Quebec designates gardening pioneer Elsie Reford as a historical figure

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Philanthropist, defender of women’s rights and self-taught horticulturist Elsie Reford, whose gardens in northern Gaspé remain a source of inspiration decades after they were opened to the public, has been designated a historical figure by the Quebec government.

In a communiqué made public on International Women’s Day, culture minister Mathieu Lacombe recalled that Reford, who died in Montreal in 1967, had transformed a wild forest near her estate into a sprawling, 20-acre English-style garden. The undertaking lasted from 1926 to 1958, with many local residents involved in the project.

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An elaborate English-style garden
Elsie Reford’s Crabapple Garden at the Jardins de Métis. mon

The minister noted that Reford, who was born in Perth, Ont., in 1872, was also known for her commitment to women’s rights and health. In 1907, she co-founded the Women’s Canadian Club in Montreal, where women were encouraged to involve themselves in political issues. Reford also worked to find funding for Quebec City’s tricentennial celebrations and promoted the health of women and infants through her work for the Montreal Maternity Hospital.

The provincial designation sees Reford’s name and biography added to Quebec’s Répertoire de patrimoine culturel du Québec. In an interview last year with the Gazette, Alexander Reford said that he hoped the Quebec government would take the step to designate his great-grandmother a historical figure in recognition of her achievements.

Jardins de Métis-Reford Gardens was designated a national historic site in 1995 by Ottawa and became a Quebec heritage site in 2013.

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