Mrs. Bridget Clark had a saying: “You must pay rent for the space you take up on this earth,” she told her children. “We are fortunate and we must share and help other people.”

Eldest daughter Ann Clark-Ayres clearly took the lesson to heart. For the groundbreaking pioneer who worked relentlessly over thirty-plus years furthering the opportunities of women in sport it became a lifelong creed.

Born December 14, 1908, in Sydenham, England near London, three months later Clark-Ayres’ family came to Canada. After graduating from Magee High School, she attended Sprott-Shaw School and took her first job at Proctor & Proctor, a law firm in the Marine Building. Shortly after, she joined the Hudson Bay Company, eventually rising to personnel director.

While still actively participating as a player, Clark-Ayres began nearly three decades of administering women’s sport in 1928 as secretary of the Vancouver District Softball League. Besides softball, she was a member of the YWCA Track Club, one of the original female members of the Grouse Mountain Ski Club, and active in the Vancouver chapter of the Alpine Club of Canada for fifteen years. As the years went by and the number and variety of sporting positions grew, Clark-Ayres focused solely on the coaching and organizational end, making an indelible mark.

From 1930 to 1956 she served as secretary of the BC Branch of the Women’s Amateur Athletic Federation of Canada, representing the national body at every major track meet in BC over that time. The inclusion of women’s track and field events at many of these meets for the first time can be directly attributed to her efforts.

Through her connection to the HBC, Clark convinced the company to sponsor the Bay Girls’ Track Club, which she founded in 1943, giving countless young girls an opportunity to train and compete. Over the ensuing decade Clark-Ayres managed the club many went on to outstanding careers representing Canada internationally, including BC Sports Hall of Famer Shirley (Gordon) Olaffsson, Eleanor McKenzie, Peggy Moore, Diane Foster, Millie Cheater, and Gerry Bemister.

Serving on the national selection committee for every British Empire and Olympic Games between 1934 and 1950, Clark-Ayres herself was appointed manager/chaperone of the Canadian women’s British Empire Games team travelling to Australia in 1938. A homecoming of sorts occurred while holding the same position for the Canadian women’s team travelling to London for the 1948 Olympic Games.

Her most ground breaking accomplishments came in 1948, becoming the first vice-president of the WAAF and then the first female official elected to the executive committee of the Canadian Olympic Games Association. She also served as president and secretary of the WAAF as well. An early proponent of bringing the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games to Vancouver, Clark-Ayres enlisted the support of many community groups she was involved with to rally support and raise funds.

Although living the last years of her life in Victoria, Clark-Ayres requested her ashes be dusted over Grouse Mountain, overlooking the city to which she gave so much.

Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.