Ladies Don’t Run
May 31, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

How could you not fall in love with Aileen Meagher?

Back in the day when ‘a lady did not run’, she cut off her brother’s trousers, fashioned a pair of running shorts and tried out for the Dalhousie track team in 1928. The track coach mentioned the Olympics. Aileen had never heard of the Olympics. Soon, all that would change.

She quickly beame Canada’s record holder for the 100- and 220-yard events and, by 1932, was part of our nation’s Olympic contingent. (A charley horse kept  her out of competition.) By 1935 she was named both Most Outstanding Canadian Athlete and Most Outstanding Female Athlete.

She took home gold and silver medals at the 1934 and 1938 Empire Games and – the year Hitler hosted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin– Aileen arrived at the Halifaxairport with an Olympic Bronze Medal for the 400 relay.  

Meagher at 1936 Olympics, Photo Credit: NS Archives and Record Management

That’s her, at the front of the group, with her Canadian team, the, and British team prior to presentation with medals in Berlin.

She went on to become a talented artist who traveled the world – filling notebooks with watercolor sketches and captivating snippets.

Hugh Townsend interviewed Aileen for The Chronicle-Herald back in June 1976. In the interview, she recalled how she became a world-class athlete:

 “. . . I didn’t have a diet, no special conditioning, I didn’t know much about training. I just prepared myself to run as fast as I could.”

Later, as a teacher, she used her running medals as a paperweights on her school desk. When her Olympic medal went missing, she was unperturbed. “I know I did it – so, why worry?


The Power of Edith Jessie Archibald
May 24, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

So now I am back in the studio, “working away” on the soft, gentle face of Edith Jessie Archibald. Take a peek:…

I am using old hotel-room cards to carve away at the surface of Edith Jessie Archibald’s portrait, focusing today on the background surface – trying to create a sense of “sea”… her dress is so staid and proper, starched collar and puffed sleeves, I think the contrast will create some tension and a sense of the energy of a port city alive with rough-hewn possibilities…We’ll see what happens.

When I started researching the women who were ‘key’ to securing the vote for N.S. women, EJA always popped to the surface. She was in good company… Dr. Eliza Ritchie, Edith Murray. Agnes Dennis to name three…

But I chose Edith because she spoke to me, as all “”The Nova Scotia Nine”” did and do: Like Rita Joe, and Viola Desmond, Edith Jessie stood out in character and countenance, in action and impact. In Edith’s case, she wrote powerful essays. Made powerful speeches. And ultimately, she moved people to action, giving downtrodden female citizens a sense of self-worth – a feeling that something greater, for them, was possible.

Okay, back to the studio.

A Granny Like No Other
May 9, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.


Working away on a portrait of Marie-Henriette LeJeune-Ross – aka “Granny Ross” (1762-1860). I don’t have a reliable image I can work from, so I’m creating my own image based on research about this woman that became known – and revered – as “Granny Ross”.

 Here’s her story:  basically, she was a trail-blazer in the world of women’s science in Canada. Born to Acadian parents who were deported to France fter the 1748 fall of Louisburg, she established her reputation as a nurse and midwife in the Little Bras d’Or area of Cape Breton during a community smallpox outbreak. She had a cabin built in the nearby woods and used it as an infirmary, where she cared for and saved the lives of many settlers during the epidemic.

It seems she was a small woman, with blue eyes and a dark complexion. Without a doubt, she used her knowledge of plant medicine to help others– right up until her end.(Since the opening of my show, relatives of Granny Ross have gotten in touch: it seems her grandmothers were French and Mi’kmaq, and she learned her healing skills from her Native grandmother.

 “Traveling on foot, by horseback, or on snow-shoes, with a pine torch to light the way at night, (LeJeune-Ross) worked unendingly in a locality where professional medical aid was non-existent. She was revered in the community,” notes Lois Kathleen Kernaghan, in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Back around 1802, she and her family moved from Sydney, to the Northeast Margaree River valley, becoming the first settlers there….and when she moved, her medical skills and reputation traveled with her: As settlement in that area increased, so did the demand for her services.

She eventually went blind, but disability didn’t stop her: In summer, her family, apparently transported Granny Ross to her patients’ bedside in a type of wheelbarrow. And, in winter, she was taken on a sled.

Nova Scotia soil gave birth to this uniquely first Canadian woman of science. She’s gone, but her homestead in Cape Breton remains….