Adelaide Hoodless (1857-1910) and the International Women’s Institute Movement


Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead National Historical Site
359 Blue Lake Road St.George, ON, N0E 1N0

Following the death of her youngest son in 1889 from possible contaminated milk consumption, Adelaide Hoodless began championing the development of domestic sciences for farming women. As the second president of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) from 1890 to 1902, Adeline had a public platform to spread her ideas of rural education reform. She was asked by the Minister of Education to develop a curriculum that she called, Public School Domestic Science, which became known as, “The Little Red Book.” Canada’s first domestic science textbook outlined the importance of sanitation, nutrition and frugality in food preparation. Lecturing throughout Ontario, she advocated for gender distinctions in public education leading to Home Economics taught in schools for girls. Through the patronage of Sir William Macdonald, a tobacco tycoon, the domestic sciences began to be taught at the university level. Opening in 1903, the Macdonald Institute, at University of Guelph initially featured instruction for young women in nature studies, manual training, domestic arts and domestic science.

Adelaide Hoodless’ popular ideology led her to collaborate on establishing other civic organizations including, the National Council of Women and the Canadian branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses which brought much needed medical care to rural areas. The Women’s Institutes (WI) grew organically out of Adelaide’s determination and networking savvy and led to many public health and new safety standards, such as the pasteurization of milk, painted lane lines on roads, and “best-before” dates on food packaging. In 1919, the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada  was formed to provide a united national voice for homemakers across Canada. The WI expanded next to England with approximately nine million members in more than 70 countries.  Sharing skills about growing food and healthy eating remain central to the WI, while singing and crafting continue to also play an important role in the monthly meetings.

Photo: Adelaide Hoodless with three of her children, circa 1887
Courtesy of Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead National Historical Site, St. George, Ontario

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