Anna Sprott: An Entrepreneurial Woman in Vancouver’s History


anna ethel sprott of sprott shaw college history black and white photograph

The city of Vancouver is home to a number of resilient and determined women who have paved the way and empowered other women to break boundaries – and Anna Ethel Sprott is one of them.

Throughout her life, Anna Sprott reached unparalleled feats including serving as the first female President of Sprott Shaw College and the first female as Acting Mayor of Vancouver.

Anna Sprott’s Origins

Anna Ethel Sprott was born in 1879 in Norwood, Ontario. She was well-educated and attended the University of Toronto for her studies.

In 1911, Anna Sprott moved, alongside with her young daughter, from Ontario to Vancouver as a young widow in her thirties.

The Connection to Sprott Shaw College

In Vancouver, Anna Sprott took a course at the Sprott Shaw Business Institute and eventually became an instructor there. At Sprott Shaw, she met her husband, Robert James (RJ) Sprott, who was the President and co-proprietor of the school at the time. The two were wed in 1918.

Over the next few years, RJ Sprott took over six competing schools, opened Sprott Shaw branches in North Vancouver and Victoria, founded the first radio station west of Winnipeg, began a separate Sprott Shaw Wireless and Radio School, and even launched an Aviation School.

After the death of her husband in 1943, Anna Sprott took on the role of President of Sprott Shaw as well as the role of President of CKMO, the Vancouver radio station RJ Sprott founded.

While serving as the President of Sprott Shaw, Anna expanded the Sprott Shaw Business Schools and opened new branches in Nanaimo, New Westminster, and Calgary.

Beyond Sprott Shaw for Anna Sprott

In 1949, Anna Sprott ran for Vancouver City Council and became the first female candidate to be sponsored for a council seat. She was elected on her first try, and after ten years, became the longest-serving woman in the history of the city.

black and white photograph of anna ethel sprott and rj sprott of sprott shaw college

In 1951, Anna Sprott also became the first woman to serve as Acting Mayor of Vancouver. During the time she was Acting Mayor, she still held her role as President of Sprott Shaw because of her passion to support students who were mapping out their careers in the business world. 

Anna Sprott remained as the President of Sprott Shaw until her death in 1961.

In a business and political world dominated primarily by men, Anna Sprott used her knowledge and female entrepreneurship to her advantage and set the stage for other women to follow along in her footsteps.

To learn more about our history, please visit our page here.

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