Pearls and Politics
Featuring interviews with many of Grey County's female politicians, Pearls and Politics originally launched as a physical exhibit in 2011. The exhibit has been expanded and updated over the years to include profiles of contemporary politicians while reflecting modern issues. With the latest update in March 2022, we've added three currently sitting mayors. In its current online format, Pearls and Politics is a dynamic and growing chronicle of the inspiring women, past and present, who chose to serve their Grey County communities as politicians.
- Barb Clumpus, Mayor of the Municipality of Meaford
- Sue Paterson, Mayor of the Town of Hanover
- Christine Robinson, Mayor of West Grey
- Ellen Anderson, Mayor of the Town of Blue Mountains 2003-2014
- Deb Haswell, Mayor of the City of Owen Sound, 2010-2014
- Carol Lawrence, Councilor, Reeve and Deputy Mayor
- Ruth Lovell Stanners, Mayor of the City of Owen Sound, 2003-2010
- Kathi Maskell, Mayor of the Town of Hanover 2006-2014
- Colleen Purdon, City of Owen Sound Councilor 2010-2014
- Lois Urstadt, Grey County Warden, 1982
- Arlene Wright, Grey County Warden 2010 & 2011, Owen Sound Deputy Mayor 2014–2018
- Suffrage for Women
- Nellie McClung, Women’s Rights Advocate, 1873-1951
- Early Positions for Women in Grey County
- Influence of the Second World War
- The First Three Mayors
- Community Ties & Modern Challenges
Barb Clumpus, Mayor of the Municipality of Meaford
After scouring Grey County for their “forever home”, Barb Clumpus and her husband fell in love with the Meaford area when they moved from Sudbury in 1998. With a professional background in social services, she served as the Executive Director of the Northern Cancer Research Foundation in Sudbury, however she says her awareness of the importance of community involvement is directly related to moving frequently growing up as part of a military family. Through living in different countries and travelling as an adult she says the world has given her a unique perspective on rural and national issues that are common to human beings everywhere, which she has really taken to heart [see audio clip 1 below text].
Clumpus says Meaford’s close-knit community was instantly apparent and that she felt immediately accepted in her first long-term home. Within a short time of settling in, she began volunteering with local groups, becoming Chair of the Meaford Chamber of Commerce and then Founding Chair of the Meaford Hall and Culture Foundation where she worked alongside volunteers and Meaford municipal administration. This led to the next step, running for Council in 2010, “to help make those big decisions”. She succeeded, and in 2014, became the Mayor of the Municipality of Meaford.
She says that campaigning was enjoyable because she and her husband met lots of rural residents, and discovered the many historical settlements, hamlets and crossroads that still leave their indelible mark on the vastness of the municipality. One of her proudest achievements was to lead the development of a Coat of Arms which represents the amalgamation of two former townships, St. Vincent and Sydenham and the Town of Meaford and which the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, presented to the community in 2016.
While working with the United Way of Peel Region, in the early 1990s, Clumpus was inspired by many women who played senior roles in public administration including Hazel McCallion, then Mayor of Mississauga. Most of her colleagues who held the top roles in social services were women who demonstrated extraordinary work ethic, commitment, skill sets and compassion, in addition to the desire to deliver quality service to the people of their community.
Asked about the number of women in politics and senior administrative positions in Grey County and at the local level, Clumpus says she has been “so impressed” with the women councilors on County Council, and particularly with the administrative staff [see audio clip 2 below text]. She says, “I think there may be more educational opportunities and support systems now for women who are interested in senior positions and politics, but there are still challenges as they successfully navigate family and work life balance.” She believes that women “bring a world of experience and the necessary skills to the art of governance at all levels.”
She feels the most important qualities of a leadership role in governance include skillful listening and compromise, experience, compassion, and the desire to be of service. Whether it be municipal governance or the larger political world “You have to have that desire to help. You have to be engaged. Already in.”
