Enlightened Women


Adelaide Hoodless was an enlightened woman.  She was a Canadian educational reformer and she founded an international women’s organization called The Women’s Institute after the hard work and isolation of her youth, and the death of her baby son, inspired her to take up the cause of domestic reform.  Her purpose was to help women prevent the deaths of their children by working toward the betterment of education for new mothers. 

Adelaide eventually became the second president of the Hamilton branch of the YWCA and she used that role to work towards the establishment of domestic science education.  She taught classes in home economics and in 1898, when the Minister of Education asked her to, she wrote a textbook for Domestic Science courses called Public School Domestic Science.  It became known as the “Little Red Book” and it stressed the importance of hygiene, cleanliness and frugality.   

When Addie, as she was known, spoke at a Farmer’s Institute Ladies Night and suggested forming a group to broaden the knowledge of domestic science and agriculture, and to socialize, she returned one week later, to find 101 women in attendance.  This group became the first branch of the Women’s Institute, with Adelaide as honorary president.  Within a decade, more than 500 branches were organized across Canada. 

Adelaide met Lady Aberdeen who was president of the International Council of Women (and who was married to the Governor General of Canada at the time).  Together, Addie and Lady Aberdeen founded the National Council of Women of Canada, the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the National Association of the YWCA.   

In 1902, the Ministry of Education wanted to make domestic science a regular part of the curriculum in Ontario schools.  Adelaide convinced Sir William MacDonald, a wealthy non-smoker who had made his money in tobacco, to fund two Domestic Science programs at the university level, one in Ontario and one in Quebec.   

Addie’s achievements were significant and they signaled a new era of activism for women at the dawn of a new century.  She is credited as co-founder of the Women’s Institutes, the National Council for Women, and the Victorian Order of Nurses.  All of her accomplishments had a profound and lasting effect on Canadian society.  All of these organizations are in existence today.  

In September 2013, a little over a hundred years later, 100 women leaders from around the world attended the first International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in Suffern, New York.  They too are enlightened women.  Representing 33 million women worldwide through legions of global networks, they put the world on notice by introducing The Women’s Climate Agenda (also called the Declaration).  These women hope to bring solutions to pressing issues such as the protection of water, oceans, air and forests, the protection of food, tribal lands, peoples and rainforests.  The Declaration is being hailed as a benchmark document that brings together the rights of women, indigenous peoples, the Earth, and future generations.

In our little part of the world, 109 women (and men) came together in 2014 to form KPR Women in order to promote the interests of women at their place of work, and to give female employees a collective voice, so they could safely discuss, explore and raise awareness about gender equality.  It's a place where women and men can come together to work toward changing beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and practices.  A place where we can all challenge social norms and values which ascribe women and men to particular roles, where we can advocate for more women in senior leadership positions, help women in other school boards create coalitions of their own, and even help female educators in other countries to form their own coalitions, too. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we are KPR Women (and men) and we should be very proud.  We are a group of enlightened individuals, too. 

This post is dedicated to all of you, my fellow KPR Women (and Men) colleagues, as well as the entire staff of Newcastle P. S., and the four very dear friends and colleagues (you know you who are) who stood by me when I needed you most. 

Debbie L. Kasman

Principal Newcastle Public School and Author of Lotus of the Heart:  Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul

Please share this blog with your KPR colleagues and invite them to join our coalition. 

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