A grassroots project to commemorate the centennial of the first women being elected to Edmonton City Council

On December 12, 1921, Edmontonians went to the polls and made history.

At the time, Edmonton was a tiny place on the map comprised of just 59,000 souls and still reeling from the devastating aftermath of a world war and global pandemic.

During that election, a woman the press described as a “housewife” received 3,341 votes and became our city’s very first female councillor.

Do you know her name?

Since then, progress has zigged and zagged. In the past 100 years, only 30 women have followed in Izena’s footsteps. And only one woman has ever reached the mayor’s chair. The one and only time there was ever gender parity at Edmonton City Hall was 32 years ago and today, only two of Edmonton’s 12 councillors are female. 

The Searching for Izena Project aims to commemorate and chronicle how these 31 female trailblazers helped shape and build Alberta’s capital city. Before now, many of these important stories have been lost to history or are wildly incomplete.

Over the past century, our female political leaders have overcome many obstacles and been called every name in the book from silly to unwomanly to beastly. But nevertheless, they persisted, and helped change Edmonton forever.

The Searching for Izena: ‘Unwomanly’ Stories of Female Leadership at Edmonton City Hall podcast is co-hosted by Stacey Brotzel and Kim-Ann Wilson. It’s an unflinching, honest and colourful account of the past century and the role women played at Edmonton City Hall and will include interviews and accounts from several of the 13 surviving women councillors and notable Edmontonians, including Olivia Butti and Senator Paula Simons – and will also feature people who have yet to reach city council — even in 2021 — including women of colour and Indigenous women.

Searching for Izena is being organized by YWCA Edmonton, Parity YEG and the City of Edmonton. This year-long campaign is being supported by dozens of volunteers from across the capital region and a generous grant from the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF).

Searching for Izena is a grassroots effort, spearheaded by YWCA Edmonton and Parity YEG. Powered by a dedicated group of Edmontonians, including several current and former Edmonton city councillors and City of Edmonton Archives, we are particularly grateful to our sponsors, volunteers and partners.

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