Bill Waiser

Monthly Archives: March 2020

Ginger Catherwood Ladies Hockey 1920

Ginger Catherwood was more than chaperone to famous sister

In August 1928, at the ninth Olympic games in Amsterdam, Saskatoon’s Ethel Catherwood scissor-kicked her way to the gold medal in the high jump.

She remains the only Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any individual track and field event.

Ethel returned to Canada an international sensation.

In October 1928, Winnipeg held a civic reception in her honour at the Fort Garry Hotel.

The following April, she appeared at an Ottawa indoor meet as one of Canada’s “Track Wonders.”

At these and other events, Ethel was accompanied by her sister Ginger.

In fact, the pair were always listed together in newspaper reports about Ethel’s travels.

It’s understandable.

Ginger, six years older, served as her sister’s chaperone.

But what was never mentioned in the stories — probably not known by the press at the time — was that Ginger Catherwood was also a phenomenal athlete.

She was the best female hockey player in the country.

Ginevra or Ginger was the oldest of seven children of Ethel and Joseph Catherwood.

Born in Hannah, North Dakota in 1902, Ginger and her family moved to a homestead just outside Scott, Saskatchewan four years later.

Her father soon opened a real estate business in town.

Ginger likely learned to skate and play hockey on frozen sloughs.

She also played baseball.

Ethel said her older sister had a reputation as a fireball pitcher.

Ginger entered the University of Saskatchewan on a scholarship in 1919.

But it was on the ice, as captain of the Varsity women’s hockey team, that Ginger excelled.

“When she (Ginger) came down the ice, everyone stayed out of the way,” a teammate recalled decades later. “She skated just like a man.”

Ginger’s arrival at the U of S coincided with the beginning of inter-varsity competition in women’s hockey.

During the 1920-21 season, she was a scoring machine.

In a game against the University of Manitoba, she scored five goals in the first period and finished the game with three more in a 9-1 romp.

Then, she netted four goals in the first 11 minutes in a match against the University of Alberta.

The final score was Saskatchewan 7 (Catherwood 6) and Alberta 1.

“Her stick handling … was marvellous,” one report rhapsodized, “and her shots had the necessary punch and elevation.”

The Saskatoon Phoenix declared the U of S team the unofficial champion of university women’s hockey that season (there was no formal league at the time.)

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Opposing teams quickly learned that Catherwood was a scoring threat every time she had the puck, and tried to rough her up.

During the 1921-22 season, Ginger was hurt in the first period in a game in Edmonton and had to leave the ice and didn’t return.

U of S squeaked out a 2-1 win.

She was still nursing her injury in the next game against Manitoba and played defence in a 2-2 tie.

Ginger graduated with a three-year Arts degree in 1922.

“She is an incorrigible tease, but we love her for it,” read her yearbook entry.

“Her three years’ brilliant playing and captaincy,” it continued, “have made the team well nigh invincible.”

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After attending Normal School, Ginger found work as a teacher.

According to the 1926 census, she was living at the teacherage in the Plenty district.

Then in 1928, her sister Ethel won Olympic gold and Ginger was called upon by their family to chaperone her during her Canadian travels.

Ginger was rumoured to have accompanied Ethel when she left Canada for the United States sometime around 1932.

But on the Vancouver Sun society page for Sept. 19, 1933, Ginger’s photo appears below the headline, “Prairie Bride-Elect.”

She married English-born Charles Mitchell in Toronto later that fall.

That’s where Ginger was living in 1942 when her widowed mother moved there that spring.

It’s tempting to think that Ginger might have watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play in the old Gardens.

The 1942 playoffs were the year of the miracle Leaf comeback.

Down 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings in the final, they won the next four games to claim the Stanley Cup.

Today’s Maple Leafs could use a player like Ginger Catherwood.

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say It Ain’t So” series.

PHOTO: Ginger Catherwood, third from left, was a scoring sensation for the University of Saskatchewan women’s hockey team (UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS).

Historian Bill Waiser is author of In Search of Almighty Voice, available in May 2020.

A Saskatchewan editorial cartoon predicted that British values would triumph over Germany in the Great War (REGINA LEADER JUNE 8, 1918) /Saskatoon

Trading one identity for another after Great War

The Canadian census is one of the most reliable, and sometimes only, sources of historical information about everyday Canadians.