Clumpus thinks that a way to encourage more young women to enter politics is to engage them early – at the high school level through an association with student councils or via youth service programs. She also thinks it's imperative that women in leadership roles set an example and look for opportunities to share experiences and to connect with young women.
Her commitment “to always go the extra mile” comes from her father who was in her words, “a great volunteer.” His philosophy was there are those, who, for various reasons, can’t do their fair share, so responsibility rests with the able. It’s something Clumpus has lived by ever since and applies to her everyday life.
Next to the pandemic, the most challenging obstacle in Clumpus’ political career was the municipality’s 2010 deficit and implementing the strong financial recovery plan that was necessary to move forward, to restore funding capabilities, and replenish reserves. Along with that came the need to rebuild trust between the public, councilors and municipal staff who she describes as “our greatest assets…[T]he worker bees of the municipality.” She says the rebuilding has taken a long time and a lot of hard work, but we are now crossing the bridge all together in the best interests of the residents.
Mayor Clumpus speaks of managing the learning curve of becoming Mayor and sitting on County Council as a very challenging but rewarding experience. She is proud of being part of “a very well organized, impactful organization that has the best interests of the whole of Grey County at heart.” At the municipal level, Meaford’s new library and K-12 school, the progressing infrastructure renewal, and the recently approved Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan and Focus on Accessibility all count as significant achievements.
See audio clip 3 for Mayor Clumpus’ advice to young women entering politics.
Barb Clumpus with MPP Bill Walker at the Bayfield Restoration
Sue Paterson, Mayor of the Town of Hanover
Mayor of the Town of Hanover
Sue Paterson joined Hanover Council in 2003 and is serving her second term as Mayor. Hanover is her hometown in which she’s lived for over 55 years, attending both its public and high school before beginning her career. For Paterson’s full biography, please follow this link: Hanover - Hanover Council
Paterson says that when she was growing up, her family was not political, but that politics were important, and they often discussed the rules and decisions that politicians made at different government levels. Her father, a World War II veteran, encouraged her to volunteer during local elections and with local community groups, and she became very involved with the Hanover Royal Canadian Legion. So much so that in 1994 she became the first woman and youngest person to be elected its president, representing its 700 members.
From there, she applied to join Hanover’s Planning Advisory Committee which sparked an interest in running for Council.
Paterson counts herself as fortunate that her role model, past Hanover Mayor, Kathi Maskell, has also been a mentor to her. Looking to someone who is “compassionate, diplomatic, and works for the public good [makes] a wonderful mentor” [see audio clip 1 below text].
Paterson believes that there's still an under representation of women in all levels of politics, citing her own Council as an example (she is the only woman of seven members).
“Women make up half the population, so they should be equally represented. Representation is the core basis of democracy. Accessible, affordable and quality childcare is just as important as pay equity.
And without those two, you're not going to see a lot of female representation in politics. The pandemic has brought this to the forefront because if anyone had to stay home to look after the kids, it was women, as they still tend to have lower paying jobs. We need to do better on this.”
She says it’s important that women are represented because they have different perspectives than men and they tend to highlight positive impacts - especially those relating to women's work, finances, and equality under the law, especially for those that need assistance.
When asked how to encourage women to enter politics, she recommends volunteering with organizations to see what it’s like to be part of a team and then applying to local committees where you can learn about processes, policies, procedures. She suggests talking to other women to find out what it is really like to be a member of Council. Paterson also says that it’s important that a person’s whole family is clear on what’s expected of a Councilor and buys into the decision, because they will undoubtedly be involved too. Participating in community events, and communicating with and listening to your friends and neighbours to find out what’s important to them is critical to success. She warns not to underestimate the time it takes to read all the local news, social media, and Council and committee packages to keep up to date on what’s happening and the issues that are going to affect your community [see audio clip 2 below text].
Her goal for being a part of Hanover and Grey County Council has been to serve the community, provide good leadership, plan for the future and make Hanover and Grey County a welcoming community that offers a good lifestyle for everyone.
