Sitting at my desk enjoying the sun streaming in through the window, I can’t help but wonder what Eda Owen would think about the unseasonably warm winter we are experiencing. Who is Eda Owen, you ask? Working out of the Owen Residence / Dominion Meteorological Station in Edmonton, Owen was a pioneering meteorologist serving from 1915 to 1943. She was one of only a small number of female meteorologists working at weather stations throughout the world.
The Owen Residence / Dominion Meteorological Station was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1994, in part, because of its association with Eda Owen. On the Alberta Register of Historic Places, the Statement of Significance says:
In 1908, Eda and Herbert William Owen emigrated from London to Edmonton. After a number of temporary employments in his new home, Herbert accepted a position as an assistant in the Dominion government’s Meteorological Office. In 1913, the weather office was moved into the Owen residence in the Highlands neighbourhood. Wartime exigencies prompted both Owen and his supervisor, Captain S. M. Holmden, to enlist in 1915 for active service overseas. In their absence, Eda Owen, who had learned the arts of reading navigational charts and employing scientific instruments from her husband, took over meteorological duties at the Highlands station. Herbert never returned home, dying in a prisoner of war camp in Europe. Though overcome by grief, Eda continued her work at the station. In 1921, following a brief spell as an assistant meteorologist, she was formally named Provincial Agent and Weather Observer for Alberta by the federal Department of Marine and Fisheries. Her work was incredibly demanding. The Highlands station was arguably the most significant meteorological post outside of Toronto. Eda was required to take hourly readings from 36 different instruments throughout the day and compile reports from over 140 stations in the region. The information she amassed had wide currency, being circulated to forest rangers, aviators, agriculturalists, as well as radio and newspaper personnel. For most of her service from 1915 until she resigned her post in 1943, Eda was the only woman employed as an observer at a major Canadian meteorological station. Indeed, she was one of only a handful of woman meteorologists at major stations in the world at the time. As a result of her trailblazing work, she garnered international acclaim. MacLeans, the Toronto Star Weekly, and the Christian Science Monitor all featured Eda in their pages, hailing the “Weather Woman of the West” as a pioneer in a scientific field largely dominated by men.
What would Owen think of our warm winter? We will never know, but I would like to think that between readings from the 36 meteorological instruments she would have found time to enjoy the warm spring-like conditions.
To read the complete Statement of Significance, please click here.
Written by: Brenda Manweiler, Municipal Heritage Services Officer