Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The IODE & The Violet Downey Award

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I'm in Calgary doing a couple of readings for the Public Library and schools. Before that, I had the pleasure of addressing the combined chapters of the IODE of that city. You may well ask yourself ... who, or what, are they?

Their full name is the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. Sounds very old-fashioned, doesn't it? In some ways, they are. A women's organization, they were founded at the time of the Boer War near the turn of the last century, specifically, I believe, to support Canadian soldiers and generally stand by the British Empire and its ways.

But don't let that fool you. Though today their members tend to come from the older generations, they are very much a part of the modern Canadian world, and are far from stodgy in what they stand for, and more importantly, what they do. They help people. They marshal themselves and help others in need, whether it be terminally ill children they take to Disneyland, young people desperate for financial support for education, or libraries and schools in need of books. They give of their time and money, day after day, week after week, and year after year, and encourage others to do the same.

If that is old fashioned, then old-fashioned is pretty cool.

One of the best things they do is give out The Violet Downey Award. A $3,000 cash award, it annually goes to the YA novel their panel judges to be the best in Canada. Chosen by a yearly changing but always highly regarded group of Children's Literature professors, critics, book people, and IODE members, it is one of the most prestigious of its kind in Canada. I have been lucky enough to recently win it twice, for "Eye of the Crow" and "Vanishing Girl," both Boy Sherlock Holmes novels. But the ladies of the IODE don't just give winners this wonderful award, they promote their works after that, and buy many copies of the books, often with their own money, and give them, without fanfare to libraries and schools across the country who need it. Purses are always opening at IODE events. It isn't often that an author finds himself signing countless books for people who repeatedly say "I'll give that one to ..." and "I'll give this one to..."

Unfortunately, the IODE is an organization that gets very little publicity, and young women and girls rarely consider them as an attractive movement to join. One worries that they may some day cease to exist. And that would be too bad, more than too bad, because unlike some people and organizations deemed to be much more modern, they don't just talk about helping others, they do it. They put their money where their mouths are for people in need, and for literacy.

I'll say it again ... If that is old fashioned, then old-fashioned is pretty cool.


Luckily, it's easy to correct a mistake in a blog!

Glad you found my comment on this article, as well as my little post on your piece about Robertson Davies, The Teacher. It IS amazing that he confided the plot outline of his novel to you!

I hope the muse is being kind to you.


I was touched and saddened a little, by your blog on the IODE. It reminded me of an unkept promise that I made to my maternal grandmother many decades ago: that I would join Hadassah, a philanthropic Jewish women's organization, founded in 1917, and most famous, perhaps, in Toronto for its clothing bazaar. My grandmother had worked long hours for Hadassah, raising money for various charitable endeavours, and she had longed for me to follow in her footsteps... perhaps one day I still will....

I agree whole heartedly with your comment. Sometimes we get so busy with our lives that we neglect to do the things that we, deep down, know we should be doing. I'm the same way. In fact ... I was so busy with my own little things while I was writing this blog that I incorrectly identified the IODE's full name - it's The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (not Independent)!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Shane Peacock

Shane Peacock is a biographer, journalist, screenwriter, playwright and novelist. He has received many honours for his writing, including the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Eye of the Crow, the first of his Boy Sherlock Holmes series.

Go to Shane Peacock’s Author Page