26 February 2010

Mrs. J. Hoodless, Domestic Scientist

J.W.L. Forster. Adelaide Hoodless (c. 1897)

One hundred years ago today, Adelaide Hoodless collapsed and died while delivering a speech to the Women's Canadian Club in Toronto. She was a foe of suffragettes, thought a woman's place was in the home and believed the education of girls should focus on making them good wives and mothers. Still, she's owed a debt of gratitude for recognizing the importance of nutrition and sanitation in an increasingly urban Canada.

"Educate a boy and you educate a man, but educate a girl and you educate a family", she would say; but to Mrs Hoodless, education for girls centred on domestic science. Her efforts made Canadian home and hearth healthier, but helped keep women out of the workplace. Under her watch, the Hamilton YWCA phased out commercial courses, replacing them with classes in domestic science. Mrs Hoodless' influence expanded greatly with the 1898 publication of her Public School Domestic Science, a textbook used in schools across Ontario, and less than two years later she found herself president of the new Ontario Normal School of Domestic Science and Art. All went south from there: financial problems, a nervous breakdown and dismissal, ending with her hitting the stage, literally, in Toronto.

An ignoble end to an interesting woman from another time. Tonight I raise a glass to Mrs Hoodless... anyone who dismissed proponents of prohibition as "temperance cranks" can't be all bad.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. Another fascinating bit (byte?) of Canadian once-was.