This Week in History
The First Women's Institute
This story was initially published in 2001
On February 19, 1897, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless founded the Women's Institute in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Known to many as the "Domestic Crusader," Adelaide devoted her life to educating women in modern homemaking skills.
She strongly believed that you "educate a boy and you educate a man, but you educate a girl and you educate a family." An effective speaker, Adelaide carried her message throughout Ontario. She became president of the Young Women's Christian Organization (YWCA) in 1890, and helped establish it as a national organization. She was also a member of the National Council of Women and helped organize the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON).
Finally, her public speaking and insistence on the importance of domestic education led to the creation of the first Women's Institute. After a monumental speech to more than 100 women at Squire's Hall in Stoney Creek, Adelaide co-founded the Stoney Creek Women's Institute with Erland Lee in 1897. By 1913, Women's Institute branches were located in every Canadian province, and have since been established throughout the English-speaking world. The Institute was founded in the belief that by working together, women could improve living conditions for their families, their communities and the world. Its accomplishments included lobbying for the pasteurization of milk, dental and medical inspections in schools, the painting of white lines to divide highways, and the installation of signs at railway crossings.
In 1965, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless was designated as a person of national historic significance for her active role in founding institutes of household science. The Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead, her childhood home in St. George, has been designated as a national historic site.For more information about the Women’s Institute, please read “For Home and Country": The Founding of Canada's First Women's Institute.
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