After the effects of Covid-19, Paterson sites core issues like affordable housing, food security and substance use as ongoing challenges for local government. Even communication about these issues requires follow through. Important issues may be communicated through several different mediums, but people are so busy, that it’s difficult to know how to draw attention to important issues discussed at Council to make sure people are informed.
As for Paterson’s greatest reward in politics, she cites helping people, and says that as long as you respond to people (good or bad) they feel heard, which make things understandable and maybe just a little bit better [see audio clip 3 below text].
Overall, Paterson says that the Mayoral role is challenging, but also hugely rewarding for her.
As for words of wisdom if you are thinking of entering municipal politics, find a positive role model and ask questions, ask yourself what you are passionate about and what skills you have. Volunteer - join a municipal committee and then decide if politics is for you. Last, decide if you want to serve your community to provide good leadership, then plan and build for the future.
Sue Paterson with the late Marco Polo
Christine Robinson, Mayor of West Grey
Christine Robinson’s political aspirations began in her youth. Naturally curious about politics and how things worked, she had many discussions with her mother and grandmother about how political decisions shape and influence society and how political decisions can help or hinder people’ lives. The idea that she could improve society really appealed to her, so she pursued an undergraduate program in political science and became an intern for a local municipal government. After graduating, she was hired on full time within their clerk’s department [see audio clip 1 below text]. Robinson ran in the 2014 municipal election for Mayor of West Grey, and in 2018 she succeeded in winning the seat. For Robinson’s full biography please follow this link: Council - Municipality of West Grey
She sites Agnes McPhail as a role model from whom she draws strength and inspiration, recognizing that McPhail’s determination to always do her best in the political arena allowed her to attain achievements and make an impact at a time when there were very few women in politics.
Robinson is a big believer in the power of mentorship when a young person shows an interest in politics. Early in her career, she herself learned from mentors in order to gain opportunities and experience in the field. She says her mentors assisted her in developing a framework for good governance and decision-making and taught her that developing relationships based on respect is of utmost importance.
Recognizing the other women she serves with on County Council she says, “It's bold steps to enter that political arena, articulate how you're going to make a difference to the community, then get elected.”
She feels it is important to encourage more young women to enter politics, citing that “Women approach leadership from a different lens [that bring] a new perspective to the role. And certainly one that reflects society right now in 2022 when the future is really important.”
On the benefit of more women at the local government level she states, “I look forward to a day where the discussion does not need to be on gender balance or diversity [when] people around the political table are fully representative of the community they are representing.”*
Robinson believes that the number one challenge for women entering politics today is lack of awareness of where to look for information and how to network. [see audio clip 2 below text] She says the best way for established politicians to help young women entering politics is by stressing how important local government is and recognizing their interest and qualities and mentoring them, the way she was when she started out. She encourages young women thinking of entering politics to join at the committee level to observe the decision-making process and understand the commitment involved – “Easy steps, but steps that have major impact.”
As for goals, Robinson believes that being Mayor of West Grey and a County Councillor has allowed her to reach her current goal of being part of a larger group of people that want to make a positive difference in people’s lives [see audio clip 3 below text]. She says that her future goal is to continue to serve the people of West Grey and Grey County residents, and that it would be her honour to serve as Warden of Grey County, if the chance arose.
She is most proud of being part of the decision-making process of the work that Council has accomplished in the last three years along with the professional County staff, and seeing the positive impact and the progression of what those decisions mean to the communities of Grey that improve residents’ lives. She is also thrilled that people find her approachable, to such an extent that (before the Covid-19 pandemic) if she was seen in her yard, people felt comfortable enough to drive up and chat about their concerns.
On the subject of youth encouragement, she often recognizes young people for their accomplishments and tells them that “You can affect a change or be that change for your community… younger people have an opportunity… and it's a really rewarding position to have [in order to] to help one another.”
