Dal track star part of 'Nova Scotia Nine'

Aileen Meagher cut off a pair of her brother's trousers so she could run

- June 3, 2011

Detail of portrait of Aileen Meagher by Jo Napier.
Detail of portrait of Aileen Meagher by Jo Napier.

Dalhousie track-and-field star Aileen Meagher has been included in “The Nova Scotia Nine,” an art exhibition of portraits of incredible Nova Scotian women now on display at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.

“The Nova Scotia Nine were amazing athletes, scientists, suffragettes and social leaders who carved new paths in the world from Nova Scotia soil,” says Halifax artist Jo Napier.

Shorts to run in

Born in Halifax on November 26, 1910, running made Aileen stand out. At a time when women’s skirts grazed their ankles, Aileen was determined to wear shorts. She cut off a pair of her brother’s trousers to make pants she could run in.

Aileen did not recognize her potential until the day she began running with the Dalhousie Tigers in the fall of 1928.

With her tremendous sense of determination and hard work, Aileen quickly became one of the best runners in Canada and by 1930 held the Canadian record for the 100 and 220-yard events. In 1935 Aileen received the Velma Springstead Trophy as the Most Outstanding Canadian Female.

She was selected to represent Canada at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and earned a bronze medal in the 400-yard relay. The British Empire Games in 1938 were Aileen’s final major competition and she won a silver medal in the 400-yard relay and bronze in the 600-yard relay.

After retiring from running, Aileen became a full-time school teacher and also took up painting. She was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1964 and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1965. She passed away on November 20, 1987 at the age of 77.

Jo Napier’s art exhibit will be on display at the archives, at the corner of Robie Street and University Avenue, until June 25. Besides Aileen Meagher, other women depicted in the exhibition include Rita Joe, Mabel Bell, Viola Desmond, Anna Leonowens, Muriel Duckworth, Edith Jessie Archibald, Margaret Marshall Saunders and Marie-Henriette LeJeune-Ross.

Follow your instincts

“The Nova Scotia Nine lend a powerful female face to our Nova Scotian history,” says Ms. Napier. “Each shaped our culture and character as Nova Scotians and as Canadians – yet few Nova Scotians know their faces, or their stories.”

Napier believes that Aileen’s life is worth examining as she lived her life to her greatest potential doing what she loved the most.

“Aileen is a great example of someone who followed her heart and it fired her— took her far, fed her spirit and made her a leader in her chosen field,” says Napier. “That’s what I want to teach my daughter—follow your instincts and find your power in that feeling.”

LINK: Jo Napier's blog


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