Making a name for themselves

Mary Ashley (right) was the first

Isobel Sandberg (above) was the first woman to be elected to local government in Campbell River in 1959.

First in an ongoing series on women in Campbell River’s history.

Often in phone books, news papers and history books, women were known only as Mrs. John Smith or the wife of their husbands, but many of them made a name for themselves in their own right and contributed to the founding and the growth of this community.

Inspired by of Women’s History month in October and other such movements to acknowledge the contribution of women, this is the first in a series of articles that remembers and praises the women, alive and passed away, who are and continue to be a part of how Campbell River became the city it is today.

In 1959 Isobel Sandberg was the first woman to be elected a village commissioner in Campbell River. She was re-elected three times after first winning a seat.

“At the time it was quite a break through,” she said in an article by Gloria Turner on Jan. 3, 1980 in the Campbell River Upper Islander.

Sandberg was on the commission when the Water Board was formed to sell water to Willow Point, she also sat on the Centennial Pool and Park committee and was a trustee on the hospital board. She was on council when the town split right down the middle over the construction of the Tyee Plaza.

“It was really exciting then. The town was progressing so fast and we had all the problems on council of the fastest growing community in B.C,” she said in Turner’s article.

32 years after Sandberg was first elected Mary Ashely would be the first female mayor of the city. Ashley was first elected as alderman in 1982. She served two terms and then was re-elected in ’86. She served as alderman until she was elected mayor in 1991.

“It seemed like a natural progression,” she said.

During her campaign she focused on face to face contact and personal connections because “campaigning is very personal in a small community.”

Ashley was the only woman on council for many years. she said she experienced nothing but support from her colleagues.

“Sometimes you get what you expect to get,” she said.

She feels women bring a unique perspectives to the table and tend to have an innate direction towards balancing economic and social values.


Ashley was elbow deep in the workings of the community long before she even thought of being on council. After moving to Campbell River in 1970 , when the town was around 7,000 people strong and she has watched it grow.

“Arts and culture has grown a lot,” she said. “Campbell River is pretty well rounded now.”

Ashley got involved with doing arts and crafts at the Salmon Festival. She volunteered with the Hospital Auxiliary . She was a founding member of both the Hospital Foundation and the Community Foundation.

Despite her long lasting and ongoing contributions to the community, Ashley will take none of the credit.

“I didn’t do any of it alone,” she said. “But it is great to see what ’s been accomplished by groups I’ve been involved in.”