The best gift I ever got: Margaret-Ann Armour

UAlberta’s champion for women in science talks about the gift she uses to start conversations about pioneering women then and now.



Margaret-Ann Armour, associate dean of diversity in the Faculty of Science

What she got

A doll, made by a friend who ran a mentorship program for the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta

Why it was so great

“I had a friend, Arlene Lack, who did a marvellous job with that mentorship program. As I got to know her, I discovered that not only was she great at organizing things like that, but was also an artist—one of those people who is quite remarkable.

“She came to my office with a big bag and said ‘I have something for you.’ She makes dolls, paints the faces and makes the clothes. It was a doll about two feet tall, a woman dressed in a full-length dress of purple velvet with lace trim and hair that braided. It was absolutely beautiful. But it struck me—this is the kind of dress and hair that women would have worn in the early 1900s. The doll seemed to me to have the attributes that a very determined and pioneering woman would have, and so that’s why she made me think of Nellie McClung. I decided, ‘This is my Nellie McClung.’

“Nellie stands on my desk in the office. The reason it’s such a remarkable gift is that she has started so many conversations. People can’t help but notice her and they ask about it. I tell them it’s my Nellie McClung, and that starts conversations about women entrepreneurs and where are we now. That’s the gift that has gone on giving for the eight years I’ve had it.”