From Calgary’s archives: Woman pens letter to mayor in search of husband in 1921

Click to play video: 'YYC archives highlight Calgary mayor turned matchmaker in 1921' YYC archives highlight Calgary mayor turned matchmaker in 1921
Susanne Clark with the City of Calgary joins Global News Morning to discuss the strange duties of former Calgary mayor Samuel Adams and how he hoped to help a woman searching for her perfect mate. – Feb 27, 2021

There are a lot of ways to look for love, but have you ever thought to ask the mayor?

The City of Calgary recently dusted off the archives and discovered that a Montreal woman did just that a hundred years ago.

On Aug. 26, 1921, Calgary mayor Samuel Adams received a letter from 35-year-old Etta Foster, prompting his journey from mayor to matchmaker, according to the archives.

“I hear the number of ‘lonely bachelors’ in your part of the country quite exceeds the number of ‘lonely women.’ For this reason, I am hoping you will do me the favour to refer this letter to some source whereby I can meet some of these eligible Westerners,” Foster wrote.

Read more: Edmonton senior finds love letter from husband written before he died of COVID-19

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The archives call Foster’s view of an isolated Calgary inaccurate. Susanne Clark with the City of Calgary said the area was a bustling metropolis with a great social scene a centennial ago. In the early 1920s, Calgary’s population was over 63,000, according to the archives.

“She gave quite the shopping list as far as what she was looking for and introduced herself as a young businesswoman,” Clark told Global News on Saturday.

On Aug. 26, 1921, mayor Samuel Adams received this letter from 35-year-old Etta Foster. City of Calgary

Foster wrote that she brings domestic abilities to the table in addition to her laundry list of qualities she was searching for in a partner.

“My ideal man is one who fears nothing, is manly in all his dealings. I do not expect a saint and am broadminded in my views but I believe in absolute frankness and square-dealing in everything,” she wrote.

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“I prefer a man of large stature, dark, Protestant, not necessarily a college man but this would prove no detriment. I do not look for wealth or social position. All I expect is a comfortable home… I am very fond of outdoor life and would find my ideal in a man who is of similar tastes who likes horses, dogs, outdoor sports [and] some travel.”

Adams put a public ad in the Calgary Daily Herald.

Read more: Why you should be dating people who aren’t your ‘type’

“There were a number of gentlemen who did respond, and they gave their resume, including one that wanted to join the police in Calgary,” Clark said.

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“All of them seemed to have the means to care for her but we think that she may have gotten a little skittish and was a little pickier than her initial letter might have suggested because we have correspondence from her near the end where she kind of takes them to task and asks them to be a little bit more discreet and careful as to who they are providing her information to.”

Read more: Dating isn’t just for young people: ‘You don’t stop needing love and sex’

Foster was “hesitant to communicate with any of the men,” according to the archives, stressing to Adam that he only supply her name to the candidates who meet her standards.

No labourers.

No one who is illiterate.

Someone with social status.

“Correspondence declined with thanks,” one letter read.
“Correspondence declined with thanks,” one letter read. City of Calgary

Even though the city doesn’t have evidence of other letters from women searching for mates, Clark said personal requests to the mayor “were not uncommon at the time.”

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“They usually were more dealing with people who are writing to locate family members or it would be people who were looking for either letters of introduction or information about the city for their families or businesses looking to move to Calgary,” she said.

A follow-up letter to Samuel Adams from Etta Foster. City of Calgary

The mystery showcases the evolving role of the mayor.

Clark said the city doesn’t know if Foster ever found her perfect match, and archivists have not been able to track her down.

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