* At the time of this interview, five of Grey County’s 18 councilors are female and four of the nine member municipalities are represented by females that hold a mayor or deputy mayor position.
Ellen Anderson, Mayor of the Town of Blue Mountains 2003-2014
Ellen Anderson first ran for office at the urging of a friend. While Anderson initially lost the election, she was later called upon to replace a councillor who passed away suddenly. The following term, in 1988, she ran for and was elected Mayor of Thornbury, becoming the youngest elected female mayor in Canada until 2009.
Anderson feels women might shy away from politics because of the commitment it requires, another factor being the focus of municipal governments on infrastructure and land development – items which may be of little interest to many women.
Anderson brought a course to the area offered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to coach women on how to get involved in municipal politics. As Mayor, she emphasized the need to provide seniors and youth programs, blending new and established residents to better the community. Anderson believes that women excel at making quick assessments and moving forward with decisions, traits required by a successful Mayor.
Anderson retired from politics in 2014.
''I'm very active as far as trying to get women in politics. We need young women. Not that there's anything wrong with older women, but if we look at the balance of councils, we need young people to become more involved because we need their points of view so that we have a balanced council.''
Deb Haswell, Mayor of the City of Owen Sound, 2010-2014
Deborah Haswell served as Mayor of Owen Sound from 2010 to 2014. Prior to being elected Mayor, Haswell was a City Councillor, serving a term as City representative on Grey County Council.
Haswell was born and raised in Owen Sound. She pursued post secondary education at Conestoga College in Kitchener, earning a Social Services Diploma. Haswell is community minded and has a long history of volunteer involvement.
Her introduction to politics came with the first phase of ''The Big Dig'' (a construction project on downtown Owen Sound's pipe system). This was her initiative, and she felt it was necessary to revitalize the city's downtown.
Haswell considers time and money the biggest factors which deter women from entering politics. She noted that it is easier for women to be elected in their first term than it is in their second, suggesting there's a willingness to support female candidates but, once elected, women must prove themselves. Haswell believes women are strong communicators and mediators, who, due to gender inequalities, are sympathetic to minority and disadvantaged groups.
''Most of the women that I've met in politics are very driven in terms of wanting to get a job done. They just want to get it done and it's more the end goal than the means to get there. I think women bring a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience, and determination to municipal politics.''
Carol Lawrence, Councilor, Reeve and Deputy Mayor
Carol Lawrence served 42 years in municipal politics, as a Councilor, Reeve, and Deputy Mayor. Lawrence considered time the primary factor discouraging women from entering politics, specifically losing time that could be spent with their children. She felt day to day time management was key for success as a female politician. Lawrence believed presentation to be important for women, that if a woman is competent and presents herself well, she is likely to succeed.
Lawrence considered it important to give back to the community by purchasing and hiring locally. Building ''Homes for the Aged'' was a major priority for Lawrence during her early time in office. She worked on planning and developing Rockwood Terrace and Grey Gables, and later, ensured their continued operation. Lawrence felt that for more women to run in elections, there must be encouragement from woman to woman to speak up and realize goals.
"It's funny, you know, the numbers are huge, but I've always looked at it just like my household budget, only (with) more zeros. You've got to use common sense and buy what you can afford and know what debt over years ... can be afforded."
Carol Lawrence passed away January 24, 2019, after more than four decades in municipal politics.
Carol Lawrence, back row, 2nd from left
Ruth Lovell Stanners, Mayor of the City of Owen Sound, 2003-2010
Politics are in Ruth Lovell Stanners’ blood. Her family tree features MPs, MPPs and mayors. Lovell Stanners spent time on the Police Services Board, which was a big step on her path to politics; ''Eventually I ended up as President of the Ontario Association Police Services Board and … I became very aware of how it is possible for one person to make a difference. And when I saw that I thought, 'Well, probably politics is the best vehicle to make change.'''
