Sunday, September 24, 2023

Canadian Heroines: Adelaide Hunter Hoodless

By Terrie Todd 

Adelaide Hunter Hoodless

I’m a firm believer in a prayer that goes, “God, if I must go through this pain anyway, please use it for good somehow. Don’t waste it.” I wonder if Adelaide Hoodless prayed something similar as she grieved the loss of her fourteen-month-old son, John.

Adelaide Hunter was born in St. George, Brant County (now part of Ontario) in 1857, the youngest of thirteen children. Shortly after her birth, her father died. Adelaide grew up experiencing first-hand the challenges of poverty and farm life. At 23, she married John Hoodless and enjoyed a more prosperous life with this successful furniture manufacturer. Four children joined the family. When baby John died in 1889, Adelaide felt appalled to learn the cause of his death was from drinking contaminated milk. Although pasteurization was understood at the time, it was not mandatory. Adelaide fought for this mandate with Hamilton area dairies. She won.

The tragedy drove Adelaide to become involved in helping other women understand nutrition and sanitation. She convinced her local school board to send students to the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) to take cooking classes. Wanting to ensure that mothers knew how to prevent deaths like John’s, she devoted herself to the education of women. She established and taught classes in domestic science through the Hamilton YWCA where she served as president. In 1895, she founded the Canadian National YWCA.

Driven by her passion, Adelaide went on to write a textbook on the importance of hygiene. Public School Domestic Science became known as the “Little Red Book.” Since teachers would be needed for the course, she established a normal school specifically for this purpose.

At the time, Canadian society did not consider it proper for a woman to speak from a platform. However, when her friend Lady Aberdeen, wife of the Governor-General, gave a public address, the door opened for Adelaide. The pair created the Victorian Order of Nurses in 1897 and co-founded the first Women’s Institute in Stoney Creek, Ontario. The intense need for this type of organization became so evident that by 1907, five hundred branches of the Women’s Institute existed across Canada. The largest organization of Canadian women, its movement spread. In 1933 the Associated Country Women of the World was formed in Stockholm. Her involvement took Adelaide to international conferences where she spoke, promoting quality of life for women and their families through household and public sanitation improvements. This led to social opportunities and continuing education for women as well. She even met Queen Victoria in London.

What Adelaide fought for most passionately is summarized in her own words:

One day before her fifty-second birthday in 1910, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was addressing members of the Federation of Women’s Clubs in Toronto when she collapsed and died of heart failure. For one so young, she accomplished much—all sprung from the deepest pain a mother can experience.

The Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada purchased Adelaide’s childhood home. The homestead was designated a national historic site in 1995. You can visit the museum in St. George, Ontario.
Adelaide Hoodless is commemorated on a 1993 43-cent Canada Post stamp.


100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces, by Merna Forster, Dundurn Press, 2004


Emmaleen Kimball is 14 when she becomes convinced she really belongs to a troop of traveling circus performers. Why won’t anyone tell her the truth? Was the whole world out to deceive her? And more importantly, did they really think she’d never figure it out?

Bernadette Kimball is 27 with no marriage prospects in sight. And with all the men fighting overseas, that isn’t likely to change. Not that she cares. Who needs a family? Families are just one big mess of secrets and lies.

April Kimball-Madden carries the burden of a secret she promised never to share. How can she tell Emmaleen when she’s never told her own husband the truth? Joey has no idea Emmaleen isn’t really his wife’s little sister and if he ever finds out who her biological father is, it will open a can of worms so big her household will never survive.

Can these three sisters reconcile their worst fears and deepest longings before it’s too late? Will the faith they’ve been taught and the mercy they’ve been shown be enough to bring peace to their hearts even in the midst of war?

April’s Promise was short-listed in both the 2020 Word Awards & the 2020 Braun Book Awards.

Terrie Todd’s novels are set in Manitoba where she lives. She lives with her
husband, Jon, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where they raised their three children and where her novels are (mostly) set. They are grandparents to five boys.

Follow Terrie here:



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