Alberta’s capital city has inspired talent, bravery, and success. All of these famous people have called Edmonton home at one time or another.
This famous singer-songwriter was born in Edmonton on November 2, 1961, and raised in Consort. She has a reputation for crossing boundaries, and brought an alternative punk edge to country music. Since coming out in 1992, lang has been a major LGBTQ advocate, and she received the Order of Canada. Alberta Ballet has immortalized the singer in Balletlujah!, a pop ballet inspired by her life and music.
Born on March 14, 1868, in Cookstown, Ontario, Emily Murphy moved to Edmonton in 1907. When she was barred from a trial of women arrested as prostitutes, she argued a court held for and by women was needed. In 1916 Murphy was appointed as the first female magistrate in the British Empire. When her role was challenged because women weren’t “persons” under the British North America Act of 1867, Murphy joined the Famous Five who paved the way for women’s equality in Edwards v Canada (AG)—the Persons Case. Emily Murphy Park is located in the river valley.
Alex Decoteau was born on November 19, 1887, on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan. After he finished school, he moved to Edmonton, and in 1909 he joined the police force, becoming the first Indigenous police officer in Canada. Decoteau enlisted in the army in 1916 and was killed in 1917 in the Battle of Passchendaele. A park on 105 St. & 102 Ave.—to be completed this year—will commemorate his achievements.
John M. “Red” Pollard
John M. Pollard was born in Edmonton on October 27, 1909. At 15, he convinced his parents to let him pursue a career as a horse jockey. He travelled across Western Canada and the U.S. without much success until 1936, when he met Seabiscuit. Pollard became the primary jockey for the horse. Of the 30 races Pollard and Seabiscuit ran between 1936 and 1940, they won 18 of them, and in 1940 they won the $100,000 San Anita Handicap. The 2003 movie Seabiscuit follows their journey through that final race.
Wilfred R. “Wop” May
This renowned pilot was born on March 20, 1896, in Carberry, Manitoba, and moved to Edmonton with his family in 1902. May went on to become a pioneer of Edmonton’s civilian aviation scene. He was awarded the McKee Trophy for delivering diphtheria antiserum to Fort Vermilion in 1929, after several failed deliveries by land. In the First World War, he became the last pilot to be pursued by the infamous Red Baron, just before the Red Baron was shot down. The community of Mayfield is named after May.
William Patrick “W.P.” Kinsella
A legendary fiction writer, Kinsella was born May 25, 1935, in Edmonton, and raised just outside the city in the small community of Darwell. He studied writing at the University of Victoria in 1970, and was a professor at the University of Calgary before becoming a full-time author. The 1989 movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner was based on Kinsella’s best-known novel, Shoeless Joe. Kinsella has won numerous awards for his writing, and passed away on September 16, 2016.
Nathan Fillion was born in Edmonton on March 27, 1971. His first acting gig was with Rapid Fire Theatre, where he appeared in the improvised soap, Die-Nasty. He started on TV in One Life to Live, but Fillion is best known for his role in Joss Whedon’s Firefly series. In 2015, Fillion donated a meeting with a fan to fundraise for the Varscona Theatre rebuild, to honour the beginning of his acting career.