The Imperial Order of the Daughters of Empire

The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire was first established in 1900 by Margaret Polson Murray, the women’s organization grew expansively across Canada promoting patriotism and creating a network of support for soldiers and their families. Throughout the Great War three chapters of this organization were active in the Peterborough area fundraising for the war effort, providing essential comforts to soldiers, and supporting the families they left behind. On Friday June 18 1915, a meeting was held at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Huycke. At Engleburn the Otonabee chapter of the IODE was established with the motto of “Deeds not Words”. Mrs. Huycke, the mother of 4 young men who would all serve in the war and the wife of the prominent Peterborough Judge Huycke, was named the first regent of this chapter. Through the first year they had 72 members. This figure rose exponentially and nearing the end of the conflict the Otonabee chapter of the IODE had over 120 members. While there were many organizations committed to supplying soldiers with food, clothes, and comfort, the IODE chapters in Peterborough exemplify the sacrifice of women in this period and the extraordinary work they were able to accomplish. 

Photo of Rose Huycke, 1911. Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images Biographical Series #10048. Used with permission of Peterborough Museum & Archives

The Peterborough chapters of the IODE operated as a charitable organization operating through fundraising and subscription to their organization by their members. A  number of fundraising efforts were used by this organization chief among them was their annual garden party. An annual garden party was held every summer to raise funds for the chapter, the chapter relied on these funds to support the works which they would donate throughout the year. In 1915, the Garden Fete produced a sum of 129 dollars for the group and accounted for thirty percent of that years’ operating budget. The first two garden parties that the chapter hosted were held at the estates of Mr. and Mrs. Huycke, Engleburn. The eloquent parties thrown at Engleburn allowed the organization to support numerous charities, supply knitted socks to many of the local men who were in Europe, and sponsor two Prisoners of War in Germany. Although the women did raise money from hosting community events such as lectures, recitals and parties they had to draw from their personal funds for much of the chapters budget. 
The funds that were raised through annual parties, rummage sales, lectures, recitals, and auctions alongside their membership fees were funnelled into numerous national and international charities. From 1915-1918 the Otonabee chapter of the IODE supported 9 organizations that provided relief for military personnel and citizens in Europe. Between these 9 charities such as the Navy League, Secour Nationale, and Prisoner of War Fund, over 1,500 dollars was given. The women of this chapter were able to raise a significant amount of funds for the various organizations which they supported, but it should be remembered that much of the money which was donated came from the members themselves. This speaks to both the commitment and financial sacrifice that these women endured to contribute to the war effort. Not only were these women able to support charities financially they also played a large role in making various items which were destined for the front. 

The Otonabee IODE chapter was able to fundraise through events and finance many different organizations, but the majority of their charitable work came through their labours of manufacturing goods. The women who formed and participated in the IODE usually had a connection to a soldier, this was reflected in the types of work which they did. During Lent and other parts of the year the women of this organization would participate in the knitting of a vast amount of socks. Utilizing the resources of the Red Cross, such as rooms and materials, the Otonabee IODE chapter was able to produce over 1,000 pairs of socks which were sent to their sons, husbands, brothers, and fathers. In addition to the projects of the knitting committee, these women also manufactured a large amount of bandages and medical equipment.  Sending clean socks and equipment to the local men who were fighting was important to the members of this chapter. It allowed them the opportunity to contribute to the war effort and to patriotically support their families and neighbours. 

In addition to sending socks and bandages, the chapter was also responsible for creating comfort for the soldiers and their families. Within the Otonabee chapter, a visiting committee was established, this group would visit the local families of soldiers and even the soldiers themselves if they were in the hospital. The numerous visits paid by the members of this chapter worked to create a network of support for those who had lost a family member or who were awaiting one’s return. The proceeds of the 1916 annual garden party were used to buy the 93rd battalion a gramophone and records, this gift was to signify the support that the soldiers had back home and to give them some comforts of home. The women of the chapter also helped to comfort soldiers returning from combat, in March 12th 1917 the Otonabee chapter opened up two rooms and furnished them for returning officers and men. These club rooms were to be used for veterans and the IODE women hosted events for them through this venue.

Engleburn, 1933, Balsillie Collection of Roy Studio Images 2000-012-014725-2
Used with Permission of Peterborough Museum & Archives

Through the years of the war many charitable organizations in the Peterborough area were created and dedicated to providing support for the numerous amounts of people affected by the conflict. The Women’s Committee, the Wives and Daughters Club, the Red Cross Society, the 57th regiment chapter of the IODE, and the Peter Robinson junior chapter of the IODE were all in operation through the war and worked toward similar objectives. The Otonabee chapter was not an exceptional organization but one of many women’s clubs that worked hard to provide support and relief to the local soldiers as well as their families. Through various activities and events the IODE chapter was able to provide substantial funds to many relief organizations, manufacture copious amounts of clean garments and supplies, and to supply the men with the comforts of home. The IODE in Peterborough existed well after the Great War, new chapters were founded throughout the 20th century such as the Edith Carleton, Carwford’s Grove, and Jeanette Scott chapters. These groups continued to promote the same values of which the IODE was built on, but in 2015 the final chapter of the Peterborough IODE, the Edith Carleton chapter, had its final meeting. While there no longer exists a Peterborough chapter of the IODE the national organization is still working to provide women’s education and support. With numerous amounts of scholarships and events the Daughters of the Empire still promote the unity of women for a common purpose.

Research by Noah Wilson and Jake Woodburn

‘Otonabee Chapter Minute Books’, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), Otonabee Chapter fonds (1980-032) Peterborough Museum & Archives
(June 28th, 1915). Daughters of the Empire Garden Party To-night. The Evening Examiner. Reel 82, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives.
(August 4th, 1915). The Good Work of the Otonabee Chapter Daughters Empire. The Evening Examiner. Reel 82, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives. 
(August 17th, 1915). The Red Cross Society Ships More Comforts. The Evening Examiner. Reel 83, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives.
(January 2nd, 1916). Contributions Acknowledged. The Evening Examiner. Reel 85, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives.
(June 26th, 1916).  Otonabee Chapter Express Thanks. The Evening Examiner. Reel 86, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives.
(November 3rd, 1916). Recital by Otonabee Chapter I.O.D.E. The Evening Examiner. Reel 88, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives.
(February 3rd, 1917). Contributions to the Red Cross Society. The Evening Examiner. Reel 89, Microfilm Collection, Trent University Library and Archives. 
Nyznik Jessica."After more than 100 years, plaque recognizes the work of the recently disbanded Edith Carleton chapter of the IODE” The Peterborough Examiner, September 23, 2015. (Accessed October 2nd, 2017).