More men named 'John' have sat on Calgary city council than women have

·2 min read
Calgary's first town council is pictured here in 1886. Significantly more men than women have sat on council in Calgary's history. (Glenbow Archives NA-644-30 - image credit)
Calgary's first town council is pictured here in 1886. Significantly more men than women have sat on council in Calgary's history. (Glenbow Archives NA-644-30 - image credit)

There have been more councillors named "John" — 48, in fact — than there have been women who have sat on Calgary city council over the years.

"James" and "William" come close to beating the number of female representatives too, with 28 men of each name having served.

Since 1884, 31 women have been elected, and 30 have served, on Calgary council.

This week, a virtual panel takes a historical look at gender representation on the council.

Madeleine King, councillor from 2001-2007, and Gael MacLeod, who served from 2010-2013, will share personal stories from their experience, while a historical perspective will be provided by Asia Walker, heritage resources coordinator with Heritage Calgary.

It's part of research done by Heritage Calgary in honour of the municipal election this fall.

"Civic politics and the people who represent us on a ward basis, as well as, you know, who will represent us as mayor, will be top of mind for people," said Walker. "And some of the issues that continue to resound today are issues that have been around for the 137 years Calgary has been a city for."

Looking at history

The research was inspired by a project in Edmonton called Searching for Izena, named after its first female councillor elected 100 years ago, that highlights each of the women who have served on its council.

Walker wanted a similar project in Calgary.

"I figured it would be as easy as just finding the information and the research that had already been done and consolidating it and putting it out there for public consumption," she said. "And then we realized very quickly that that work has not been done."

Heritage Calgary's project looks at the legacies left behind by female councillors such as Annie Gale, the first woman elected to municipal politics anywhere in the British Empire. She was elected in 1917.

"She, like many women who decided to put their name forward and run for city council, were very much interested in, I guess, what would have been known at the time as 'women's issues,' but really are issues that affect every single person, every single day, [like] family health or other social things like education and child care," said Walker.

Calgary claims the first female councillor, but no woman has ever been mayor of the city. That's happened in Edmonton: Jan Reimer served from 1989-1995.

This year, Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek is running for mayor in Calgary.

In Calgary's history, men have always outnumbered women on council. Walker hopes that this will change someday soon.

"We do hope that this enhances [...] the conversation as we move into the fall and that people do take a really close look at all the candidates that are running in their riding, as well as those who are running for mayor," said Walker.

You can watch online panel discussion this Wednesday at

With files from The Homestretch.

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