Ishbel Marjorbanks Gordon – Lady Aberdeen

On May 19, 1893, the National Council of Women was more formally established and Lady Ishbel, Countess of Aberdeen was elected as its first
President. She was 29 at the time and her husband had just been appointed Canada’s Governor General. The creation of the National Council of Women’s raison d’etre was to make the work done by community-minded women more efficient, and improve their already established power.

In 1894 Lady Aberdeen gave a paper on the “Cooperation of Working Women for Protective Purposes.” Lady Aberdeen had concluded her communication by asking her audience to consider whether “When we are trying to get bargains, to rush after cheapness, we are not getting them at the price of our sisters’ lives.”

In 1898 Lady Aberdeen listed the achievements of Council between 1894-1989. Perhaps the most important achievement, was the establishment of the Victorian Order of Nurses which was sparked by the Vancouver Local Council in 1896. The resolution establishing the Order was passed at the 1897 National Council of Women meeting in Halifax. The growth of the Order within two years was phenomenal.

Lady Aberdeen was well aware of her social standing, and never hesitated to use her social position to advance views she considered right. Her abiding life long passion was for the right of women to be able to contribute fully to the lives of their communities.

In 1898 Lady Aberdeen left Canada with her husband, whose term as Governor General had concluded. She retained a link with the National Council of Women throughout the rest of her long life. Lady Aberdeen died on April 18, 1939. Her impact upon the Council of Women movement helped shape Canadian History.