A Whirling Wren: The Elizabeth Fisher Story

Elizabeth Fisher posing in her costume for one of the Toronto Skating Club's carnivals. Photo courtesy City of Toronto Archives.

The daughter of Elsie May (Hobbs) and Robert Grant Fisher, Mary Elizabeth Fisher was born November 27, 1910 in London, Ontario. She and her two siblings grew up in Toronto, where her father worked as a barrister and solicitor. Her father was a Presbyterian; her mother a Methodist. 

Elizabeth took up figure skating at the Toronto Skating Club's rink on Dupont Street in the roaring twenties and quickly showed promise as one of the club's top up-and-coming skaters. After finishing third in the junior women's event at the 1928 Canadian Championships, she won the national junior title the following year, defeating Veronica Clarke and Frances Claudet. In 1930, she finished second to Constance Wilson in the senior women's event and was part of the winning Toronto four.

In 1931, Elizabeth made history as only the fifth person (and third woman) to pass the Figure Skating Department of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada's eighth (Gold) test. That year, she also won her second consecutive Canadian fours title, finished third in the Canadian women's event behind Constance Wilson and Cecil Smith and second behind Wilson at the North American Championships in Ottawa

The 1931 Toronto four: Hubert Sprott, Mary Littlejohn, Elizabeth Fisher and Jack Hose. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.

Elizabeth's successes in 1931 earned her a spot on the 1932 Olympic and World teams. She placed an unlucky thirteenth in both events, but earned ordinals as high as ninth in free skating at the Games in Lake Placid. In the years that followed, she won another two medals at the Canadian Championships in fours skating and was part of the second-place Toronto four at the 1933 North American Championships in New York. 

From fours to eights - the "Swing-Time" act from the 1936 Toronto Skating Club carnival. From left to right: Elizabeth Fisher, Osborne Colson, Mary Jane Halsted, Hubert Sprott, Margaret Leslie, Sandy McKechnie, Lorraine Hopkins, Jack Eastwood, Helen Hobbs and Donald Gilchrist. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

Elizabeth retired from competitive figure skating in 1936, but remained active in the sport. She worked as a coach at the University Skating Club and played an important role in the production of the Toronto Skating Club's popular carnivals in the thirties.

During World War II, Elizabeth joined the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service. Members of the Women's Royal Canadian Service (WRENS) took on many essential positions in the military. They served as plotters, wireless telegraphists, motor transport riders, messengers, stenographers, cooks, stewards, clerks and supply assistants. 

After serving as a Unit Officer on the HMCS Discovery, Elizabeth was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. For much of the War, she worked in the Naval Distributing Section, Naval Intelligence Division and Naval Service Headquarters in Ottawa. Archived copies of "The Tiddley Times" from the Archives of the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum reveal that when she was off duty, she was an enthusiastic member of the WRENS shooting club that hoped "to become so skilled in the art of shooting that [she could] join the opposite sex in hunting expeditions."

Lt. Elizabeth Fisher and Lt. Josephine Barrington aboard the HMCS Nanaimo (K101 in Sechelt, British Columbia in 1944. Photo courtesy Joan Balch.

After the War, Elizabeth married Walter Luke Lawson and had a son, Robert. Sadly, her husband passed away in 1966. She was a dedicated volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum and was known for her wonderful sense of humour. She passed away in Toronto on April 28, 2004 at the age of ninety-three.

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