for the sons and daughters of veterans: English lessons for foreign immigrants: cigarettes for Commonwealth troops in Korea and Europe; patriotic literature for distribution in

schools; and a thousand individual acts of benevolence, like caring for a stranded Dutch family, sending a North American Indian to an institute for the deaf, providing an exhibition for a promising artist and rushing a Christmas hamper to a home impoverished by sickness.

Among scores of well-known Canadians who have profited by postgraduate scholarships paid for out of the IODE First and Second War Memorial Funds are Matthew Halton, the writer and CBC commentator: John Pickersgill, secretary to the federal cabinet: Carlyle Smith Beals, the Dominion Astronomer; and Allie Vibert Douglas. Dean of Women at Queen's University, Kingston.

In World War One the IODE produced and spent five million dollars and in World War Two six million dollars on comforts for the services and on machine guns, tanks, aircraft, hospitals and ambulances for the Commonwealth nations.

One widespread fallacy about the IODE is that its ranks are limited to women of English, Irish, Scots and Welsh descent. Canadiennes belong to chapters throughout Quebec; one chapter in Sherbrooke is entirely French-speaking and one, in Quebec City, is entirely Jewish On the prairies there are five Ukrainian chapters and one Icelandic chapter In British ! Columbia one chapter boasts an East | Indian member, another a Syrian. An Ontario executive member is Mrs. O. I

M. Martin, whose husband Brigadier Martin, a Toronto magistrate, is a fullblooded North American Indian.

Although many of those who don't know much about it have a vague idea that the IODE’s members all belong to the Anglican Church, its national president, Mrs. John H. Chipman, and many other officers are United Church members, and other creeds represented in the order include Roman Catholic. Greek Orthodox and Ukrainian Autocephalic.

The rules of membership say: “An\ woman or girl who is a British subject shall be eligible.” Since all Canadian citizens are British subjects no one is barred, except immigrants from outside the Commonwealth who have failed, after the statutory five years’ residence, to take out naturalization papers. Even these may become honorary members if they “are interested in the promotion of the objects of the order.”

One probable cause of the IODE’s undeserved reputation for snobbishness is that it believes deeply in the principle of birds of a feather flocking together. Every chapter is composed of friends who may be utterly different in outlook from the chapter up the street. Recruits may be introduced to a chapter by a member. Before she is accepted the recruit must attend at least three meetings. She is told: “This is not so much to see whether we like you but whether you like us.” After

the trial period the chapter votes on whether she is suitable. If unsuitable, yet still keen to become a Daughter, she must get an introduction to another chapter, or get at least nine friends and found a chapter of her own.

There is no such thing as a transfer from one chapter to another. If a woman removes elsewhere she must resign from her chapter. Introduction cards, however, are sent to the IODE in her new district and she is called upon by a Daughter who invites her to face another trial period in one of the chapters where it is thought she will fit in.

Scores of chapters are formed by working girls. One Toronto chapter owes its origin to a group of chambermaids in the Royal York Hotel.

Roughly a thousand primary chapters of the IODE, from Victoria to St. John’s, are named after places, people, battles and ships, stippling the pattern of British imperial history. Ottawa has its Arnhem chapter, Vancouver its Unknown Warrior, Calgary its Colonel Macleod, Regina its Bvng of Vimy, Winnipeg its Pilot Officer Selby Roger Henderson (after a local hero), Toronto its Lady Tweedsmuir, Quebec City its General Turner, VC, Fredericton its Sir Leonard Tilley and Halifax its HMS Temeraire.

Chapters have an average membership of around thirty and pay annual dues of about three dollars per head, which pays clerical salaries and administrative costs. The IODE has never asked for donations from the public.

Ruth Edwards, of York Chapter, Toronto, is a typical IODE ranker. She is a smart, witty, vivacious woman in her middle thirties. Her husband, Jack Edwards, is a salesman of paper products. They have one daughter, aged five, live in a pleasant six-room house and drive a 1951 Chrysler car for both business and pleasure. They attend a United Church. Ruth has belonged to the IODE for five years.

Among her fellow members are Vera Yuill, its regent, or chief, wife of •* Bell Telephone Company executive; Evie Rogers, wife of the Star Weekly editor; Jean Peacock, an unmarried business girl; Helen Grand, wife of a member of the Grand and Toy stationery firm, and Jeanie Hersenhoren, whose Jewish husband is a well-known Canadian musician.

Most of Ruth’s colleagues are within a few years of her own age and live in the Lawrence Park district of Toronto. Ruth has seen a lot of IODE women, both in and out of her own chapter. She defines them thus: “They are

very loyal, very sharp, very active, very jolly and very well corseted, and they wouldn't be found dead downtown without a hat and gloves.”

Ruth uses the word Empire in preference to Commonwealth when speaking of the family of the British nations, and believes that Canada should maintain strong ties with the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth countries and colonies. She doesn’t talk a great deal about the Empire in company but is proud to belong to it and believes it is a great power for good in world affairs. She subscribes wholeheartedly to the primary IODE object: “To stimulate and give expression to the sentiments of patriotism which bind women and children of the Empire around the throne.

