Canada's History - - TRADING POST -

The re­mark­able life of Ethel Rogers Mul­vany started on Man­i­toulin Is­land, where she was born in 1904. Her mother died shortly af­ter she was born, and she was adopted by the lo­cal Pres­by­te­rian min­is­ter and his wife, Henry and Is­abella Rogers. She did well in school, be­com­ing a teacher when still in her teens. She even­tu­ally moved to Toronto, where she worked part-time at a depart­ment store while study­ing so­cial work at the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto. She later stud­ied eco­nomics at McGill Uni­ver­sity and at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics.

She went on to be­come the di­rec­tor of the Cana­dian So­ci­ety for Lit­er­a­ture and the Arts, which sent her on a tour of Asia in 1933 to do an ed­u­ca­tional sur­vey. While on her trav­els, she met and mar­ried De­nis Mul­vany, a Bri­tish army doc­tor who was sta­tioned in Luc­know, In­dia.

In In­dia, she was well-con­nected with the elite of colo­nial so­ci­ety and ini­ti­ated a project to take $50,000 worth of ex­otic wild an­i­mals and vil­lage crafts to the 1935 Cana­dian Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion (CNE) in Toronto.

Mul­vany used the ex­hibit in Toronto as an op­por­tu­nity to raise funds for un­der­priv­i­leged women and chil­dren in In­dia. Her work won her the King’s sil­ver ju­bilee medal in 1935. The Toronto Daily Star re­ported that she was one of the few women to re­ceive the hon­our.

The Star also noted on June 26 of that year that Mul­vany pre­sented Prime Min­is­ter R.B. Ben­nett “with the skin of a man-eat­ing tiger” the pre­vi­ous week.

The pre­sen­ta­tion was to pub­li­cize Mul­vany’s “Jun­gle Club” — an or­ga­ni­za­tion that Cana­di­ans could join to learn about In­dia’s wildlife. The Star pub­lished a series of ar­ti­cles de­scrib­ing the club’s progress and re­fer­ring to Mul­vany as the “Jun­gle Woman.”

The news­pa­per also car­ried many of the sto­ries Mul­vany told of her hair­rais­ing ad­ven­tures, such as her tale of wit­ness­ing a lunchtime fight staged be­tween a mon­goose and a python — a per­for­mance that lasted five hours. “Ac­cord­ing to Mrs. Mul­vany, a great many peo­ple would rather wit­ness a snake fight than dine with a gen­eral.” Mul­vany also de­scribed go­ing on a croc­o­dile hunt, not­ing that hu­man re­mains were of­ten found in­side the rep­tiles. She claimed to have seen a woman be­ing snatched by a croc­o­dile as she drew wa­ter from a river: “She never came up.”

Mul­vany’s pro­mo­tional ef­forts paid off. Hun­dreds of chil­dren, and many adults, paid to be mem­bers of the Jun­gle Club. Also, Gen­eral Mo­tors pre­sented Mul­vany with a “light deluxe sedan” to be used for her work in In­dia.

News of her wartime cap­tiv­ity also made head­lines: “Fear For­mer Toronto Girl May be Pris­oner of Japs,” said the Star on April 20, 1942. The ar­ti­cle men­tioned Mul­vany’s CNE ex­hibit and noted that she had once sur­vived the bite of a co­bra. She was summed up as a “vi­va­cious and tal­ented woman, writer, so­cial worker, and globe trot­ter.”

Ethel and De­nis Mul­vany on their wed­ding day, in Luc­know, In­dia, in 1933. The pair was sta­tioned in Luc­know un­til 1940, when De­nis Mu­vany was posted to Sin­ga­pore. Their mar­riage ended af­ter the war.

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