She aimed to develop Owen Sound as a healthy, vibrant community. She prioritized youth programming and inclusiveness while in office. Lovell Stanners believes that women have an equal chance in municipal elections, but do not run in equal numbers, which accounts for the imbalance in political representation.
As a mayor she established an ''open door'' policy and was very involved in the community. She considers the opportunity to represent the people in her area a gift.
''I take every opportunity to go to classrooms to talk ... to young people and let them see that a woman can do this ... any boy or girl should be able to look at any politician and say, 'Yeah, I can do that.'''
Kathi Maskell, Mayor of the Town of Hanover 2006-2014
Kathi Maskell spent thirty-five years as an educator. After five years of retirement, she announced at her 60th birthday party that she was either going to jump out of an airplane or run for council. In 2006, she was acclaimed as Mayor of Hanover, and was acclaimed as Mayor again in 2010.
Maskell's interest in politics began at the dinner table. In her youth, both her parents held positions in political associations. Maskell remembers shaking hands with then Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. She also remembers talking politics with Dr. Pauline Jewett, a future Order of Canada recipient, and the first female president of a Canadian university, during her campaign in the 1960s.
Maskell strove to improve Hanover while maintaining its sense of kindness and generosity. When elected to council in 2003, she became the first female councillor in over 30 years, then became the second female Mayor in Hanover's history in 2006. Maskell believes that female politicians need to encourage young women and guide them into political involvement.
''I look at my granddaughter now and I just so much want her to grow up with a great community that is supportive of her''.
Colleen Purdon, City of Owen Sound Councilor 2010-2014
Colleen Purdon took her passion for social justice, especially matters touching on gender, race, and poverty, into her long political life. Purdon ran for provincial and federal office as a New Democratic Party candidate before moving into municipal politics, successfully running for Owen Sound City Council in 2010.
Purdon brought with her a unique perspective on women's participation in government. In 2004, Purdon led a national research study for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on women in municipal government. It showed that women represented just 21% of elected municipal councilors. Her research led to the FCM initiating a strategy to increase female representation.
While Purdon believes that women have broken gender barriers in administrative positions in Grey County and across Canada, she feels that work remains to be done to bridge the gender gap in elected positions. As women find mentors and inspiration from other women, more will become involved in politics, and our councils will better reflect the communities they represent.
''I would like to give voice to the issues and concerns that I believe are critical for our municipal government and County: poverty, affordable housing, youth support, environmental issues, and rural sustainability. [W]e can work together more effectively as a region, with less competition between municipalities and more emphasis on what binds us together. I would like to see more community involvement and consultation - that includes the full range of diversity in our area.”
Lois Urstadt, Grey County Warden, 1982
Lois Urstadt came from a political family, being the daughter of Samuel McMillan, who was the Grey County Warden in 1948. Upon achieving the post of Warden in 1982, she became the first woman Warden of Grey County, and part of the first father-daughter warden successorship as well. She was first introduced to County Council in 1977, when she was elected Deputy Reeve of Sarawak.
Though she was initially not interested in running for Warden so soon into her political career, the encouragement of Dave McNichol, fellow councillor and contemporary of her father, prompted her to run for the position by the end of her second term as County Councillor. Upon becoming Warden, she stated ''I'll do my best to uphold the image of women,'' in recognition of her pioneering role.
During her year as Warden, there were five other counties in Ontario with female wardens, which was very unusual for the time. Urstadt's lengthy experience in the Bluewater Women's Institute, the Home and School Club, and her local church helped her transition into public life. Public interaction and helping the community is what Lois enjoyed most about grass roots politics. She loved representing the concerns of those around her, and finding the best solution for all parties.
'It was a male-dominated world and yet I never, never felt out of place or just tolerated. Now, not all of the women got that reception. I think it depended on how you presented yourself when you came in. You let them know you're willing to learn, you're willing to be part of it.''
