Covid-19 is not the first pandemic that the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg has had to face in its 126-year history. The influenza pandemic of 1918 brought challenges for the WMC as it continued its efforts to bring music to a city that had already endured four years of war. Influenza cases reached a peak in Winnipeg in the early weeks of October 1918, with thousands falling ill in Manitoba, including hundreds in Winnipeg. Quarantines were imposed to try to bring an end to the epidemic and unlike our current situation, health authorities were “exceedingly surprised” at the rapid decline in cases.
The WMC’s fall season of 1918 had to undergo many changes, necessitated by the long weeks of quarantine, but by December 16 the WMC was able to sponsor a “Victory” concert at St. Stephen’s church to celebrate the end of World War I. Such a grand occasion was held “under the distinguished patronage of his Honour Lieut.-Governor and Lady Atkins, Brig-General and Mrs. H.B. Ketchen, and Mayor Elect and Mrs. Charles Gray.” The review in the Winnipeg Free Press the following day called the concert “smart and interesting and reflected great credit on the Women’s Musical Club under whose auspices it was prepared.” The postponed 1918/19 recital season was finally “very auspiciously” opened on January 6, 1919, filling the Fort Garry Hotel concert room with an “intelligent and sympathetic audience” to greet Richard Czerwonky, violinist. At the 20th Annual General Meeting of the WMC, held on April 7, 1919, President Mrs. Robert Fletcher, said in her address to members: “The success of the Women’s Musical Club is based on three things. The standard of programmes, the quality of the work of the active members, and the attitude of the listeners or associate members”. We can certainly say that these three things still hold true today. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the WMC has once again been seriously challenged to keep the music playing, but being now a 21st Century Club, we have found 21st Century ways of making it happen.
Mary Lynn Duckworth, WMC Chair of Archives April 2021