Winnipeg women stop the removal of the Wolseley Elm 1957.


To stop the City of Winnipeg's removal of the Wolseley Elm

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.

Time period

September 18, 1957 to September 25, 1957



Location City/State/Province

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • 200 or 300 spectators watched the confrontation between the women and the city workers and police officers, with many giving vocal support to the women
  • Winnipeg's Mayor delayed the removal of the elm despite lacking any authority to do so
  • 12 Women stood in front of city workers, preventing them from getting to the tree

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

  • A petition was circulated that gathered 104 names sometime before September 23, 1957

Segment Length

1.33 days


not known


not known

External allies

not known

Involvement of social elites

Mayor Stephen Juba


City of Winnipeg traffic commission, some members of Winnipeg City Council

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

One woman picked up a city workers axe and held it threateningly

Repressive Violence

not known





Group characterization

local grandmothers and housewives

Groups in 1st Segment

Local grandmothers and housewives
Mayor Stephen Juba

Segment Length

1.33 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


1 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The women were able to stop the city from the removing the still living elm, but it was subsequently the victim of a number of acts of vandalism, died and was removed without protest in 1960.

Database Narrative

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.


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