“Yet a bird, almost the minute it’s hatched, I’m told, already knows its song”
This café and bistro has been named after Dr. Olga Helen Marie Jardine, an extraordinary woman who lived her life beyond the conventional expectations of her time. She happens to be our great aunt too.
Born on the 13th of October 1899 in the town of Woodville on New Zealand’s North Island, she moved to Nelson with her mother when she was just six. Daughter of a headmaster and a teacher, her early years were imbued with the notion that learning and erudition were not just positive abstract ideals, but goals worth pursuing.
In 1921 Olga graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Home Science from the University of Otago in Dunedin at a time when relatively few men or women even completed secondary school.
Thanks to the prestigious Rockefeller Travelling Scholarship she was sent across the world to the City of New York’s Columbia University, where she earned a doctorate in 1926; she then rejoined the University of Otago as an Associate Professor in Home Science until 1929, when she boarded the R.M.S. Aorangi, bound to Canada, to marry and start an entirely new life.
After a couple of years in Vancouver and a year-long visit to family and friends in Australia and New Zealand, she took up permanent residence in Victoria, British Columbia, where she lived until 2003, just a month short of her 104th birthday.
Her love of travelling and meeting new people can be rooted back to her very first trip to New York. The constant exposure to different ideas and situations was the foundation for her strong social awareness and the desire and determination of bringing her wealth of knowledge and skills to the world of voluntary organisations. Her experience in the field would be tested and greatly appreciated, especially during the Depression and WWII.
Borrowing her name for our venture is a small way to remember and celebrate an eminent Victorian whose remarkable lifetime spanned two centuries and whose life-long commitment to the welfare of others contributed to positive changes, especially in the social conditions of Canadian women.
Olga was a great supporter of higher education for women when this was an unfashionable notion and promoted women in politics at a time when this, too, was considered controversial.
All of her work in a multitude of volunteer service organisation, amongst others the University Women’s Club, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the P.E.O. Sisterhood, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Local Council of Women and Women’s Canadian Club, was always done without remuneration, and yet she treated every voluntary assignment as a job that required the maximum of her dedication and involvement.
Her ability to get things done was the reason behind her appointment to the boards of directors of both government bodies and philanthropies all through her life.
With abundant energy and determination, she possessed the easy confidence of a born leader, but also the genuine warmth and charm of a person who was sincerely interested in people and was delighted by their company.
We like to think that, given the chance, she would have enjoyed a coffee and a chat in our café and we recognise that we are very lucky to be able to carry her name as our own.
| We owe a debt of gratitude to Patti Gully and her book “Eminent Victorian”, prepared in celebration of the 100th birthday of Dr. Olga Jardine |