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Honouring the women of the Alaska Highway

Fort Nelson resident decided to celebrate the highway anniversary by featuring the women of the area
Kay Dolan of Fort Nelson is one of the many women featured in The Wonderful Women of the Alaska Highway calendar. Supplied Photo

The women who made their mark on the Alaska Highway are getting their due.

Todd Penney, owner of Dalex Auto Service in Fort Nelson, wanted to do something special to mark the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, and found there was nothing out there about it.

“You never see anything about the women on the Alaska Highway at all,” he said. “It’s all about the guys that built it or the guys that ran lodges and things, but you never hear anything about the women that ran or owned lodges, or worked and lived their lives along there.”

And so, The Wonderful Women of the Alaska Highway calendar was created.

The calendar is 25 months of photos and facts about women from Dawson Creek all the way up to Delta Junction in Alaska. Penney said he wanted to feature women from all along the highway, not just the Northeast B.C. region.

“I travelled right from Dawson Creek all the way to Fairbanks to promote this and try to get women to either be nominated or nominate themselves,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we got women from one end of the highway to the other.”

Women past and present are featured in the calendar, and Penney said he could have added even more but finally had to put a cap on it.

Two Fort St. John women are in it, including Loryne Andrews who in the 70s ran Tetsa River Services on Mile 375, where her kitchen was known as “the cinnamon bun center of the galactic cluster,” and Zylpha Alexander, who grew up in Montney during the construction of the highway and volunteers at the Fort St. John North Peace Museum.

Two Dawson Creek women are featured in the calendar, including Theresa Gladue for her advocacy for Aboriginal people in the community; and Millie Speer Bodnar who came up the highway with her father in 1942 and was the only child in the area for years.

Other women in the calendar include Marg Fulton, whose family owned the Toad River Lodge from 1969-79 and who spends her summers up there to this day while spending her winters in Fort St. John; Violet Matthews, who was born on the Alaska Highway in a camper on the back of her parents’ truck in Fort Nelson and now resides in Whitehorse; and Mary Rose McCulloch, who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1998 for her community involvement.

Penney said the calendars will be available in communities up and down the highway, with a full list of locations to come. 

For more information, visit Alaska Highway 75th Anniversary Calendar on Facebook.