Adelaide Hunter Hoodless – born 27 February 1857 – died 26 February 1910
The above dates are merely bookends to a short life, 53 years less a day, but one filled with service to family, community and nation. What an enormous amount of dedication and service she provided in her short life span – what an example to women who have, or are, following in her footsteps! So, what is her legacy?
Adelaide was born into a farm family a few months after her father passed away. She was the last of fourteen children, and everyone had a job to do to keep the farm going to provide the needs for the family. So she grew up knowing dedication to hard work, and developed the determination to not fail. She was an attractive young woman, and since she exhibited an ability to both work and learn, one of her older sisters, now married, provided her with a home where she could attend college. Here she met, and later married, John Hoodless, the only son of a successful Hamilton furniture manufacturer.
Now her life changed. The knowledge and social skills she learned at college prepared her for her new life – as a well-to-do socialite in the Hamilton community. Adelaide became known as a gracious hostess who kept a good house and was devoted to her husband and family. When they lost their son John Harold at eighteen months, she was devastated. Having reached the conclusion his death could have been avoided had she been better informed about milk borne diseases and how to avoid them, she vowed to work to educate women to help avoid more such needless deaths.
The rest of the story many of you already know. She went on to found, or co-found, the Women’s Institutes, the Canadian Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada, and to write the first Domestic Science textbook at the request of the Ontario Department of Education. All of this took place over one hundred years ago.
So I ask again: What is her legacy to women and families today?
First, she has left us an exemplary guide to success. She was determined, focused, knowledgeable, passionate and well-spoken. She knew what she was talking about, and she knew who to talk to. She never lost sight of her goal, and she expanded her aspirations as opportunities presented themselves.
Adelaide Hoodless played a role in the early Young Women’s Christian Association, together with Lady Aberdeen, the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada was founded, and with the cooperation of Erland Lee, the first Women’s Institute in the world was founded February 19, 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario.
Adelaide Hoodless gave an inspired speech to “a meeting of the Federation of Women’s Clubs in Massey Hall, Toronto, but half way through her talk, while her audience was enthusiastically applauding, Adelaide Hoodless, smiling, sipped some water. Suddenly the crash of a glass was heard, she fell to the floor lifeless.”
In short, she bequeathed to us a pattern to use when we identify a need that requires addressing. She pointed the way – all we need to do is follow her example. But to do so, we must be informed about what she achieved.
Ruth Fenner, BCWI Provincial Historian
*quoted from Adelaide Hoodless, Woman with a Vision by Ruth Howes, 1965
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