Collected every five years, the name-specific data provide a wealth of personal information — from age and marital status to religion and ethnicity

In fact, an individual can be followed over time and place through the census.

But there’s something amiss in the 1921 Saskatchewan census data.

In the “place of birth” column, 68,202 people were born in Germany.

That’s a slight decline from the 68,288 for 1911 and a whopping decline from the 77,109 for 1916.

Somehow, the province lost 8,907 German-born people between 1916 and 1921, a five-year period of limited immigration.

The numbers for other ethnic groups, on the other hand, are all significantly higher in 1921 than they were 10 years earlier.

The French-born population, for example, climbed from 23,251 to 42,152; the Scandinavian from 33,991 to 58,382; and the Russian/Ukrainian from 18,413 to 73,440.

Only the German-born population declined over the 10-year period.

What happened?

In early 20th century Saskatchewan, Germans were welcome, even valued, immigrants to the new province.

By 1911, they were the second largest ethnic group in Saskatchewan, making up almost 14 percent of the foreign-born population.

In fact, Regina had a large German population, as evidenced by the name Germantown for the neighbourhood east of the downtown business district.

As one of Europe’s northern groups, Germans were said to share the same sterling qualities as Britons.

Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter Victoria had even married Prince William of Prussia; their son was Kaiser Wilhelm, the German emperor.

But with the outbreak of war against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire in August 1914, German immigrants became enemy aliens overnight.

At first, political and community leaders called for public calm and restraint—let the German-born population go quietly about their lives and continue to work at their jobs.

Canada’s quarrel was with the German leadership, not the German people.

But that was before the stories of so-called German atrocities in Belgium became front-page news.

Then, there was the German torpedoing of the ocean liner Lusitania in May 1915.

The Swift Current Sun claimed that the sinking of the ship was “the act of blood-crazed madmen, seemingly bent on the devastation of mankind. Germany has proven herself an outlaw.”

This anti-German sentiment hardened as the Great War’s death toll mounted and more and more Saskatchewan families were scarred by the loss of loved ones.

As part of a national boycott campaign, the Saskatchewan chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire vowed, “From this day until my death, I pledge myself never willingly nor knowingly to buy an article made by the bloody hands that killed our boys.”

By attacking things German, IODE women could feel that they were participating directly in the war.

In a December 1916 provincial plebiscite, meanwhile, temperance supporters made the prohibition referendum a loyalty test — a vote for liquor was equated with a vote for the Kaiser.

Eighty percent, four of every five respondents, voted to shut down the new government dispensaries.

“As the war against Germany became longer and more bitter,” one historian noted, “the war against booze enlisted more and more recruits.”

A year later, the Wartime Elections Act disenfranchised any enemy alien who had been eligible to vote since 1902.

It was widely believed that Germans should not be allowed to participate in the December 1917 general election.

The foreign-language press was also restricted.

English translations had to appear in parallel columns in “enemy alien” language newspapers published in Canada.

The next step was an outright publication ban.

Hostile gangs twice attacked the offices of Der Courier, Regina’s German newspaper, before it suspended operations.

Several Saskatchewan communities changed their names in response to the war.

Prussia, for example, was dropped in favour of Leader, while Kaiser became Peebles and Schultz was renamed Prelate.

By war’s end, the harassment and condemnation proved too much for many Germans and they deliberately abandoned one nationality for another.

The most popular new identity was Scandinavian.

According to census data for the years 1911 and 1921, the number of people in the three prairie provinces who gave their birth place as Germany fell from 18,696 to 13,343 during the 10-year period.

Those born in Sweden, Norway and Holland, on the other hand, increased from 33,826 to 38,925 over the same period.

The increase in the number of Scandinavians almost equalled the decrease in Germans.

It was no coincidence.

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say It Ain’t So” series.

Photo: A Saskatchewan editorial cartoon predicted that British values would triumph over Germany in the Great War (REGINA LEADER JUNE 8, 1918) /Saskatoon

Historian Bill Waiser is author of the forthcoming book, In Search of Almighty Voice. Questions or comments can be sent to