Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was born in St. George on February 27, 1858. Hoodless exemplified women supporting women. She cofounded the Women’s Institute.
Hoodless dedicated her life to ensuring women had educational opportunities. She was called one of the most famous Canadian women yet one of the most obscure.
The Matriarch of WI is also credited as a founder of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the National Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), and was remembered as a significant force behind the formation of three faculties of Household Science.
Upon her death, she was remembered as ‘A Woman with a Vision.’
Hoodless came from a hardworking farm family near St. George, Ontario. Her family struggled economically following the premature death of her father.
In 1881, she married an affluent furniture manufacturer, moved to Hamilton, and had four children. Her youngest died at 14 months, and she blamed the tragedy on poisoning caused by contaminated milk. Hoodless lamented a lack of knowledge on her part.
Following her baby’s death, she became an advocate for the domestic sciences and the education of women.
“It was often a rocky road, and only after a bitter fight did she succeed in having domestic science introduced in Hamilton schools,” said an excerpt from the ‘100 Women of the British Columbia Women’s Institute 1909-2009.’
In 1891, Adelaide became interested in the Hamilton Young Women’s Christian Association, especially in furthering efforts to teach girls better ‘household work methods.’
Adelaide joined the Hamilton Young Women’s Christian Association to educate girls on improved household management. In 1893, she was elected President and led delegates from the organization to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
“She participated in the International Council of Women that met in Chicago of 1891′. In October of that year, the National Council of Women of Canada formed, with Mrs. Hoodless elected treasurer.”
Her most outstanding achievement was creating the Women’s Institute (WI) to equal the Farmer’s Institute. Hoodless intended to raise standards on the domestic front.
She was a strong advocate to keep domestic science courses in schools and universities until her sudden death in 1910. Adelaide died of a brain aneurism while giving a speech at one of her venues.
“A nation cannot rise above the level of its homes; we women must work and study together to raise our homes to the highest possible level,” she was quoted as saying before her death.
In the same year of Hoodless’s death, Prime Minister Wilfrid-Laurier made the statement.
“The twentieth century belongs to Canada.”
Hoodless’s contributions ensured that ‘Canada’ also included women and families.
The WI gained traction across Canada and was recognized as a national organization in 1919. In addition, the Institute spread across the world after being introduced to Britain by Madge Watt of B.C.
In 1933, The Associated Country Women of the World was established.
Adelaide’s childhood home was purchased and restored by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada to honour the visionary matriarch.