The Extraordinary Women of Bowen Island

As nurses, artists, teachers, and changemakers, the women of Bowen Island have undoubtedly always been up to extraordinary things. From homemade documentaries to photographs and interviews, we’re honoured to hold this history in our archives. Now, we’re honoured to share it with you, in this online exhibit.

While people like Captain Cates and George Cowan may have received more widespread fame in their day, Bowen has a proud history of extraordinarily hardworking women. As historians, we can continue that pride by telling their stories here, where you can read and share them! Here you’ll find the stories of Rosa Helenius and Norma Dallas, who once ran the post office and docks. There are also accounts of Ellen Dorman and Muriel Neilson, who were instrumental in the health and education of Bowen. From marathon swimmer Frances Cannon, to Ladies Auxiliary president Annie Laurie Wood, we have tried to show the wide range of professions that women have had on Bowen over the years.

The Archives strives to record the lives and stories of Bowen residents and associated visitors. We collect biographical stories, photographs, obituaries, oral histories, and all sorts of other documents. We encourage you to come tell us your story, or the story of an extraordinary Bowen woman you know. You can reach us here!

Please feel free to explore the stories below!

Ellen Dorman

Ellen Dorman Volunteer Nurse 1910-2004 During the 6 decades she spent on Bowen, no-one was more central to the island’s community than Ellen Dorman. Born Margaret Ellen King in 1910, Ellen planned from childhood to train and work as a nurse. By 25, she was running McKay Private Nursing Home in Vancouver. While at a

Annie Laurie Wood

Annie Laurie Wood Homesteader and Ladies Auxiliary Member 1879 - 1957 Annie Laurie Wood, born Annie Laurie Parker in Nova Scotia and known to some islanders as “Granny Wood,” came to Bowen early in her life. She was orphaned when still very young and grew up in Minnesota, but she arrived on the island in

Muriel Neilson

Muriel Neilson Teacher and Artist 1909-1981 Muriel James Neilson was born in 1909 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A brilliant student, she earned degrees in English, Chemistry, and Math. However, upon graduation the Great Depression hit, which made job prospects few and far between. So Muriel took a job as a teacher, and shared her knowledge with

Frances Cannon

Frances Cannon Marathon Swimmer and Maternity Nurse 1941-2005 Frances Cannon (nee. Caldwell) was an inspirational record-breaker in the world of open water swimming. Born in Trail, B.C. in 1941, she began swimming at a young age. She drew inspiration from Marilyn Bell, trained under Ann Meraw, and completed swims like Kalamalka and Christina Lakes. In

Rosa Helenius

Rosa Helenius Postmistress, Secretary, and Community Organizer 1934-2001 Born in 1934 in Masset, Haida Gwaii, Rosa Fanny Harris saw a good deal of B.C. before moving to Bowen. Until the age of five, she lived with her Haida mother and English father in Masset. They then moved to Prince Rupert, then Hazelton, then back to

Gail Taylor

Gail Taylor Island Representative 1943-1994 Gail Taylor (nee. MacLeod) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1943. She completed school there, and started her career on a high-flying note - as a stewardess on Canadian Pacific Airlines. Unfortunately, bouts of motion-sickness cut that particular job short. So, she took a more administrative position in the company's

Norma Dallas

Norma Dallas Dock Manager and Committee Volunteer 1962-Now Born Norma Ann Currell in 1939, Norma Dallas ’s connection to Bowen Island is lifelong. Though she first set foot on the island at two years old, her family’s history on the island stretches back much further, to when her aunt Lena Farrell's family began travelling to

Lilian and Maisie Adams

Lilian and Maisie Adams Strata Organizers and Community Volunteers 190os-1998 and 1908-2002 For all their years on Bowen, the Adams sisters were as inseparable as they were essential to the community at Tunstall Bay. Lilian Eleanor and Mary Bethel “Maisie” Adams, born approximately 1908 in Vancouver’s West End. They grew up comfortably in town with

Judi Gedye

"We were living there, we thought it was a community, we definitely thought they were worth saving.” Judi Gedye is the longtime chair of the Bowen Island Heritage Preservation Association (BIHPA) and a frequent volunteer across many committees and community groups. In 1980, she moved to Bowen in search of a quiet home to decompress

Kae MacNeil

“Kae was better than a doctor.” - Tommy Smith, Kae’s fellow volunteer at the First Aid Station. Kae MacNeil met her husband Charlie when he came down with an ulcerated throat while she was working as a nurse. Initially, she didn’t intend to remain on Bowen. She moved to the island in 1946 to take

Helen Holte

“You’re not really a Bowen Islander until you have had two cups of Helen’s coffee in one day!” - Quote from the Bowen Island Discussion Forum after Helen’s passing in 2004. First arriving on Bowen as a summer vacationer with her family in the '30s, Helen Holte returned to the island later in life when

Peggy Proudlock

“No matter if you’d lived on Bowen for fifty years or one year, Peggy always made you feel welcome.” - Obituary for Peggy Proudlock, Bowen Island Undercurrent Margaret “Peggy” Proudlock, raised on the Proudlock property on Grafton Road, made friends in every corner of Bowen over the course of her life. She lived on the