Winnipeg women stop the removal of the Wolseley Elm 1957.

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Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Attempts were made to remove the tree as early as 1907, and there were multiple attempts to remove the tree from 1907-1957. The attempt in 1957 came the closest to removing the tree, the counter-campaign in 1957 seems to have been the most organized, as well as that for which there is the most information.
September 18
September 25
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Winnipeg, Manitoba
To stop the City of Winnipeg's removal of the Wolseley Elm

Mary Ann Good planted the tree that came to be known as the Wolseley Elm, along with many others, on her family farm in 1860, before Wolseley Avenue existed. Mary’s elms began to be removed as the city of Winnipeg expanded, until the Wolseley Elm was the only elm remaining that did not stand on the side of the road. The city of Winnipeg made its first attempt to remove the tree to make way for Wolseley Avenue sometime between 1907 and 1909. The City paved Wolseley Avenue with asphalt in 1925 and the Elm came under threat again. A local resident halted the removal of the tree in 1925 by persuading city workers to wait to remove the tree until they could contact city hall. The Elm was threatened again in 1936, and at least three times in the 1940’s.

In 1957 there was a large amount of development taking place in Winnipeg’s West End, including the construction of a new stadium and arena, as well as the proposed construction of Polo Park shopping mall (completed in 1959). Some Winnipegers were concerned about the elm’s effect on traffic congestion as people used Wolseley to travel to sporting events. The Wolseley Elm had become popular among local residents for being a unique feature of their neighbourhood, and many claimed that the Elm benefited public safety by causing drivers to slow down on Wolseley Avenue. The Elm was also named by Ripley’s Believe It or Not as “the smallest park in the world”.

On 3 September 1957 Winnipeg’s civic works committee was told that Wolseley Avenue was going to be expanded and the committee passed a motion allowing the Elm’s removal, an act which did not require the approval of the full city council at that time. Some city councillors did not believe that the tree needed to be removed, and were wary about a negative public reaction should the tree be removed.

Workers for the City of Winnipeg arrived on the morning of 18 September 1957 to remove the Elm. They were confronted by twelve local housewives and grandmothers, including Ann Borrowman, leader of the 1925 protest to save the Elm. The women linked arms and surrounded the Elm; one woman told the city workers that if they wanted to chop down the Elm they would have to chop her down first. The confrontation escalated, with more city workers and police officers attempting to get past the women.

A police officer tried to convince the women that the removal of the Elm had been approved by city council, when it had only been approved by committee. The women wanted to have their say about the fate of the Elm before the full city council, and the women refused to move, resisting the pressure.

The women began calling for the mayor, Stephen Juba, as well as the local ward councillor, Maude Mcreary, who had angered them by voting for the removal of the Elm. At this point a crowd of two to three hundred spectators had gathered to watch the protest.

Mayor Juba eventually arrived and tried to halt the removal of the tree, but found he had no legal means to do so. Juba eventually ordered the city engineer to wait a week to remove the Elm on the grounds that the women were in danger and that removing the elm that day would be a threat to Public Safety. Mayor Juba’s orders were illegal, as there was nothing in the city charter that allowed a mayor to overturn a decision approved by a city council committee and Juba agree to step down as mayor if city council did not approve his decision.

Multiple suggestions were made at city council meetings from 21st to 24th September that would have spared the Elm as well as allowing for the widening of Wolseley Avenue, however none were agreed upon. While the issue was debated in council a petition was circulated that collected one hundred and four names of people who supported the Elm. At a well attended special meeting of the Public Works commission on 25 September 1957 the fate of the Elm was decided, and city councillors voted to allow the Elm to remain where it stood.

While the twelve women saved the Elm from destruction by the city, residents of the neighbourhood were not able to protect the Elm from vandalism. The Elm was set on fire, had bark stripped from it, grafts that were intended to heal the Elm were removed, and finally, on the morning of 31 October 1958 residents awoke to the sound of two loud blasts; the Elm had been dynamited. By June of 1960 no signs of life remained and the Elm was removed without protest.

Research Notes
Cherney, Bruce. “Battle of the Wolseley Elm — stately tree planted in 1860 was fought over for many decades” Winnipeg Realtors n.p. n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

Cherney, Bruce. “Battle of the Wolseley Elm — the tree survived the winter and buds appeared on its limbs in the spring” Winnipeg Realtors n.p. n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

Cherney, Bruce. “Battle of the Wolseley Elm — “Wild Women” became famous for defending the tree” Winnipeg Realtors n.p. n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

mrchristian. “Remembering the Wolseley Elm” West End Dumplings. Blogger, 29 Oct. 2009. Web, 18 Nov. 2013

Siamandas, George. “The Tale of the Wolseley Elm” The Winnipeg Time Machine. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nolan Reimer, 18/11/2013