Originally published in the June 2012 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal - "The Halifax Club 150th Anniversary" special advertising feature
It was a cold day in January 1986 that Noella Brennan Fisher will never forget. She made history by walking through the doors of The Halifax Club as its first-ever woman member.
As financial counsel for the finance department of the Department of Justice, Fisher (QC, JP) had been at the club many times before for meetings, but to gain entry to the prestigious club, a man from the group would have to meet her at the door and sneak her up to a private meeting room.
“I’d done that a number of times and, frankly, I was a little sick of it,” Fisher recalls.
It was after one of those meetings she decided she wanted to change the rules of the “stuffy old boys club”.
It took nearly 10 years of persistence and patience, but finally two club members — David Chipman and Bill Mingo, QC — were willing to sign the form backing Fisher’s membership.
“I think it sent them all scurrying around trying to figure out what to do... in the end they couldn’t come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be allowed in,” Fisher says.
It took two more years after Fisher gained the right of entry before another woman joined the club. The two were promptly signed up to the membership committee to try to get more new members.
“Our idea was to open the club up more, to host dances and other functions, to make use of that space,” she says.
Fisher was evidently a woman ahead of the curve as her idea of “opening the club up” is exactly what has happened over the past 20-plus years, as the club has evolved with the changing times.
Today a full 40 per cent of the club’s approximately 1,000 members are women.
“As the times have changed, The Halifax Club consistently attempts to set the pace for the business community,” says Kathy McNab, the club’s general manager. “It’s not just about staying current, it’s a matter of understanding the community’s dynamics or not surviving.
“We’re on Twitter, we’re on Facebook and LinkedIn... we need to participate if we want to stay relevant to our membership. This is the world now, and we have to reflect that.”
In 2010, renovations created “office-away-from-the-office” workspaces, with cubicles for those who need to focus on their work and open spaces for project or collaborative work. The club has Wi-Fi throughout the building and is now working on adding HD TV for conference calling (and watching major sporting events, of course).
Taking a cue from the popular Dragon’s Den TV show, the club has also recently launched Lion’s Lair, as a way of connecting established businesspeople with younger members or entrepreneurs in need of mentoring.
For more information, check out The Halifax Club online at: www.halifaxclub.ns.ca
Famous and notable members:
• Judy Steele, the first female president of the club (2003).
• Noella Fisher, the first female club member (1985).
• Sir Robert Borden, prime minister of Canada throughout the First World War.
• Thomas H. Raddall, Canadian writer and winner of the Governor General’s Awards for three of his books and an Officer of the Order of Canada (1971).
• Alexander Murray MacKay, chairman of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission from 1951-1971 and past chief executive officer of MT&T. MacKay was instrumental in having both the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge and his namesake structure built during his tenure at the commission. The MacKay bridge opened on July 10, 1970.
• Honourable Alexander Keith, served as mayor of Halifax for three terms and founded the Alexander Keith’s brewery in 1820 which still produces his namesake beer today.
• Sir. Dr. Charles Tupper, physician, author and premier of Nova Scotia in 1864-1867. He later became prime minister of Canada from 1896-1901. He took part in the Charlottetown, Québec and London conferences and is known as a Father of Confederation.
Source: The Halifax Club
* Read more Halifax Club stories at: http://www.ns.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/Industry-Spotlight/The-Halifax-Club-150th-Anniversary-23760