As a guest speaker at a Farmer's Institute meeting at Stoney Creek in 1897, Hoodless remarked how on many farms wives and children seemed less valued than the livestock. She called for the formation of a women's group modeled after the Farmer's Institute. 101 women and Erland Lee came to the first meeting. Lee used his position in the already-established Farmer's Institute to successfully lobby for government recognition and support for the new organization.
Hoodless persuaded tobacco magnate and educational philanthropist Sir William Macdonald to donate funds which established Macdonald Institute in Guelph and McGill University’s Macdonald College.
After financial setbacks, and some years of illness, Hoodless died in 1910, felled by a heart attack one day shy of her 54th birthday as she delivered a speech in Toronto.
The entry for “Hunter, Adelaide Sophia (Hoodless)” in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online presents a thorough assessment of her life, including some surprises. In an age marked by progressive movements Hoodless called advocates of prohibition “temperance cranks” and also opposed giving women the vote. One of her speeches declares that a girl or woman “who has been brought face to face with the great truths presented through a properly graded course in domestic science or Home Economics in its wider interpretation, will never be found in the ranks of the suffragettes.”
Women's Institutes became the largest women's organization in the world, spreading to over 70 nations, with 9 million members.
The Women's Institute Story
Maritta Saharinen and Coral Lindsay
Article by Lucy Martin
February happens to be Women's Institute month and last year the WI's Carleton district celebrated its 100th anniversary. That being the case, thirty-three members and guests gathered at St. Andrew's Church in Kars to hear Carleton District President Maritta Saharinen and Coral Lindsay recount the story of an organization dear to many in the audience.
Adelaide Hunter Hoodless and Erland Lee are credited as co-founders of the organization. A web page of the Canadian Museum of Civilization describes Hoodless as “a modest revolutionary”:
“She believed that women had value as wives and mothers in the home. She fought for their right to education. Haunted by the death of her small son, she launched a twenty-year campaign to give women the knowledge and institutions they needed to serve and safeguard their families. Hoodless’s insistence on the value of domestic labour may sound hollow today, but it was radical in her day, as were the programs and institutions she founded to teach nutrition and hygiene, and to give Canadian women a national voice.”
Lindsay said summarizing Hoodless' many accomplishments was a challenge.
Hoodless may have remained out of public limelight if she had not lost her youngest son to contaminated milk in 1889. Thereafter she campaigned in favor of pasteurized milk and opened the first school of domestic science in 1894. Hoodless wrote Canada's first textbook on domestic science and helped persuade Ontario to add the subject to the general school curriculum. She was an active leader in the YWCA and collaborated with Lady Aberdeen to establish the first Canadian branch of the National Council of Women and the Victorian Order of Nurses.