FEBRUARY 27, 1857 - FEBRUARY 26, 1910

Having been raised by a widowed mother of twelve children is likely what turned Adelaide Hunter Hoodless into a strong, hardworking icon. Her father passed not long after her birth in October of 1857 in Canada West, now Ontario. Named Addie at the time of her birth, the girl worked hard while growing up on a farm until she followed her sister Lizzie to Ladies’ College in Brantford, Ontario.

While attending school Addie met John Hoodless, the only heir to the Hoodless Hamilton furniture manufacturer. The two married in 1881 and moved to Hamilton, Ontario together. The move brought a lot of changes for Addie who changed her name to the much more sophisticated Adelaide to match her change from rural farmgirl to wealthy socialite. During the course of their marriage John and Adelaide had four children: Edna, Muriel, Bernard, and John Harold. Unfortunately for the family, John Harold passed away at the age of fourteen months, likely from drinking contaminated milk.

As a devoted and loving mother, Adelaide was devastated by her son’s death and likely blamed herself. Having suffered the loss of an infant, Adelaide wanted to ensure no other young lives were lost. She decided to educate young mothers about the hazards of feeding infants milk, as the dairy industry at the time was rather unsafe and milk had many opportunities between the farm and the table to become contaminated. Due to her desire to educate Adelaide became the second president of the Hamilton Young Women’s Christian Association where she worked to establish and teach domestic science classes.

Thanks to her success with the YWCA, the Minister of Education asked Adelaide to write a textbook on domestic sciences which she published as the Public School Domestic Science in 1889. The book placed heavy emphasis on the importance of hygiene and cleanliness. After the publication and success of her textbook Adelaide began to tour the province giving talks on the same subjects as outlined in her book, and she was incredibly well spoken and popular.

One gentleman who had been very impressed by Adelaide’s speech asked her to speak for the Stoney Creek Farmers Institute Ladies Night where she suggested there be a social group for women focusing on agriculture and domestic science. The idea was very well received because when Adelaide returned the following week there were over a hundred women in attendance. This group became the first Women’s Institute, with Adelaide as their honorary president.

While the Women’s Institute’s were beneficial to families who lived in urban areas, Adelaide was concerned for the people in rural areas who had little access to medical care. Adelaide worked with the affluent Lady Aberdeen to establish the Victorian Order of Nurses and the National Council of Women of Canada. Adelaide was also able to get domestic science a part of the Ontario curriculum as well as a part of the course selection at two universities.

In February of 1910 Adelaide travelled to Toronto to give a speech. Unfortunately for the crowd who had gathered at St. Margaret’s College, Adelaide was unable to complete her speech as she passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage just one day short of her birthday.

Celebrating 150 Years of Canadian Agriculture