Ruth’s husband is often out of town on business and she usually has to pay a baby sitter in order to attend York Chapter meetings, which are held twice a month in each of the members’ homes in turn.

There are two types of meeting — work and business. Work meetings are periods of concentrated industry in which each Daughter carries on with

handicrafts she pursues at home or helps with co-operative efforts. Ruth makes needle cases out of leather, dolls from wool and wire, woolly mitts and babies’ bonnets. At work meetings last year she and another Daughter took charge of a combined operation which produced one hundred and twenty fancy aprons. These later sold for one hundred and sixty dollars.

Some of the other Daughters melt down ordinary candles, dye the wax, then fashion thick ornamental candles for Christmas decorations. Others make Christmas wreaths and novel-

ties. A third group makes telephonebook covers out of colored felt, dolls’ cribs out of old Pablum boxes, patchwork quilts from odds and ends, and embroidered guest towels. One York Daughter reared a number of exotic indoor plants. All of them contributed big trays of home cooking. At a bazaar, one afternoon early this year, the twenty-four girls sold their twelve months’ combined output of goods for more than a thousand dollars.

Another way Ruth helped to raise funds was by selling tickets for a professional dramatic show at Leaside

High School. The actors, who included Jeanie Hersenhoren, got half the profits and York Chapter the other half.

Recently one of the girls in York Chapter loaned her home for a commercial demonstration of plastic kitchen ware. Ruth, like all the other members, took along to this demonstration several non - IODE friends. Sixty-five women attended and bought two hundred and sixty dollars’ worth of kitchenware. York Chapter picked up fifty dollars in commissions.

Ruth Edwards’ basement is always stacked with rummage she collects for

the bi-annual sales. Occasionally she finds a hat or a pair of shoes she likes. So. instead of sending it to the sales, she pay's the IODE a quarter, or a dollar, or whatever she thinks it’s worth, and keeps it.

When meetings are held at her house Ruth sometimes has to borrow a couple of extra chairs from neighbors. She prepares coffee and sandwiches.

The business meetings always begin with traditional IODE ceremonies. The York standard bearer, Muriel Griffin, a single girl who works in a Toronto office, carries the Union Jack into the living room while Ruth watches anxiously to see that its point doesn’t get poked through her ceiling. All standing, the Daughters then chant the IODE prayer which begins:

Almighty God our Heavenly Father, we praise Thee for the blessings of our homes: for the fullness of life and opportunity in this Dominion: and for the ties which bind us together in our Empire . . .

Once, during a York Chapter prayer at another house. Ruth and several other Daughters had difficulty in keeping faces straight because the hostess' dog stood in the middle of the floor grinning and wagging his tail at this strange intonation.

The standard bearer places the flag a little behind and a little to the right . of the regent’s chair. Regent Vera Yuill strikes the table twice with her gavel and declares the meeting open. Nobody may smoke until the meeting closes. Many chapters close business meetings with God Save the Queen, but York doesn't bother about that.

Ruth Edwards’ chapter, like all the others, spends some of its funds itself and some through the municipal, provincial or national executives. At the moment York is paying directly for a young student to take her final year in physiotherapy at the University of Toronto. Every month it sends two food parcels, each worth five dollars, to elderly' people in England. Not long ago it heard that a girl who had won a scholarship to the University of To1 ronto was so poor that she couldn’t afford suitable clothes. So York voted her one hundred dollars for skirts, sweaters, shoes and other sensible rigouts. Last yrear York sent two hundred and fifty dollars' worth of new and slightly' used clothing to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, in London. England, and two hundred dollars to the IODE Preventorium for tubercular children on Sheldrake Boulevard, Toronto.

York sometimes has to refuse a request, but occasionally it will share a financial burden with another chapter. Every' year it sends two hundred and twenty-five dollars to the national headquarters for welfare work on a coast-to-coast scale.

Each of the York Daughters has specific duties laid down by the national executive and makes reports from time to time at business meetings. The convener for education, for example, is responsible for keeping a sharp eye on local schools and reporting any phase in the curriculum which appears to be un-Canadian or anti-Empire. It is she who becomes familiar in schools by leading a band of Daughters into classrooms with Union Jacks flying to give children a pep talk about the Empire. She distributes the prizes of patriotic books given by the IODE for essays on Empire subjects and looks out for the children of ex-service personnel, who may one day qualify for a two-thousand-dollar IODE bursary at an English university. One of these is given to every' province each year. She also persuades principals to produce on Empire Day patriotic plays, written specially for the IODE.

The films convener arranges shows of British, Canadian and other Commonwealth movies for both child and adult audiences. The IODE is still showing The Royal Tour of South Africa and patriotic wartime productions like This Happy Breed and In Which We

The convener for immigration and Canadianization organizes English lessons for new Canadians, distributes books on Canadian and English history, explains to them the significance of the crown and helps them over earlydifficulties in Canada. She also makes sure that every new Canadian on becoming naturalized receives the IODE welcome card, an elaborate piece of pasteboard bordered in crimson and gold and inscribed with a definition of the immigrant's new responsibilities, not only as a Canadian citizen but as a British subject.

