A Year of Canadian History – May

In this post, I continue my project for 2017, discussing interesting Canadians who lived around 1867 (the time of Confederation) in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday this year.  For the month of May, I chose to do a little research into Adelaide Hoodless.

Many of Adelaide’s important activities took place well after 1867, but she was born before Confederation, and I am certain she would have remembered the excitement of experiencing the beginnings of Canada as she would have been about nine or ten years of age.   (I wonder how small town Canada celebrated this event?  Note to self, remember to look into this for a future post!)

The early years of Adelaide’s life were fairly ordinary.  She was born Adelaide Hunter in 1857 or 1858 in St. George, Canada West (now Ontario, Canada). Adelaide was the youngest of twelve children, and her father died before (or just after) her birth leaving her mother to manage the farm and family.  Adelaide married John Hoodless in 1881, and they had four children.

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Source:  Collections Canada (MIKAN 2890460)

Sadly, Adelaide’s son, John, died at the age of 14 months in 1889.  His death was recorded as “a summer complaint” or “meningitis” but some reports indicate that he died from drinking tainted milk.  Regardless, it seems that Adelaide believed that she was to blame for his death.  This tragic event changed the trajectory of Adelaide’s life and she became a family educator and worked to educate new mothers to try to prevent infant deaths.

Educate a boy and you educate a man, but educate a girl and you educate a family.

Adelaide believed that introducing domestic sciences to the school system would reverse the trends that were reducing women’s roles within the family and leading them to seek employment outside the home.  To support this, she wrote a textbook entitled Public School Domestic Science for use in public schools, stressing the importance of hygiene, cleanliness and frugality.

The aim of this text-book is to assist the public in acquiring a knowledge of the fundamental principles of correct living. (Preface, Public School Domestic Science, 1898).

She became public speaker focussed on the importance of domestic science and successfully lobbied for university level domestic science programs in Ontario and Quebec.  However, she was opposed to the suffragette movement, believing that women exercised their influence through their sons and husbands.  Adelaide co-founded the Women’s Institutes, National Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses and the YWCA (in Canada)

Is it of greater importance that a farmer should know more about the scientific care of his sheep and cattle, than a farmer’s wife should know how to care for her family?

Adelaide died one day before her 53rd birthday in 1910.

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Source:  Collectionscanada.gc.ca (MIKAN 2266356)

For more information:

Or visit the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead National Historic Site.