Phi Sigma Sigma became an international sorority in 1930 with the founding of its Upsilon chapter at Canada’s University of Manitoba. The University’s second female architecture graduate was a Phi Sigma Sigma, Evelyn Blankstein; she was born on March 5, 1913. Her father was an architect and that may have influenced her choice of major at the University of Manitoba. In addition to being a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, she was a talented athlete in the 1930s when athletic opportunities for women were limited. She was even named Woman Athlete of the Year while at the University.
When she graduated, Blankstein was the only female to graduate in architecture that year and she was the first Jewish woman in Manitoba to earn a bachelor’s of architecture. She served her chapter officially as social chairman and generally as a good spirit and chapter cheerleader.
Blankstein spent her career as an architect, “when there were few if any women in a profession that was considered a male preserve — for close to 40 years, first in her brother Cecils office and then for Hobbs Glass (later Canadian Pittsburgh Industries) where she designed and facilitated the use of architectural glass for stores, movie theatres, offices and factories designed in the architectural offices of Winnipeg,” according to her obituary.
She was one of the first women golfers with a full membership at the Glendale Golf Club. The full membership allowed her to golf with the men. In addition, she was a competitive Duplicate Bridge player, earning Life Master status with the American Contract Bridge League.
Her obituary included this touching memorial, “Auntie Evelyn was the recent matriarch of our family. To her, her 17 nieces and nephews, her 32 great-nieces and nephews and her 15 great-great-nieces and nephews – all were the centre of her world. We were all her children. She traveled extensively to be with us for every Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah and Wedding.”
The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba administers an Evelyn Blankstein Athletic Assistance Fund for area young people.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory.