by Roger P Nason
In the 1890s, efforts by women to bring equality into Maritime sporting activities were met with mixed results. Most noticeable was the emergence of ladies’ hockey in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Sheldon Gillis at Saint Mary’s University surveys the state of hockey within women’s sporting activities in his 1994 Master’s thesis with sources almost entirely focused on Nova Scotian university settings. Although prevailing attitudes among administration records reinforced the “frail Victorian woman” stereotype, progress was being made on campuses at the University of Toronto, Mount Allison, Dalhousie, and Acadia. By 1900, many colleges and universities included hockey in women’s competitive sports.
Although friendly games were held with Fredericton and Moncton, The Saint John Daily Sun reported that Saint John women “are very swift skaters and can dodge with the puck to equal some of the best of the gentleman players” in March 1895. By the next season, the newspaper cited the formation of a Ladies’ Hockey League in the city intent on having their first practice at Singer Rink.
There were many advertisements promoting the sale of ladies’ hockey sticks before 1901, but the emergence of an organized team in Fredericton did not come about until the winter season of 1903. This hockey club would come to use the rink on George Street. The Daily Gleaner rightly predicted that University of New Brunswick (UNB) women would draw on the examples of Mount Allison and Acadia to form a team.
Who inspired the formation of an organized team? News reports suggest Hazel Palmer. Born in Fredericton in 1884, Palmer graduated from the Fredericton Model School on Queen Street and was attending Mount Allison Ladies’ College by 1902. By her second year there, Palmer was named captain leading the team frequently against a Sackville team.
During the 1903 winter season, Hazel—possibly through her parents’ John Palmer Company, a prominent shoe tannery—convinced their neighbouring competitor—Hartt Boot and Shoe Factory—to form a ladies’ hockey team. Having recently built a new factory on York Street in 1899, Odber M. Hartt may have seen the move as a marketing strategy to promote the sale of ladies’ boots, shoes—and eventually skates.
Jennie and Beatrice Payson from Fredericton were two of Hazel’s college classmates who may have encouraged this initiative, as well. Graduates of the Fredericton Model School, Hazel and Jennie were close friends and pursued their musical interests at college; although four years younger, Beatrice eventually attended the college and became a member of the hockey team, too. Joined by fellow classmates of the Model School, Beatrice called upon Myrtle Lottimer, Trixie Love, Agnes Flanagan, Stella McCatherine, Minnie Parker, and Eva Staples to join an organized team in November 1903.
The Hartt Shoe ladies’ team was practicing by December 1903. And other teams were sprouting up in Saint John and across Nova Scotia in Halifax, Windsor, Truro, Amherst, Lunenburg, Annapolis, and Springhill.
By the February 1905 season, posters were going up across the city to announce the first ladies’ game of the Fredericton Greylings against a team coming from Saint John. Conceivably, this is likely the reincarnation of the Hartt Shoe ladies’ team. On 22 February, the game kicked off to an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000 at the Arctic Rink on Carleton Street. Minnie Parker took up goalkeeper, Annie Wilson was on point, and Agnes Flanagan played cover point. Eva Staples played rover and Stella McCatherine took centre while Myrtle Lottimer took right wing and Beatrice Payson took left wing. Although the more experienced and physically larger Saint John team was expected to win, the audience was surprised by the close score of one to zero: “the local girls surprised everybody including their manager, Miss Lillian Massie.”
The Gleaner reporter took special note of the game being the first inter-city hockey match played in Eastern Canada with teams composed entirely of women. Within a week, another game was scheduled for 28 February in Saint John at Queen’s Rink.
The Greylings came attired in their official uniform of grey skirts and grey sweaters with the letter “F” on the front. They also wore red sashes and grey toques with red trimmings. For their first out-of-town game, they were managed by Arctic Rink owner, Albert Edgar Hanson. They were chaperoned by his wife and Mrs. E.J. Payson, wife of the Fredericton Daily Gleaner editor and Beatrice’s mother. The Saint John team wore dark skirts and white sweaters with blue and white sashes. The final score was tied: one to one.
Energized by the tie game, the Greylings were anxious to play another ladies’ team. With news that Woodstock had recruited a team, Beatrice arranged with her old Mount Allison classmate Faye Camber to play at Arctic Rink on 10 March 1905. The Greylings came away with a narrow one to zero victory, with Trixie Love from Marysville replacing Agnes Flanagan at centre.
When it came to watching the Greylings play their hometown team, Century Rink in Woodstock was overflowing with a crowd of 700. The two teams went at it “hammer and tongs without being successful in the scoring;” the Daily Gleaner reported that the game was “far superior to what had been expected here and the exhibition of stick handling by the visitors was a revelation.” Officials added a five-minute overtime hoping for a tie breaker.
Summarizing the season, the Gleaner editor noted that “the Greylings proved themselves the equal of any ladies’ team in Eastern Canada.” But the men’s teams were not taking them seriously. When the UNB Collegians challenged them to a benefit game, the UNB men turned up wearing skirts and tying their left hands behind their backs. Although the Greylings scored five goals to UNB’s two, the event was nevertheless a farce.
At the end of the 1905 season, many of the young ladies turned their attentions back to their studies. Interest in the ladies’ hockey team was not rekindled the next fall. Perhaps the lack of support to get recognized by the male-dominated New Brunswick Hockey Association was too big an obstacle to overcome. Although college teams were permitted without varsity status, community clubs were at the mercy of family, neighbours, and local business support; they struggled to get ice time at the Arctic Rink.
The newspapers remained silent on any mention of ladies’ participation in hockey until the local emergence of the UNB ladies’ team in the 1912-1913 season. By the end of the decade, the next generation of women replaced these first activists in recognizing the role and need for organized community hockey teams for women.
A former archivist with the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Roger P. Nason holds a B.A. from St. Thomas University and M.A. in History from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. Roger has yet to find a photograph of the Fredericton Greylings. If you have access to such an image, please reach out to the author at email@example.com.
 Saint John Daily Telegraph, 16 December 1895.
 Moncton Daily Times, 27 December 1897; Daily Gleaner, 22 November 1898; Saint John Daily Telegraph, 11 December 1901.
 Daily Gleaner, 22 December 1896.
 Daily Gleaner, 30 November 1903.
 Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB), Vital Statistics; Daily Gleaner, 5 December 1904 and 25 August 1905.
 Daily Gleaner, 15 December 1897; 22 December 1899; 10 January 1906; PANB, Vital Statistics; Ancestry.com, New Brunswick Census 1901-1921.
 Daily Gleaner, 30 November 1903 and 5 December 1904; Saint John Daily Telegraph, 29 February 1904.
 Daily Gleaner, 23 February 1905.
 Saint John Daily Telegraph, 1 March 1905.
 Daily Gleaner, 7 March and 10 March 1905.
 Daily Gleaner, 11 March 1905.
 Daily Gleaner, 27 March 1905.
 Daily Gleaner, 11 March 1913.