Shirley Render has accomplished a lot in her life. She’s a pilot, established aviation historian, author, former Manitoban MLA, pioneer of women in aviation and the former Executive Director and Curator of the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.
Next year, she will add one more title to her long list of well-earned achievements: a Member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
Documenting Canadian aviation for all to learn
Shortly after earning her wings in 1973, Render began volunteering at the Museum.
“It was to do whatever needed to be done,” she says. “Whether it was sorting through inquiries, trying to get more members, encouraging people to donate money, time or aircraft—whatever was needed, that’s what you did in those days.”
Then she was asked to put together an exhibit on early women pilots.
“I realized there was really no book or anything on the subject. It was at that point I decided I would write a book,” she says. “When I asked Transport Canada for information, all they could give me were two pages that listed the name of women pilots, the date they received their license and the license number—no other identifying information.”
Render began collecting information, photos and artifacts of our country’s early women pilots and recording their stories.
“In those days, there was no email or computerized data, it was all done by telephone and written letters,” she adds.
When her book, No Place For A Lady: The Story of Canadian Women Pilots, 1928-1992, was published in 1992, it quickly became a bestseller and Render travelled across the country speaking to many different groups.
In 1990 Render was elected to the provincial government serving as the Premier’s Legislative Assistant and then as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. Shortly after she was elected, she resigned as President of the Board of Directors for the aviation museum although she maintained her volunteer position as Editor of its quarterly magazine.
Invaluable role to Museum
In the 1999 election Render lost her seat. That’s also when her second book was published. Double Cross: The Inside Story of James A. Richardson and Canadian Airways, tells the story of James A. Richardson’s work in promoting commercial aviation in Canada. Again, her book became a bestseller. She toured the country speaking about James A. Richardson’s contributions to our industry and how he was ultimately treated by government.
The timing was fortuitous. The museum needed an Executive Director and a Curator. Render knew all aspects of the Museum and her 9 years in government gave her excellent contacts.
“My immediate tasks were to increase our support and visibility, and most importantly, secure our airport site, which ultimately led to establishing a capital campaign with honorary and working committees and designing a new museum,” she says.
With her dedicated team of staff and volunteers, she also began hosting special events at the museum and bringing in renowned exhibits.
“Partnering with the U.S. Consul, we brought in The Wright Brothers’ Legacy exhibit,” she says. “I tried to do something different every year. It was exciting to bring new exhibits to Winnipeg through the museum.”
She also worked hard to obtain the Museum’s ‘Royal’ designation, a personal prerogative of Her Majesty The Queen and a tremendous honour that must be seen as being truly warranted based on significant contribution to the betterment of Canada and Canadian society.
“The Museum would be a completely different museum without Shirley’s contributions,” says Terry Slobodian, the Museum’s current President and CEO. “But her contributions go beyond the Museum. Thanks to Shirley’s efforts, more and more people continue to learn about the important role Canadians, including many Manitobans, played in aviation history.”
When Render retired from the Museum, the board honoured her by designating her Executive Director Emeritus. And while many have recognized Render’s role in Canadian aviation throughout the years, her efforts will now be on record for many more to learn about at Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.