''I really like the local grassroots type of politics where you can talk to your neighbours, get their opinions, you know what the feeling of the community is, and then you can represent them that way. That's the hind of politics I liked.”
Arlene Wright, Grey County Warden 2010 & 2011, Owen Sound Deputy Mayor 2014–2018
Arlene Wright was the second female Warden of Grey and the first Owen Sound Warden since the reincorporation of the City in 2001. Wright was elected as Owen Sound Councillor in 2003 and 2006, having prior experience with the Grey County School Board and Owen Sound Police Services Board.
She encourages female politicians to take the initiative: ''I've always believed that if you think there needs to be some changes that you better get in there and try to do something about it.”*
When Wright considered running for Warden, she felt there was a lot to live up to, but the Mayor and fellow councillors encouraged her to run, and to her surprise she was successful. She started her first year as Warden intending to improve relations between Grey County's municipalities so that representatives can work as a team for the good of the whole.
''I have a very strong feeling that what's good for one is good for all. What benefits the City of Owen Sound is a benefit to the whole area, and what benefits Chatsworth benefits Owen Sound. So, we need to think in sort of global terms about our County and realise that if we want a strong County, then we need a strong Hanover and we need a strong Meaford, and we need a strong Dundalk, and we need a strong Owen Sound and Georgian Bay, but we all have to be in there together and that's what we all have to work for.''
*Sun Times article, September 17, 2009
Arlene Wright at Grey Roots
Suffrage for Women
In 1884, the Municipal Amendment Act was passed, granting suffrage for the first time to Canadian women who were either widowed or who met property requirements to vote in municipal elections. This Act was the first step to recognize women as having both the fundamental right and a valid voice to contribute to the political field. By 1917, the Ontario Franchise Act or Women's Franchise Act was passed, giving women across Ontario the right to vote. Although Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba granted women the right to be elected to municipal office in the same year, it took another two years and the passing of the Women's Municipal Qualification Act and Women's Assembly Qualification Act, for Ontarian women to receive the right to hold municipal office.
Enfranchising women did not, however, translate to immediate large-scale female participation in government, especially at the municipal level. In 1919, tradition held that women primarily stayed in the home and women were not encouraged to pursue careers in municipal politics, unlike the more typical nursing or secretarial work. Some women across Canada took the opportunity to run for council positions as soon as they were extended the right, but in most areas, Grey County included, female participation in municipal politics was largely stunted. A strong movement of women in politics did not occur until there was more pressing need for women to participate in public life upon the advent of the Second World War.
Nellie McClung, Women’s Rights Advocate, 1873-1951
Nellie Mooney was born on a farm near Chatsworth in 1873, the youngest of six children. In 1880, the Mooney family moved to Manitoba as homesteaders. There, Nellie wed Wesley McClung, and raised five children. By 1896, as a teacher and author she championed a variety of causes ranging from rural life, the plight of immigrants, and conditions in cities and factories. Nellie also directed her energies to prohibition and women's suffrage. She was an active advocate through the First World War, the Depression, and the Second World War. She gave speeches, called recitals, and became a prominent lecturer. McClung was a prominent speaker for the Manitoba Liberal Party and was elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1921.
Federally, in 1927, along with four other prominent women, she initiated the ''Person's Case'', requesting an interpretation of ''person'' under the British North America Act of 1867. The Supreme Court found that ''person'' included women, thereby making women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada.
A stamp was issued to honour her in 1973 and her name appears on a plaque outside the Senate Chamber in Ottawa. South of Chatsworth, a cairn marks her birthplace and honours her as a lecturer, legislator, teacher, writer, and ardent activist for women's rights. Nellie McClung passed away in 1951 in Victoria, BC.
''I am a firm believer in women - in their ability to do things and in their influence and power. Women set the standards for the world and it is for us, the women of Canada to set the standards high.''
