IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire)

The IODE is a women’s charitable organization in Canada that focuses on children, education and community service. Originally known as the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, the organization was founded in 1900 to promote and support the British empire and its soldiers. The name IODE was officially adopted in 1979. The charity has approximately 3,000 members and more than 200 branches across Canada.

The IODE is a women’s charitable organization in Canada that focuses on children, education and community service. Originally known as the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, the organization was founded in 1900 to promote and support the British empire and its soldiers. The name IODE was officially adopted in 1979. The charity has approximately 3,000 members and more than 200 branches across Canada.


Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE)

Grenadiers' Chapter I.O.D.E. Ball, Temple Building, Toronto, Ontario, November 1910.
(courtesy Canada. Patent and Copyright Office / Library and Archives Canada / C-025690)

Early History

The organization was founded during the Boer War (South African War) and reflected the imperialism of that time. In 1899, social reformer and magazine editor Margaret Polson Murray of Montreal was in Britain when the first news arrived of British casualties and setbacks in South Africa. She believed that Canadian women should form an organization to promote the British Empire, support its soldiers and their dependants and care for the graves of fallen soldiers.

In January 1900, Polson Murray publicly promoted the idea of a Canadian federation, Daughters of the Empire. The first local chapter was founded on 15 January 1900 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The organization was renamed the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) in 1901. Chapters were soon established across the country. The IODE promoted Britain and British institutions through the schools. It also became actively involved in the First World War and Second World War, supporting Canada's efforts on behalf of Britain and the allies.

The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire reflected many of the assumptions and prejudices of the time. During its early history, members of the IODE assumed the superiority of the British Empire and of Anglo-Celtic people. Some also discouraged immigration of racialized people to Canada. In 1911, for example, the Edmonton chapter petitioned the minister of the interior to stop Black immigration to western Canada: “We view with alarm the continuous and rapid influx of Negro settlers. [This] immigration will have the immediate effect of… discouraging white settlement in the vicinity of the Negro farms and will depreciate the value of all holdings within such areas.” (See Order-in-Council P.C. 1911-1324 — the Proposed Ban on Black Immigration to Canada.)

IODE Today

Today, the organization promotes children, education and community. In 1979, the name IODE was officially adopted. IODE chapters are made up of women from many walks of life with a common interest in volunteering their time to improve the quality of life for children, youth and those in need, through educational and citizenship programs. Other areas of interest included immigration, child welfare, community health and social services. In recent years, the IODE has concentrated more on community affairs, supporting Canadian educational, cultural and social developments. The organization provides several awards, scholarships and bursaries.

Membership in the IODE has declined in recent years. When founder Margaret Polson Murray died in 1927, the organization had 30,000 members in 650 chapters in Canada and other parts of the empire. By 1999, membership had dropped to 8,000 members in 400 branches. In 2020, the organization had 3,000 members and 200 branches.


Further Reading

  • Katie Pickles, Female Imperialism and National Identity: The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (2002)

  • Nancy M. Sheehan, "Philosophy, Pedagogy and Practice: The IODE and the Schools in Canada," Historical Studies in Education II, 2 (1990).