Women for Music Society celebrates 60 years of book sales

Organization supporting music groups in Halifax continues long-running fundraiser

4 min read
caption The front display at the Women for Music Society's Fall Book Sale in Maritime Hall at the Halifax Forum. The sale fundraises for music groups such as Symphony Nova Scotia.
Karsten Greene

More than 1,000 people paid a visit to the Halifax Forum’s Maritime Hall this past weekend for the 60th fall book sale hosted by the Women for Music Society.  

As attendees entered the hall they were greeted at the door by members of the society. Admission was free, and from there they were free to browse the vast selection of books laid out on rows of tables, each housing different sections.

The sale, held twice a year during spring and fall, has raised more than $200,000 in the last ten years for classical music groups and programs across Nova Scotia, most notably Symphony Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra. It is likely one of Halifax’s longest-running charity events.

Eleanor Bates, an avid reader of literary fiction and mysteries, has attended the fall book sale for the last several years. She buys books for herself and as gifts for her family. This year she was browsing the crafts and hobbies section looking for books for her grandchildren. She cites the book sale’s variety and the relatively low prices as her reasons for returning each year. She also said she thinks it’s important to support groups promoting the arts in the community, such as the Women for Music Society. 

“It’s a good spot to be,” Bates said. “These women have been working for years to contribute to Cecilia Concerts and the symphony, and I think that it’s wonderful to support the music and culture and art situation in Halifax.”

The society has a storied history dating back to 1951. Originally named the Women’s Auxiliary of the Halifax Symphonette, the organization formed as a grassroots effort by a group of women with a deep love of classical music to form a symphony orchestra in their city, according to their website.

In the early years, the group initially hosted a variety of fundraisers, including a fashion show, but it was the book sale that proved the most successful, raising $2,000 in its inaugural year, 1962, and since then has become what the society is best known for, said Margaret Swift, the society’s communications and book depot director.

Swift credits the group’s longevity to the support of the community in Halifax, as well as the enthusiasm of its volunteers, many of whom are retirees looking to dedicate their time to a worthwhile cause. The success of said cause only further encourages them, she said.

“A lot of the musicians will actually come as a guest [to our meetings],” Swift said. “So, we hear about where the money is going and what it’s being used and I think people need that . . . feedback to know we’re not just throwing money at people. We hear back what we’ve used it for and what they’ve done.”

When asked about the future prospects of the society and the book sale, Swift said she was unsure, but was still optimistic. She pointed to challenges that the organization has faced in the last 10 years, such as the advent of ebooks, which the group feared would make the sale obsolete, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced them to cancel the sale in 2020. 

“I don’t know what the future is,” she said. “Who knows what life is going to throw at us, but you know, we love our musicians, we love our music and we would like to support it.”

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About the author

Karsten Greene

Karsten Greene is a Master of Journalism student at King's. He's passionate about storytelling and hopes to make a difference through it.

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