She distributes a chatty booklet, The House Next Door. Its purpose is to tell children a little about Communism. The story concerns two English-Canadian children, -Jerry and Judy, and their friendship for Jarmil and Janis, children of recent foreign immigrants who are their neighbors. The theme is underscored with the advantages of life in a democratic country-.

The Canadianization and immigration branch of the IODE backs a news organization, Canadian Scene, which supplies copy in thirteen languages to fifty-two foreign-language newspapers in Canada under the direction of J. B. McGeachv. of Toronto’s Globe and Mail.

The newest committee is one directly concerned with anti-Communism. Under the national leadership of Toronto's Mrs. B. B. Osier, the York chapter convener is distributing documents and photographs of Communist tyranny in Eastern Europe. She works with colleagues serving other committees and takes whatever steps seem most expedient to offset Communist tendencies in her area. These might range from a heart-to-heart talk with the wife of a known Communist to the showing of educational movies in a notoriously Communist district.

The postwar service convener sends food and clothing to Europe. Seventyrfive percent of the aid is now going to Greece, Western Germany, Italy and France as part of the anti-Communist campaign. But last year IODE food parcels to Britain alone were worth fifty-three thousand dollars.

The national president. Mrs. Chipman. sums up these activities in the phrase: “We are just a bunch of house-

wives who’ve suddenly found ourselves in big business.”

Mrs. Chipman’s husband is president of a substantial printing company and a former CO of the 48th Highlanders. One of her sons is an officer in the Canadian Army in Germany. She has a handsome face, an ample figure, wellgroomed white hair, impeccable clothes, a forceful personality, a sense of humor and a love of thrift. Every day she brings her lunch to the office at headquarters in T wax-paper parcel. She raises the Union Jack each morning in the garden of her home on affluent Glenayr Road, Toronto, and lowers it each night.

With Mrs. W. R. (Dorothy) Walton, Mrs. Chipman conceived the idea of the IODE’s most widely publicized act in recent years—the purchase of Queen Mary’s carpet.

In 1941, at the height of the bombing, Queen Mary reluctantly left London for the west of England and decided to pass the time with needlew’ork. She began a carpet, or tapestry, of twelve panels, each with a colorful background of flowers or birds. In eight years she made more than a million stitches. The finishing of the carpet coincided with the development of Britain’s dollar shortage.

Queen Mary wrote _

to Prime Minister Clement Attlee offering to sell the carpet for dollars and give the proceeds to the treasury. The carpet was sent on a North American tour, which included the 1951 Canadian National Exhibition.

The IODE offered to sponsor a fund for its purchase, with a minimum objective of one hundred thousand dollars. This was acceptable to Queen Alary.

The IODE displayed the carpet all over Canada, asking an entrance fee in each town. With it traveled Airs. L. B.

Smart, of the naj tional executive. In ' many places, for safety, the carpet was locked overnight in the local jail. The tour made one hundred and twenty thousand dollars which were handed over to the British Treasury. The carpet itself was given to the National Gallery in Ottawa.

Shrewdly enough the IODÉ retained copyright of the carpet’s design. When a New York company which publishes embroidery patterns : tried to put a pattern of the carpet on the market the IODE prevented it from doing so. The IODE plans to charge a fee for reproduction of the patterns on such things as jigj I saw puzzles and embroidery work and j go on giving the in■ come from this to the British Treasury un' i til its dollar problem I is resolved.

Probably the most famous woman in the IODE is eighty-five-year-old Mrs. George (Martha) Black, of the Yukon. She emigrated from the United States during the gold rush of ’98, later saw her American-born husband elected to the Canadian federal parliament and, for a while, when he was ill in the Thirties, occupied his seat herself at Ottawa. The appeal of the IODE is manifest in the fact that Airs. Black began her adult life as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization which is based on an altogether hugely different conception of history.

The founder of the IODE was Alargaret Poison, who was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, Scotland, in 1844. She married Professor J. Clark Murray, of McGill University, Montreal. Through residence in Canada and contact with scholars from other Dominions she was struck by the lack of knowledge prevailing in each country of the scattered Empire about its sisters.

During the South African War she was touched by the thought of the untended Canadian graves and rallied a number of women to solicit funds for headstones. In 1900 she sent a telegram to mayors of Canadian provincial cap-

itals, asking them to persuade prominent women in their cities to organize as Daughters of the Empire and collect comforts for the troops. Soon afterward she sent out word canceling the idea because no one seemed interested. At once she received a frantic telegram from Fredericton saying she couldn’t give up now since a branch had already been formed. The IODE was nationwide within twelve months. A few years later the national headquarters was moved to Toronto.

During the intervening years the IODE has retained a steady faith in its goals and an equally steady refusal to live up to the caricatures of which it and its members are a classic target. This year, when the Toronto New Play Society staged its annual revue, Spring Thaw, the Daughters found the program contained a biting satire on their own appearance and functions. The IODE of fable would have surrounded the theatre with a cordon of bosomy pickets bearing Union Jacks and angry placards in defense of home, motherhood and Empire. The IODE in fact hung big showcards advertising the revue in its national headquarters and its members flocked to every performance to applaud and chuckle joyously, ic