Culture and Recreation

In this section, we examine recreation and culture in central Alberta in terms of women's lives. In the early pioneer days the region was almost characterized by its lack of recreation or leisure activities, since developing a farm meant long hours and little money. One of the greatest challenges of prairie life, especially for women, was loneliness. Unlike the men who worked more outside and had more opportunity to travel into town and to neighbors' places, women were often stuck at home and during the long Albertan winters the home could become a virtual prison. As communities grew, however, many attempts were made to alleviate this situation and often it was women who made these attempts.

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We also examine how leisure activities became more gender specific. In many instances, activities became male dominated. Hunting, pool playing and drinking in saloons were all viewed as inappropriate activities for the "proper" woman. Also, women's participation in sports was often frowned upon as many were seen to be dangerous to femininity and reproductive health. Some sports, like softball, curling and tennis, were exceptions to this rule and many women became involved in these. Also, the rules of impropriety did not stop some women from becoming involved in sports traditionally reserved for men.

Finally, in this section, we will explore women's involvement in writing, arts and crafts. Many women in Central Alberta were active writers. They wrote in variety of styles and forms, but all seemed to express a common interest in writing about their local communities. Especially prior to the 1930s, it was difficult for anyone, let alone women, to become a professional artist in Alberta. Art schools and an artistic community simply did not exist for many years and those who wanted to pursue an artistic career had to travel outside the province and often even outside Canada to receive training. However, schools did emerge and some women began to attend these and develop careers as artists. A more common way in which women expressed their creativity was through crafts. Because crafts usually served a utilitarian function - meant to either be used in the home or sold for money - women felt more comfortable taking time out of their days to create crafts. Crafts also were often created communally with other women, serving as yet another example of how women found ways to incorporate leisure into their busy lives.