Early Positions for Women in Grey County
The first female participants in Grey County municipal politics were not those elected to office, but rather, those working in administrative positions for councils throughout Grey County. Violet Mercer unofficially began work as treasurer of Markdale in 1901, when her employer, William Lucas, gave her the Town's accounts to handle in his place. After his death in 1918, her Town Treasurer position became official, with an initial salary of $75 per annum. She continued serving as treasurer until 1953, retiring after 52 years of service. When the Tax Collector Hugh Knott passed away in 1942, Violet was given his job ''temporarily," which she performed in addition to her Treasurer position until her retirement. Violet Mercer was perhaps the first woman involved in municipal government in Grey County - certainly she was one of the longest serving women.
Another long-serving Grey County staff member was Audrey (Maitland) Rutherford, Grey County Clerk from 1938 to 1960. Unofficially, she had taken on clerical duties four years prior to her appointment as Assistant Clerk to her husband, James Rutherford. Ten years later, she became County Clerk. For 36 years she was a constant presence at the heart of Grey County administration.
Other early staff members in various areas of Grey County government were Mary Armstrong, Mary Morton, Ada Fortune and Valerie Feick. Armstrong was Assistant-Treasurer of Owen Sound in 1922, while Morton was Clerk of Sarawak from 1933 to 1934. Ada Fortune was appointed Clerk of Normanby Township in 1932, a position she held for ten years. During this period Valerie Feick acted as Clerk ''pro tern'' when Fortune was absent. These capable women, and they assets they brought to municipal governance, helped spark a realization that women needed to have a presence on councils, as well as in administration. Women continue to have a stronger presence in Grey County municipal staff positions than in elected positions.
Influence of the Second World War
Although the right to participate in municipal politics came to women at the end of the First World War, women would not begin to take council positions in Grey County until the onset of the Second World War. With so many men overseas, women began to fill political roles originally held by men. The patriotism and enthusiasm of the times encouraged both men and women to do what they could for their country, including political pursuits.
In 1938, Jean Honsinger was elected Alderman to Owen Sound City Council, serving until 1943. During her tenure she was a member of the Board of Works and the Benevolence Committees as well as Vice-Chair of the Fire and Light Committee. The primary concerns of Owen Sound in her time were curtailing gambling, enforcing stricter laws on business licensing, and petitioning the upper levels of government to raise the marriageable age from 14 to 16, a movement with strong support from the local Council of Women who believed girls were marrying too young, at times below the legal age of 14.
In the year following Honsinger's election, Jesse Gardiner took post as a councillor in Meaford. Gardiner served on Meaford Town Council from 1939 to 1947 and eventually ran for mayor. She was defeated by a narrow margin, and the honour of being the first female mayor of both Grey and Bruce counties would go to her colleague, Alice Clement. Clement became a councillor during the same period as Gardiner, starting in 1942 while the end of war was not yet in sight. She served as Chairman of the Welfare and Hospitalization Board for fifteen years before taking on the mantle of Mayor of Meaford in 1957.
Between 1942 and 1945, Audrey (Lemon) Rutherford served as an Alderman of Owen Sound where she chaired the Benevolence Committee. In 1943, Hazel M. Pedwell was elected to council in Thornbury, where she served for five successive terms. Ultimately, the majority of the early female councillors of Grey County did not continue to hold office once the war ended; however, there were women like Clement who would choose to remain in politics following the war, while others would eventually re-enter the field at a later date.
The First Three Mayors
During the early 1960s three women succeeded in bids for mayorship in Grey County. Meaford's Alice Clement took the first leap, being recommended for the role of mayor in 1957, when the sitting Mayor, Robert Richardson, accepted an out-of-town position. In 1958, she officially ran for mayor and was successful, with a good turnout of women appearing for the nomination. She held her position until 1961, by which time she was in poor health. At her final council session, Clement was presented with twenty roses to honour the twenty years she devoted to working on behalf of the town.
