Founder of the first registered Canadian Company of Girl Guides.
Mary Malcolmson, one of the most famous citizens of St. Catharines, was a woman of her time. By that we mean that she had the ability to do good philanthropic work in our community. And she did. She helped establish the local chapters of the I.O.D.E., the Victorian Order of Nurses, the St. Catharines Council of Women, the local Horticultural Society and much more. She is what we call today a local activist. In 1910 she established the first registered Canadian Company of Girl Guides.
Mary Helen McKean-Malcolmson was born in Belfast, Ireland. Five years later her family moved to Ontario where her father operated a furniture factory. After becoming a kindergarten teacher in Hamilton, she got married to Great Lakes Captain A.H. Malcolmson. In 1892, her family came to St. Catharines after her husband became a doctor in the area. Mary immediately took on an active role in the community through various organizations such as founding the Women’s Canadian Club, the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the St.Catharines Council of Women.
She was involved with the board of Education, and was the vice president of the Mother’s Pension Board. She was also known across Canada as an officer in the I.O.D.E. (Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire), and a convener in the National Council of Women of Canada. After attending the famous Crystal Palace Rally of 10,000 Boy Scouts in London, England, in September 1909, she was inspired to start a new chapter of Girl Guides in Canada. One of her greatest concerns was for the welfare of the youth, and it was through her efforts that a Girl Guide troop was founded in St.Catharines, the earliest registered company of Girl Guides in Canada. The Company started to meet in November 1909 in downtown St. Catharines and was officially registered on January 1910. Meetings were held in the ballroom of the Welland House, which was owned by her husband and brother in law. She was honoured for her work with the Girl Guides by being presented with the Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935.
A plaque was unveiled in Montebello Park in 1950 commemorating the founding of the Girl Guide movement in Canada. As a centennial year project on 1967, the municipal chapter I.O.D.E added a second tablet specifically honouring Mary Malcolmson. Mary Malcolmson Park, found on the lakeshore in the north end of St. Catharines, is the only park in St. Catharines to be named after a woman. It continues to serve as a place for Girl Guides and school children to explore nature and study wildlife. Mary Malcolmson died in St. Catharines on 7 July 1935.