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Sunday, August 7, 2022
Raising their voices for women past and future

Museum tea party celebrates stories of NOTL's legendary ladies


Tea, biscuits and the tales of inspiring women abounded during Friday’s sold-out tea party at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.

The tea party was held in celebration of the museum’s newest book, “Making Her Mark: The Women of Niagara-on-the-Lake.”

The book is a celebration of the many woman hailing from NOTL who have left great legacies. And on Friday afternoon, an all-female crowd gathered to celebrate their stories.

There were two sittings for the tea party,  at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Both were sold out and both had Barbara Worthy, visitor and members services assistant at the museum, lead the discussion about some of the women featured in the book. 

“She cursed like a trooper and that was because she wanted to make a point,” Worthy said of NOTLer Margherita Howe, who died in 2006.

Howe was one of several NOTL women honoured during the tea party.

An environmental activist and active community member in NOTL, she became a member of the Order of Canada in 1983 for her work organizing a community initiative to clean up the Great Lakes and Niagara River.

She was also deeply involved in municipal affairs with some of her peers like Judy McLaughlin, who still resides in NOTL.

“Everyone remembers seeing them in the chamber, in the council sitting in the front row — pre-Betty,” Worthy said to laughs as Lord Mayor Betty Disero looked on.

“They were watchdogs. They were listening, they were note-taking and they were dedicated to ensuring that what was right was more important than ego.”

She said Howe fought against development in NOTL and was always advocating for environmental causes.

Worthy also told the story of Molly Brant, an influential Mohawk leader from the 1700s.

“If there’s anyone I’d like to have tea with, it’s Molly Brant. She was an influencer, you might even call her a disruptor,” Worthy said.

She emphasized Brant's ability to act as an intermediary with the British, Mohawk/Haudenosaunee cultures and the Americans during the Revolutionary War, noting that Brant was able to make herself respected and influential among all sides.

The event saw some 20 people gathered in the museum’s outdoor community space. Tea and biscuits were served on fine china. And this was the good china, Chrystal Haverstock said.

Haverstock owns a vintage fashion store, Weirdorama, and knows a good deal about the history of fine china. As a colony of England, Canada usually got the blemished goods, she said.

“This is the perfect stuff. The colonies, like Canada, always got the rejects where the pattern would not be correct or the colours would be bleeding,” she said.

Some of the china on hand was “worth big bucks.”

Haverstock just moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake and saw the tea party as a way to steep herself in the rich history of the town.

Worthy wanted the example of women like Howe and McLaughlin to guide the people in attendance.

“I remember seeing Judy and Margherita sitting there and thinking, ‘These women are our moral compass. Who is coming up behind them?’ ” Worthy told the crowd.

“There are people here right now that are coming up behind them. There are people here who have the same need to raise their voice and to carry on their legacy.”

“Even when Margherita was cussing and cussing out councillors, we loved her because she raised her voice. We must continue to raise our voices and we must continue to make our mark.”