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Childhood home of Violet King Henry recognized with plaque


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It’s a modest Edwardian-style home in the community of Sunnyside, but now passersby will be able to learn about the woman who began her trailblazing career within its walls.

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On Friday, members of the University of Calgary’s Black Law Students’ Association and Heritage Calgary presented a plaque to Dr. Angela Pucci, who now lives in the childhood home of Violet King Henry. The plaque was mounted on a post on the home’s porch.

King Henry was the first female Black lawyer in Canada. Born in 1929, she grew up at the home now known as the King Residence, at 518 7th Ave. N.W., and attended Crescent Heights High School before attending the University of Alberta. She returned to Calgary to article before being called to the bar in 1954.

Violet King, Canada’s first Black female lawyer is shown in this June 1954 photo. Courtesy the Glenbow Archives, NA-5600-7760a
Violet King, Canada’s first Black female lawyer is shown in this June 1954 photo. Courtesy the Glenbow Archives, NA-5600-7760a SunMedia

King Henry later worked in Ottawa and New York, before succumbing to cancer at the age of 52 in 1982.

David Isilebo, co-president of the Calgary chapter of the Black students’ law association, said the idea of commemorating King Henry was raised by fellow member Senait Yohannes.

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“She found out that Violet King went to her high school and yet the school never celebrated her or talked about her,” said Isilebo. “So, independently, she did a bunch of research into Violent King and found out her house was still standing. That’s when she contacted Heritage Calgary, to try to get it marked as a site.”

Josh Traptow, CEO of Heritage Calgary, said they have evaluated the property for its historical significance and placed it on the inventory of historical resources. Although officially recognized, the home is not protected from future development.

He said the King family purchased the property in the 1930s and raised their children there.

“Violet was born in 1929 and so, grew up there, went to Crescent Heights High School. She lived there in the late 1930s and 1940s,” he said.

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Traptow said the home is a very good example of an Edwardian-style residence that would have been typical in that time.

He said when they got in touch with the current homeowner, she was enthusiastic to have the home recognized.

“These are the types of stories and properties that Heritage Calgary is interested in,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t know the history of every single property out there. We’re always open and interested in potential sites that can be added to the inventory.”

Pucci, who has been in the home for the past 12 years with her two daughters, said she found out the significance of the home two years ago.

“We received our community newsletter and our house was on the cover. We couldn’t figure out why,” she said.

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Turning to an article about King Henry, she became familiar with the importance of where she had been living for 10 years.

“We are very much about girl power and equality, so to have a history like that in the home you live in, we thought it was pretty darn neat,” she said.

Pucci added it is a privilege to live in a home with important historical significance.

“Violet didn’t just break glass ceilings, in my opinion, she shattered them,” Pucci said. “It is one of those things that is hard enough for a female to do, never mind in a different time and different place, with a very different mindset than today. We feel the energy, we feel the goodness.”

Homeowner Dr. Angela Pucci and her children Kensie and Mya Emmons pose for a photo in front of the King Residence.
Homeowner Dr. Angela Pucci and her children Kensie and Mya Emmons pose for a photo in front of the King Residence. Photo by Brendan Miller/Postmedia /Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Isilebo said he recently met King Henry’s daughter when she spoke at a national conference earlier this month. 

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“I got the chance to meet her and tell her about what we were doing. She was very excited,” said Isilebo.

“Hearing her tell the story of her mother in person, and meeting her, it all made it feel real. It’s one thing to read about somebody in a textbook or an article, but to see that her daughter is still alive, and her house is still up, it makes it more real for me. This person existed and did all this amazing work.”

He said King Henry was not just a hero for the Black community, but for all people in Calgary and Alberta

She’s an amazing woman, and at a time when Black people and women weren’t accepted into law, she broke barriers,” he said,

— With files from Brendan Miller

brthomas@postmedia.com

Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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