A lifetime of firsts: Muriel Sprague Richardson

Muriel Sprague was born in Ameliasburgh, Ont. in 1890, daughter of Mary Tomblin and Marcus “Mark” Sprague. In 1919 she married James Armstrong Richardson. Winnipeg became her home and she became part of the fabric of our community. With four children at home, she was organized and had a reputation as a “roll up the sleeves” volunteer.

In 1939 Muriel S. Richardson made history as the first female company CEO in Canada. She became the fifth President of James Richardson and Sons, respected for her deep understanding of the business, and commitment to the well-being of staff. Her 27 years as President were characterized by business expansion under principled leadership. She lived by the words, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Perhaps it is not a surprise that Muriel Richardson brought that same principled leadership to her active volunteer life.

Muriel Richardson is a significant figure in The Winnipeg Foundation’s history. She was the first female Winnipeg Foundation Board member, serving with distinction from 1944 to 1962. She broke ground as the first female Chair, a position held from 1955 to 1962. The 1950s marked a special time in the development of The Foundation with expanded emphasis on supporting culture and education. She took pride, as recorded in 1958, of The Foundation’s ability and responsibility “to encourage promising projects before adequate support was available from other sources.”

Reflecting on her tenure as a Board member, she wrote:

“This has given me a privileged position from which to view the developing needs of this community and to see them matched by a generous response from citizens of Winnipeg and other places in Manitoba….I think with gratitude of men and women whose donations and bequests have made possible the work of the Foundation.”

The James A. and Muriel S. Richardson Trust continues to support educational advancement, youth and seniors in tune with community realities. The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Muriel Richardson Auditorium is a popular concert and lecture hall, celebrating her years on the Women’s Committee.

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