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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Dorothy (Smith) Janzen
Date Posted: October 2/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1900's to 1990's

Dorothy's family emigrated from Gloucester to the Wabamun area. One of twelve children of the Smith family, she was born January 20, 1908. Her childhood was spent on the homestead. When she was about ten, the family moved to Edmonton. Dorothy completed grade eleven at Strathcona Composite High School. After high school, she went to Alberta College and graduated from Business Course 9, where she earned pins for top marks in Shorthand (250 wpm), spelling and typing.

Prior to her marriage to dentist W.E. Janzen, she worked as a legal secretary and volunteered as a campaign manager for several mayors and M.P.s in civic and federal elections. In Vancouver during the early '30s, she had worked as a supervisor in a lithography plant. She moved to Wetaskiwin when she married Bill Janzen.

Dorothy was an energetic, community-minded person. She was brought up with the idea that idle hands were the tools of the devil. Thus her hands were never idle, and she often did two things at one time. Besides all her household chores of canning, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, and gardening, Dorothy knit and crocheted, sewed quilts, made clothes for her family and others, made candles, ceramics, hats, and did beadwork, embroidery and needlework items and furnishings in her home.

In her younger years, Dorothy was very active with horseback riding, swimming, snowshoeing, and skiing. She belonged to the bowling league, golfed and danced. In the 1950s she and Johnny Trout taught square dancing in Central Alberta (Bawlf, Lougheed, Ponoka, etc.) At this time she also explored her interest in art. She began learning to draw and paint by taking art classes with the Wetaskiwin Art Club. She then took classes from the Faculty of Extension, earning a diploma.

In classes in Edmonton and at the Banff School of Fine Arts, she studied with W.L. Stevenson, Prof. Harry Wohlfarth, H.G. Glyde, Nicola Bjelajac, Harry Savage, Maria Ruth Svenson, Daniel Began, Paul Braid, Gissela Filsberg and others. In the mid '60s, she began teaching for the Wetaskiwin Community Art Club in the basement of her home and then taught for the Faculty of Extension for more than a decade.

Dorothy was still teaching occasionally until shortly before she passed away at the age of eighty-eight. Showings of her paintings were held at the Extension Gallery in Corbett Hall, Caelin Gallery in Wetaskiwin, Hermansen Greenhouse Gallery at Pigeon Lake, Candler Art Gallery in Camrose, and the Wetaskiwin Public Library. In 1992 the Wetaskiwin Art Club had a showing of her tapestries and paintings. In 1983, she was presented with the Alberta Achievement Award honoring her work on the school board, and as a teacher and artist.

Dorothy rarely had an idle moment. She was always eager to learn. "Active and involved" summarize her nicely. She always made time to do things in the community, from sewing for the soldiers during World War II to painting backdrops for fashion shows and community events. She enjoyed working on her tapestries or having a good game of bridge.

Dorothy sang in the Anglican Church choir and served as a volunteer in several organizations. She earned life memberships in the Red Cross, Women's Auxiliary of the Anglican Church, IODE, Wetaskiwin Art Club, and Alberta School Trustee Association.

In her twenty-nine years with the Wetaskiwin School Board, she served on the salary negotiation committee, was a member of the Provincial Executive of the ASTA, was Zone 4 Representative, and served on the Education Council from 1976 to 1992. While on the School Board, she was instrumental in convincing the government that Wetaskiwin needed a vocational wing on the High School. She spearheaded its construction and that of several other schools.

Dorothy initiated a study of the effects of colour and light on students' learning. She was proud to hear that considerable use has been made of that study in the design of other schools. In 1987, she was honored with the Alberta Achievement Award for her service as a school trustee and her work as an artist. She also served on the U of A Senate's task force on the Faculty of Extension and in four conferences on Curriculum Development in Alberta. The City of Wetaskiwin honored her with the City Culture Volunteer Award in 1989 and the Wetaskiwin Citizen Recognition Award in 1990.

At her funeral, the minister called her "one of the colorful five percent." She had become one of the town's characters. At age eighty-eight, she still drove her car to Ma-Me-O Beach, no doubt annoying the other drivers on the road with her changing speeds as she took in the state of the crops and the colors.

The store clerks must remember her, too, because she could drive a hard bargain. In her later years, she enjoyed wielding her cane as a pointer and in admonition. She was also fiercely independent, as the entire Smith family was, and did not easily let others do things for her.

Information compiled in 1997.


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