For 100 years, the Dresden Chapter of the IODE has lived up to its motto of “We Live in Deeds,” and it shows no sign of stopping on the eve of its centennial.
The group of more than two-dozen Dresden-area women has plans to donate some $10,000 to local schools, the town library, local history and a renovation of the cenotaph this year.
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The Catherine McVean Chapter (founded as the Sydenham Chapter) of what was formally known at the time as the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, came into being on Oct., 1914.
Chapter treasurer and 40-year-plus member Lynda Weese has been doing plenty of research into the organization’s history as part of the centennial celebrations.
England had declared war on Germany two months earlier and the IODE was preparing to do its part on the home front.
“The first four years of our existence, we raised nearly $12,000, mainly through tea-room fundraisers,” she said. “That’s the equivalent of more than a quarter of a million dollars in today’s currency. And that was at five cents for a cup of tea.”
Members knitted socks, staged entertainment and held “drives” for recycled newspaper. Members even collected animal bones (used to help make glue) and fat (used in the production of dynamite) for the war effort.
“These ladies could be prim and proper but they were also about getting their hands dirty if they had to,” Weese said. “They were determined to do their part.”
She said the IODE did many of the things that later became synonymous with the Royal Canadian Legion.
“It was the IODE which sold poppies before the Legion, and in Dresden it was the IODE which established and paid for the town cenotaph,” Weese said.
Ironically, the cenotaph, located at the corner of George and Queen streets, became the object of a battle between the IDOE and the Dresden Legion after the Second World War.
“The Legion executive claimed the cenotaph wasn’t being properly maintained and wanted it moved next to the Legion building,” Weese said.
Records of the discussion are lost in the mists of time, however, history does record the cenotaph is located exactly where it was first placed in 1923.
As part of the cenotaph work, the names of six service members from the First World War and one from the Second World War will be added.
Weese said records of the IODE indicate that inside the monument is a box containing information about those who served in what was called The Great War.
Incomplete information isn’t limited to those who served. Weese is trying to track down the names of the original members. Most of the 35 who signed originally did so under their husbands’ names.
“At the time, it wasn’t unusual for someone to be known as Mrs. John such and such,” she said. “We’d like to be able to list them by their names in our updated history.”
The community service aspect of the IODE goes far beyond efforts during wartime. The group has donated more than $57,000 for the Trillium Trail project and $43,000 in the health care Tree of Tribute campaign.
In addition to the $2,500 being spent on the cenotaph, the group has donated more than $1,600 for wireless microphones, literacy programs and trees for Dresden’s elementary and secondary schools. The library has received a $2,400 computer and an additional $2,700 is being donated for completion of the group’s history and Trillium Trail signage.
Just under $7,000 was donated to various projects last year.