For the first time in 116 years, The Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) has elected a woman for president with Isabelle Daigneault, and a woman for executive director with Carine Salvy. The first woman to become president of the American Alpine Club was Alison Osius in 1998.
“116 years after Manitoban Elizabeth Parker helped form the ACC and became club secretary, Isabelle, a Francophone originally from Quebec, finally becomes the first female president of the club,” announced the ACC. “A well overdue and historic step in maturity for the club to fully celebrate not only Isabelle’s talents but to thereby recognize the talents, skills and leadership of all those other women who have contributed so much to the ACC and to the richness of Canadian mountaineering.”
There have been 34 male presidents since Arthur Oliver Wheeler, who served as the first in 1906, to Neil Bosch, the outgoing president. Daigneault will make history when she is confirmed as president at the club’s annual general meeting on May 14. Daigneault has been a member of the ACC for 25 years and served 13 years on the board overseeing portfolios of access and environment, mountain culture and most recently the club’s governance from 2014 to 2019.
Salvy has more than 25 years of experience in executive management, corporate governance and leadership in the outdoor industry, and was most recently the CEO and co-founder of Mountain Path, a France-based company that works to develop responsible leadership within organizations through experiential learning activities in the mountains.
Bosch offered his congratulations to Daigneault, saying she was a great secretary when she was on the board of directors, and will make an even greater president. “The ACC has never welcomed a new president and executive director at the same time,” stated the ACC, “so this represents an opportunity for the ACC to renew its sense of purpose and direction, building on the past and developing the swiftness needed to adapt to today’s ever-changing world.”
Elizabeth Parker lived in Winnipeg and was an avid nationalist and an environmental enthusiast. In 1902, she was working at the Manitoba Free Press when American Alpine Club president, Charles Fay, proposed to establish a Canadian chapter of the club.
Parker criticized the idea, and instead helped to establish the Alpine Club of Canada with Arthur Oliver Wheeler. She organized the founding meeting of the ACC in 1906, at which she became the club’s first secretary. She also participated in many of the camping trips to the mountains.
In the opening article of the first Canadian Alpine Journal (1907), she wrote, “A national trust for the defense of our mountain solitudes against the intrusion of steam and electricity and all the vandalisms of this luxurious utilitarian age; for the keeping free from the grind of commerce, the wooded passes and valleys and alplands of the wilderness. It is the people’s right to have primitive access to the remote places of safest retreat from the fever and the fret of the market place and the beaten tracks of life.”
The ACC was created to promote equality between men and women within mountaineering and climbing and to promote the conservation and preservation of the wilderness. At the end of the first camp in 1906, 15 women (out of 44 members) graduated and became active members of the ACC. After the ACC’s first camp it was decided that the dress code for women would be the same as for men, which was unusual in the early 20th century.