Our History

The May Court Club of Ottawa has a proud history dating back to a sunny day on April 30, 1898, when Lady Aberdeen, wife of the Governor General, summoned 100 young ladies, daughters of the leading families of Ottawa, to a garden party at Rideau Hall. She appointed Ethel Hamilton, daughter of the Anglican Archbishop of Ottawa, as “May Queen” with seventeen councillors, and, in her speech, Lady Aberdeen told them that “… the solutions to all life’s difficulties … can be put in one word – SERVICE”.

Over the last many years the May Court Club of Ottawa has endeavoured to remain true to Lady Aberdeen’s vision, giving service, willingly and liberally, and financial support whenever it was possible.

“The May Court Club: One hundred years of community service”, published in celebration of the Club’s centenary, is available on request from the Club Office.

For some of the highlights of the May Court Club’s history, please look at one or more of the following:

Tuberculosis Clinic
The May Court Convalescent Home for Women
Palliative Care
Community Service
Fund Raising Events

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Tuberculosis Clinic

• In 1908 the May Court Club opened the first Tuberculosis Dispensary in Canada (indeed the fourth of its kind in the world);
• in 1910, 574 patients were provided with 4,000 quarts of milk, 380 dozen eggs, medicine and warm clothing ;
• in 1924 the May Court Club bought a chest X-ray machine for the Clinic;
• by 1928 over 1500 patients were seen annually;
• and the May Court Committee continued to operate the dispensary and clinic until 1966 when these were transferred to the City of Ottawa after 58 years of voluntary and financial service by the May Court Club.

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The May Court Convalescent Home for Women

• the first Convalescent Home for women was opened at 199 O’Connor Street in Ottawa on December 8, 1916 by the Duchess of Devonshire, wife of the Governor General;
• in November 1920, Sir George and Lady Perley donated a large home and property at 270 Cooper Street to be used as a combination convalescent home and Club rooms;
• in 1959, having outgrown its Cooper Street facility, the Club purchased a 2 ½ acre property on Cameron Avenue and, thanks to a positive response from a massive public appeal, was able to build a one storey annex to house its convalescent home;
• a bequest in 1982 from the former Elizabeth Residence, following their fire, enabled the Club to add a ten bed addition to the home which allowed it to accommodate 50 patients at any one time;
• Ontario government regulations which did not recognise short term care and required that the Convalescent Home comply with long term care regulations, at unreasonable expense, resulted in the decision of the May Court Club to close the Convalescent Home in 1997, after 81 years of service to the community;
• since 1999 the May Court Convalescent Home has been home to the May Court Hospice.

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Palliative Care

• in the late 1970’s the Club established its Palliative Care Committee at the Riverside Hospital, part of the first Palliative Care Service in Ottawa;
• volunteers provided support for the professionals;
• funding for three Palliative care nurses was provided by the Club for three years;
• when the Palliative Care Unit was incorporated into the hospital on a permanent basis, Club funding was no longer required but the Club continued to fund post-graduate education programs for nurses in the unit and to provide volunteer support;
• the Palliative Care Committee was disbanded in 1999, but the Club continues to support palliative care in the city through its involvement with Hospice Care Ottawa and particularly the May Court Hospice to which it provides rent-free accommodation and a yearly monetary grant for expenses.

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Community Service

• In the early years community service focused largely on work at the Protestant Hospital, the Water Street Hospital and St. Luke’s Hospital with emphasis on the needs of women and children;
• During World War I the Club worked with the Red Cross rolling bandages, knitting socks and helping women who were undergoing hardship because of their husbands’ service overseas. Later work with the Red Cross involved many years of volunteering at Blood Donor Clinics. To learn more about the Club’s present commitment to the community, please click on Community Projects .

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Fund Raising Events

• the first May Court Club fundraiser was an exhibition of handicrafts in December 1898 which was proud to deposit $8.72 to the Club’s coffers!;
• this was followed in 1910 by the May Court Club Vaudeville whose $1200 profit went to furnishing a new children’s ward at the Water Street Hospital;
• while craft sales continued, and continue, to be part of fund-raising, balls became the main source of fundraising for many years;
• the first May Court Ball was held on New Year’s Eve 1906 in the Old Racquet building on Metcalfe Street and raised $675;
• over the years the May Court Ball became the social event of the season, attended by Governors General, many diplomatic guests and prominent members of Ottawa society;
• the 50’s and 60’s were the days of lavish balls with elaborate cabarets, impressive guest lists and they provided much needed funds for the Club;
• other spectacular fundraisers included concerts at the National Arts Centre featuring Arthur Fiedler, and Moe Koffman and André Gagnon;
• from 1991 until 2008 the Club held an annual Christmas event at the Rideau Centre. Fantasy Trees and Treasures featured a raffle of decorated Christmas trees and treasures such as Christmas wreaths and hand-embroidered stockings;
• in 1992, the May Court Designer Showcase, the first of its kind in Ottawa, was made possible by contributions from the city’s foremost interior designers and landscape architects in the refurbishment of the Chelsea Club on Metcalfe Street, an event which involved all May Court members and was a huge financial success, and
• the Bargain Box which, since 1971 has continued to be a vital source of income for the Club. Volunteers cheerfully sort, price and sell clothing and household items, all of which are donated and gratefully received.