She Wears the Gold and Blue

She Wears the Gold and Blue

Ninety-three-year-old Iola Knight, BA’45, MA’47, was a wildlife biologist at a time when few women entered the profession.

I started at UBC in the fall of 1942, and I decided to pursue animal work. I was one of the first women to be a wildlife biologist. It was kind of cool because when you’re working with some of these guys – trappers and game wardens: “A woman? Well, we’re at war. I guess all the guys are in the army, so we have to have women.” But I never signed myself “Iola” – it was always “I. W.”

I am 93 years. I did my bachelor’s work on fur-bearing animals, namely the muskrat, and I decided that I had to get some of these little critters. I bought two dozen leg-hold traps – small ones, they’re about this size – and I found an old pack at home that I used for putting them in so I didn’t carry them loose. I packed myself a lunch, and I’d walk along the creek and I’d find little areas – little animal trails – and I would set up a trap in the water. Ooo!

Then I’d have the animal and I would dissect the intestinal tract and various organs to check for internal parasites, mostly in the digestive tract. It was a successful venture, so for my master’s I did a survey of the diseases and parasites of the muskrat for British Columbia, and that was the first time that piece of work had ever been done.

I was quite surprised — when I first got Internet, I thought “I wonder if any of the stuff that I did is on it.” And, by golly, there it was. I had to just flash in my name and the website would come up.

They decided they would have me as an instructor, and fall of ’47 to fall of ’48 I became senior instructor in zoology. I went from being a nobody to a somebody. I also established a life for myself that I had never, ever, anticipated.

If somebody had said to me when I was in grade nine “You’re going to be an instructor at university…” …What’s that?

My girl’s a hullabaloo,
She goes to varsity too,
She wears the Gold and Blue,

Just like the others do.

And in my future life,
She’s goin’ to be my wife,
How in the world d’ja find that out?
She told me so.

We used to sing that, I remember, when they had AMS meetings in the Old Auditorium. I don’t know whether they still have the auditorium out there. Do you guys know?