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Mary Dover (1905 to 1994)

Mary Dover photo

Mary Dover was a dynamic and distinguished Calgarian, particularly known for her work with the military during World War II.

Born the same day Alberta joined Confederation in 1905, Mary Cross came from a strong family background. Her grandfather Lt-Col. James Macleod had led the North West Mounted Police west to found the new settlement of Calgary. His daughter Helen, Mary’s mother married the wealthy rancher and brewer A.E. Cross, one of the “Big Four” who founded the Calgary Stampede.

Mary led an early life of leisure becoming a fine horsewoman. As such, she played the role of a stunt rider in ‘His Destiny’, one of the first Hollywood films that was filmed on location in Calgary.

In 1930 she married Melville Dover, an auto executive. They travelled all over Southeast Asia and settled in Ceylon where Mary gave birth to their only child, David. Their travels were interrupted however by the outbreak of World War II. Mary and David returned to Calgary while Melville stayed with the military to fight overseas.

In 1941 Mary dove into volunteer work for the war effort as a recruiting officer for the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC). In 1942 the CWAC became an official militia corps and Mary served in England during the Blitz. She was later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel commanding the CWAC training base in Kitchener, Ontario. One of the first female officers in Canada, Mary led many programs during her military service to inspire and support women in the military, building greater understanding in the community of the important role women could play.

After the war Mary became very active in the Calgary community, serving two terms as an alderman and volunteering for the Canadian Legion, the Red Cross and the Women’s Canadian Club. She also worked to preserve historic buildings and green spaces. In 1960 she moved to her country home, Oksi Hill near Millarville.

Mary won many awards for her work, including Order of the British Empire for her military service, the Order of Canada, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Calgary. As well, the YWCA Dover House and the community of Dover were both named in her honour. Mary Dover is remembered as an army officer, an alderman and a preservationist.

Biographical resources

Harry Palmer Gallery

Esprit de Corps. 22 May, 2009

Jacqueline Chartier “Mary Dover: a maverick in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps: from Calgary socialite to recipient of the Order of the British Empire”.

Boyer, David S. Calgary: Canada’s Not-So-Wild West, National Geographic, March 1984

Brennan, Brian, Building a Province, 60 Alberta Lives, Fifth House Publishers, 2000

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