YWCA founders recognized with Ringling award

BRACEBRIDGE — Maggie Ringling was dearly loved and was renowned for her passion and commitment to the development of support services for women and children.

The YWCA has been a visible force for women in Muskoka since its founding in 1987. And its many faces have championed the rights and freedoms of girls and women in many ways, including marches; this one with Barb Leek, left, Maria Duncalf-Barber and Gayle Dempsey who still continue to lead the way now.

The Maggie Ringling Award has been awarded annually since 2009 by the YWCA Muskoka board of directors to an individual, woman or man, or organization for breaking down barriers and advancing opportunities for greater social and/or economic equity for women and girls, and in recognition of the cumulative impact of their many years of contributing to the well-being our Muskoka communities.

On April 19 the Y presented the Maggie Ringling Award to 21 founding women at its 21st Annual General Meeting.

These women represent the members of the YWCA’s interim board of directors who were elected at the YWCA’s first AGM held on March 8, 1997, at Browning Hall in Bracebridge.

“We would like to honour and celebrate the following incredible people at this time in our herstory,” says the Y: Sheryl Manolakos; Kim Olsson Susan Biehn Smith, Maria Duncalf-Barber, Eleanor Gleeson, Anita Fieguth, Angelika Clubb, Cathy Kuntz, Kathy Gordon, Gayle Dempsey, Diane Wettlaufer, Sheilah Forward, Kate Douglas, Suzanne Gilbert, Marnie Hestand, Catherine Dry, Donna Brock, Carey-Ann Sprout, Lynn Kameka, Barb Leek, Suzie Philips, and Jan McDonnell.

They were honoured at the YWCA Muskoka’s Gathering Space, at 440 Ecclestone Dr., “to recognize the spirit, vision, and dedication of its founders to the wellbeing of women in Muskoka communities.”

“These women were organizers, activists, and educators and they created something with great love,” says Hannah Lin, executive eirector of YWCA Muskoka. “Several were Maggie Ringling’s close circle of friends around her when she died in 1994; all of them believed in the legacy she gave us.”