Skip to main content

Mary McIntosh (Manson) Dowdell

Mary McIntosh Dowdell

Mary McIntosh Dowdell was an exceptional and educated woman, especially for the era she lived in. Despite not having the ability to vote because she was female, Mary was very influential in Millet politics. She was not afraid to speak her mind, particularly to government officials when she did not agree with a project or policy being implemented. 

Mary Manson was born to James and Catherine Manson on April 22, 1890 in Jamestown, Scotland. Mary was the oldest of eight children. Growing up, Mary attended school at the Vale of Leven Academy, graduating in 1909 with exceptional grades. She then attended the University of Glasgow starting the same year, taking math and English courses. In 1910, she received her teaching certificates and then began teaching in Scotland.

Mary’s father was a mason, but unable to find work in Scotland. In 1911, he moved with two of Mary’s siblings to Canada in his search for work. In 1912, Mary, her mother, and the rest of her siblings joined them in Edmonton. While living in Edmonton, Mary attended The University of Alberta to obtain her Bachelor of Arts degree. She was successful in this endeavor and carried on to get her Master’s degree in Classics. At this time, Mary also became a certified teacher. She taught in schools in smaller towns such as Nanton and Millet. At the school in West Liberty, she directed plays for the school children, and sometimes performed in them as well.

In 1928, at the age of 38, Mary was wed to Charles Dowdell. Once married, Mary moved to Charles’ farm just west of Millet. On the farm, Mary became adept at a whole new skill set. She took on all of the duties that farm life required, including milking the cows, collecting eggs from the chickens, helping to plant and tend to the crops, and managing the household. Mary was also a talented baker and loved to share her gifts. Mary was noted as a great hostess. There was always fresh bread to be had and she was always making up new recipes which everyone loved. She usually invited the hired farm hands to lunch and dinner. On holidays, she would often invite the young bachelor from down the road to her house for dinner. She would also invite new teachers to board at her house.

Although she was working hard on the farm, she still believed in the importance of being educated. Mary struck a deal with the Edmonton Public Library and would have them mail her all the new government information about current policies and projects that they had received. Mary was a supporter of the CCF (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) because they were more of a left wing party. Mary (as well as the rest of the Mansons) supported left wing parties because, in Scotland, they had ended child labour. Mary often held political meetings in her home with the members of the party including Elmer Roper, who was the head of the party at the time. Mary was known for being very vocal. She loved to debate and was very good at it. She was very good at standing up for what she believed in. When Mary caught wind that the Alberta government was planning on drilling for oil at Wizard Lake, she demanded a meeting with the council to advocate for them to drill somewhere else. Not only did they change their drilling sites, but they revised their drilling policies as well.

Although Mary and Charles did not have children of their own, they always welcomed their nieces and nephews to stay with them. When Mary’s brother, William Manson, passed away, his nine-year-old daughter Dora was welcomed into the Dowdell home. She stayed there with Mary and Charles for a year while she went to school in West Liberty. Mary’s nephews William and Jack also enjoyed coming to visit during the summer and helping their Uncle Charlie with the farm.

When Mary and Charles decided to retire, they moved into Wetaskiwin. They stayed there awhile until Mary fell ill. She was moved from her home into the Wetaskiwin hospital, then again into the University of Alberta hospital where she stayed until she passed away in July of 1978 at the age of 88.  Her husband passed shortly after in 1979, at the age of 82.