From the Archives…Aunt Dorothy’s Playhouse


Written by Kevin MacLean, Galt Museum & Archives, Collections Technician

Do you know what this object is and what it was used for?

Is it a:

a. Hot pad

b. Badge

c. Door mat

If you guessed a badge you’re correct!

Badge, “Aunt Dorothy’s Playhouse”, 1964

This badge was donated by the late Irma Dogterom whose youngest daughter “Nancy D” attended Aunt Dorothy’s Playhouse in 1964. It was located in Lethbridge at 635 – 8 St. S.

The Playhouse received national attention when its owner/operator Dorothy Gentleman, was named “Canadian Mother of 1961.” Opening in 1948, it acted as an early community kindergarten where an increasing number of two-income households or single mothers could drop off their children year-round, throughout the week. It was also a place where new Canadian children learned English. Gentleman, a widowed mother, used the money she earned from her Playhouse’s operation to support herself and her four children.

Badges like this one were worn on playhouse-issued, blue corduroy uniforms. Irma Dogterom said of her daughter’s Playhouse attendance, Nancy had a problem with learning. Some counselor suggested that, instead of sending her to grade one when she was six, send her to Aunt Dorothy’s Playhouse. [She was there] just one [year], but when she came out she went to grade one the next year and managed quite well. I tell you it was a very important thing in Nancy’s life and it made all the difference in the world when she had that lady as a teacher.” 

The Playhouse closed upon Gentleman’s retirement in 1973. She died at age 75 in 1980.



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