Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Our Community: Unsung artist to get her due at St. Ann's

An unsung artistic heroine from the 19th and 20th centuries has been adopted as an icon by inheritors of the traditions founded at St. Ann’s Academy. The Mount St. Mary Hospital Foundation and the Society of the Friends of St.
Mount St. Mary executive director Kathleen Burton and foundation volunteer Lynda Witham sip tea on the grounds. They are wearing silk dresses that were made in the 1840s.

An unsung artistic heroine from the 19th and 20th centuries has been adopted as an icon by inheritors of the traditions founded at St. Ann’s Academy.

The Mount St. Mary Hospital Foundation and the Society of the Friends of St. Ann’s Academy have decided to name their annual tea-party fundraiser after Victoria-born Sophie Pemberton (1869-1959).

So, the first Sophie Pemberton Tea, a Victorian-themed tea-party held in the orchard of Orchard of St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site, will be on Sunday, Aug. 10.

Barbara Newton, in charge of special projects at the Mount St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation, said her group wanted to host a Victorian-style tea party as a fundraising event. “Women just love to get dressed up in big hats and get together,” she said.

But Newton said her group also wanted to find a historic personality to highlight and personalize their event. It should be someone whose life and accomplishments can serve as an inspiration. A consultation with local historians revealed the name of Sophie Pemberton.

Newton said Sophie was the daughter of Joseph Despard Pemberton (1821-1916), the first Surveyor General of Vancouver Island, and a leading member of the Victoria community.

In the late 19th century, a time when respectable women were expected to pursue art as little more than a hobby, Pemberton set out for Paris to study at the Académie Julian.

There she burst more boundaries by stepping beyond the gentler hues of watercolours to paint in more vivid oils, normally considered the domain of male artists.

And Pemberton undertook portraits. Again she was breaking boundaries since landscapes were normally considered the proper domain of women artists.

In 1899, she became the first Canadian to be awarded the Prix Julian from the Académie Julian for her portrait work.

In 1905, Pemberton had returned to Victoria where she married Canon Arthur Beanlands. Later, after Beanlands’ death in 1917, she married again.

After marriage, her painting continued but at a much slower pace. But she continued in art, teaching painting to young Victoria women. And she met and became friendly with a then little-known artist from James Bay, Emily Carr.

Newton said Pemberton prevailed on a friend to intercede on Carr’s behalf. And that intercession brought Carr’s now-iconic B.C. landscapes to the attention of a member of the Group of Seven who lent support.

Carr’s images of B.C. have now long eclipsed the earlier work of Pemberton, who has largely been forgotten. But Newton said members of the art world believe her memory deserves better recognition.

“People now believe Sophie Pemberton was a significant talent and amassed a significant body of work,” said Newton.

And now, because Pemberton lived at the same time as the Sisters of St. Ann were sinking their roots into Victoria, she is a near perfect figurehead for the annual fundraiser for the foundations now supporting the Friends of St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site and Mount St. Mary Hospital, which began as part of St. Joseph’s Hospital started by the sisters.

Since her adoption by the tea fundraiser, Newton said she has been delighted with the response. She said tickets for the party have even been sold to six women from Nanaimo, all of them related to Sophie Pemberton.

And real estate company Pemberton Holmes, which also has a family connection to Sophie, has agreed to help out as a sponsor of the tea.

Now, if only Sophie Pemberton had been Catholic — “but that would have been too perfect,” said Newton.

The tea party, commences on Aug. 10 at 1 p.m. and ends at 4 p.m. in the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy National Historic Site, 835 Humboldt St. Tickets are $35 each and available online at

Besides tea and tea-party snacks on Victorian-era china, guests can take in a Victorian-era fashion show, a string concert by Raven Baroque, tours of the site and a discussion on Sophie Pemberton herself.

Walk for Peace raises $30,000 for hospice

This year’s Gordy Dodd Walk For Peace raised more than $30,000 for the Victoria Hospice.

The July 27 walk was given a huge boost with participation of the Telus Victoria Community Board and donations from Telus employees whose company matched their donations.

The money will help Victoria Hospice run Touchstones, a program to help young people deal with the loss of a loved one.

Terry Fox Run to stay in Central Saanich

After a short panic, the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope is now set to continue to include the community of Central Saanich in the run’s 34-year tradition.

Connie Hearty, Central Saanich run organizer since 2005, has agreed to remain on board and continue after a brief fright when it appeared she would step down.

Hearty said a mix-up occurred. She was under the impression somebody else wanted to take over, but then that person couldn’t. And for a few weeks, people at the Terry Fox Foundation were worried the run would pass the Saanich Peninsula by. But Hearty said there was no way she would allow that.

“I’m not going to let it go,” she said. “I believe in the Terry Fox Foundation, they have lived up to Terry Fox’s values.”

Terry Fox was a high-school athlete from Port Coquitlam who lost his leg to cancer.

In 1980, at the age of 21, Fox gripped all Canada when he embarked on what he called the Marathon of Hope. He meant to raise money for cancer research by running across Canada on his artificial leg from Newfoundland to B.C.

But after about five months, just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont., Fox was forced to stop. The following day doctors found cancer had returned and was now in his lungs. He died the following year.

Since then, the Fox family and supporters have continued to stage an annual run to raise money.

This year, the event in Central Saanich will take place on the National Run Day, Sept. 14. To register, go online to

Full slate of teams set for Dunahee tournament 

Unions and their members have stepped forward again to make the annual Michael Dunahee Slo-Pitch Tournament of Hope a packed success.

A full slate of 24 slow-pitch teams, each one sponsored by a union, have signed up for the Aug. 9 and 10 tournament at Topaz Park. Free licensed, professional child care for players is laid on by Camosun College, CUPE 2081.

Sunday, Aug. 10, is the highlight of the tourney with skydivers delivering the game ball for the final game at 4 p.m. The tournament is free and open to any member of the public who wishes to watch.

Money raised will go to Child Find B.C., to help in its efforts to help find or prevent children from disappearing.

The tournament was named in memory of Michael Dunahee, a four-year-old boy who went missing from a playground at Blanshard Elementary School on March 24, 1991.

Despite one of the biggest police investigations in Canadian history, Dunahee has never been found.

Puppets to invade Bay Centre

Downtown visitors might consider a stroll through the Bay Centre this week, to catch a glimpse into Puppet Central.

The Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria will host A Pacific Northwest Puppet Festival, Sept. 19 to 21. The festival will include sessions of dance, music shows and demonstrations.

But beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 5, Puppet Central will be open, preparing and demonstrating the making and operation of puppets for anyone who happens to pass by.