Manitoba History: Areen Mulder
“Manitoba Historical Society.” These are the words that greet you when you call the Society office. Most of the time they will be offered by the lady that has been the office secretary for the past fifteen years, Miss Areen Mulder.
Born in Manitoba, of Dutch parents, Areen was raised in a busy family of market gardeners in East St. Paul. After her schooling in Elmwood, she went to work as a clerk-typist at Commercial Union Assurance Company. In 1961 she became a member of the Manitoba Historical Society, when Mr. (now Senator) Paul Yuzyk was president. There were field trips, meetings and publications which interested her, and these often allowed her to follow up on her own hobby of learning the history of the many churches in the province.
During the 1960s the Society was expanding as the centennial spirit increased the general awareness of history. Formerly the business of the Society had been done from a single desk in the Provincial Archives Office in the Legislative Buildings. With the plans for the new museum, Dr. Jack Herbert suggested that a number of voluntary associations might be provided with office space in the proposed new museum building. In the interim, the museum staff, with desks for the Historical Society, moved into temporary quarters at 11 Lily Street. In 1969, when her friend Elinor Ferris resigned as secretary to the Society, Areen moved into her current position. Immediately prior to being employed by the Society, Areen helped Elinor at the John A. Macdonald Dinner when a capacity crowd turned out to hear the Honourable John G. Diefenbaker speak on his political idol. As huge as that task had been, Areen was willing to work further in the interest of Manitoba history. Six presidents, fourteen Macdonald Dinners and fourteen Annual Dinners later, Areen in still working to keep the details of our Society in good order.
Dr. Steward Martin was President as Manitoba entered its Centennial Year. He insisted that the Society needed an Executive Director, and Wilson Green held that position as the many Centennial projects were being developed. In April of 1970 the offices in the Museum of Man and Nature were ready and the Secretary and Executive Director moved to the present location. Only an occasional piece of mail with an out of date address reminds the office staff of the previous conditions under which secretaries had to work.
As one of the past presidents, I would like to attest to the way in which Areen has held the fort for the Society. As a volunteer group we rely heavily on our secretary to handle the day-to-day correspondence, membership renewals, mailings, arrangements for Executive and Council meetings, and reservations for dinners and field trips. While this load is often shared by the Executive Director and volunteers, well can I remember a period of over a year in which we placed all of the responsibility on Areen’s shoulders because we were unable to afford an Executive Director. She willingly kept things in order, making sure that the bookkeeping and minutes and membership mailings got done. Many of our field trips have gone smoothly because she gave patient attention to the details.
When I was talking to her about her service to the Society, I found that the field trips and dinners are close to her heart. She has successfully advocated trips to Riel territory and Cannington Manor in Saskatchewan, and hosted a jolly group for a weekend at Minaki. She is still urging two very ambitious tours to the Black Hills and to York Factory. Her one regret is that the Society is no longer publishing the Manitoba Pageant.
Areen travels a good deal on her own, and has taken part in group tours to Moosonee, Ontario, to Alaska and the Yukon, to Newfoundland with a jaunt to St. Pierre and Miquelon, and to Churchill Falls in Labrador.
Areen is still following her love of old churches and their history. Her bulging scrap books are evidence of continued research and scouting trips around the province. It is her interest in things in Manitoba that gives such a boost to each new Executive Director who must, on a half-time basis, learn about Manitoban history as well as carry out the necessary administrative tasks.
So the next time you dial and hear the words “Manitoba Historical Society,” you know that you should respond with a sincere “Thank you, Areen.” Then, after your call, resolve to share with others your enthusiasm for Manitoba’s history, and thereby follow the good example set for all of us by our dedicated office secretary, Areen Mulder.
Page revised: 26 December 2015