At the County level, the first time a woman would hold office as a Grey County Councillor was 1954, when Marion Calder was elected Reeve of Durham. Calder's family was very involved in politics, and she herself had strong principles, which she carried with her to a successful political career. An active member of Town Council, she supported the arts by encouraging funding for public facilities in Durham and broader movements like the Canadian film industry. She was quick to recognize the achievements of local clubs and was a strong advocate for the ''good of the town.'' Calder sat on the Finance and Police committees and was chairman of both the Welfare and Board of Health committees during her tenure as Reeve. She spent two years out of office between 1957 and 1959 after having lost her first attempt at mayoral election, before running, and winning, in 1960. While Mayor, she forged an arrangement with Maple Leaf Veneer Co. to supply the company with water from Durham and formed a much-needed Planning and Development Board for the town.
The third female mayor was Vera Bueglas of Hanover. She became a Town Councillor in 1952 and became Reeve in 1958. She was elected Mayor of Hanover by acclamation in 1960, at a time when the town was involved in many building programs such as the completion of the Coliseum, the Senior Citizens' Home, the United Missionary Church, the opening of a plaza, and the installation of new gas lines, dial phones and a new sewer system. In her election speech she said she truly had ''the interests of the town at heart.'' Upon her retirement, there were no women on Hanover's council.
Community Ties & Modern Challenges
Community organizations inevitably overlap with municipal politics, as the spirit of participating and giving back to the region are hallmarks of each.
Alice Clement was an avid member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, determined to keep Meaford a dry town. She acted as local President and County President for many years and was awarded lifelong membership by the organization for her efforts.
Owen Sound councillor Velma Mitges was a founding member of Owen Sound Little Theatre and was involved in other local organizations such as the Grey-Bruce Arts Council and the Women's Hospital Auxiliary throughout her life. In the interviews conducted for this exhibit, the majority of interviewees cited extensive involvement in community affairs before and after election.
Lois Urstadt had considerable experience with the Bluewater Women's Institute, having held leadership roles up to the ''Area'' level of the organization before declining to pursue a provincial position. In addition to this, Urstadt was involved with the Rockville Home and School Club, her local church, and the Arthritis Society.
Arlene Wright was a member of the Grey County School Board for sixteen years, an Owen Sound Police Services Board member, and Chair for the Georgian College Campus Community Resource Team. She was also a provincial education commissioner and served on the Board of Directors for the Owen Sound Attack hockey team.
Carol Lawrence served on the Board of Education and the Board of Governors of Georgian College for many years.
Ruth Lovell-Stanners was another Owen Sound politician serving on the Police Services Board, starting as a secretary and ending up president of the Ontario Association Police Services Board.
Deb Haswell spent time on Owen Sound's Downtown Improvement Area Board of Managers, Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce, Festival of Northern Lights board, Health Services Board of Directors, and Harbourfront Committee.
Even in the modern era, many challenges remain for women participating in municipal government. Balancing home, work, and political life is perhaps the greatest challenge. Several local female politicians agreed that financial compensation is insufficient to cover the cost of childcare required to attend council functions, making political appointment feel more like ''an elaborate and demanding volunteer job.''* One interviewee suggested that women balancing family and politics have a greater challenge than men, given the primary care role that women often fill in the home. The most popular solution offered by interviewees to overcome these challenges was to keep a tight schedule and always know what needs attention at what time.
These challenges, however, are not insurmountable. Ruth Lovell-Stanners and Ellen Anderson each chose to pursue politics as single mothers with careers. Both stated that despite the difficulties, it can work so long as one chooses to make it work.
Carol Lawrence addressed the benefits and detriments to family life generated by her involvement in municipal politics:
''I started when my kids were young, very young, and ... probably there's things I missed with them that, had I not been in politics, I would have done ... on the other hand, I was able to bring different things to them … and I had a broader vision and broader knowledge. And it's really helped me through my life and through my life with them as they've grown up.”
*Deb Haswell interview for exhibit, 2010.