Join us for Easter at Addie’s this Good Friday April 14th from 10am-1pm!
Today Homestead staff are celebrating Adelaide Hunter Hoodless’ 160th birthday. “Addie” Hunter was born on February 27th 1857 in rural St George, Ontario, Canada, and was the youngest of 13 children.
Far from her humble beginnings, personal tragedy propelled Addie to became an internationally renowned advocate for education reform in the areas of agriculture, home economics and domestic sciences. At a time when the suffragette movement was finding its first beginnings, Addie was already founding three domestic science colleges in Canada, and was commissioned by the Ministry of Education to write the first textbook for these university level programs. Adelaide travelled all over the province, speaking on the subject of domestic science. She was a lively and engaging speaker, and famously asked: “Is it of greater importance that a farmer should know more about the scientific care of his sheep and cattle, than a farmer’s wife should know how to care for her family?”
But perhaps her most famous achievement was to be the inspiration and co-founder of the first branch of the Women’s Institute in Stoney Creek, Ontario – a movement that soon spread internationally and is ongoing to this day.
Today we celebrate all that Addie achieved in her life, and the incredible legacy that she left behind.
Happy Birthday Addie!
To support the Homestead and help celebrate Addie’s 160th birthday, help us light 160 candles on Addie’s birthday cake. Visit https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/addie-160 to learn more.
Yes, that’s right.
John Harold Hoodless, youngest son of Adelaide and John Hoodless did NOT die from what was known then as “Summer Complaint.”
First of all, what is “Summer Complaint”? Well, milk production before the age of pasteurization or regulated inoculations for dairy cattle was a nasty business. Many cows carried a form of tuberculosis and milk would often be stored in uncovered containers susceptible to flies, warm weather temperatures and even feces from dirty hands or the cows, themselves. Containers of milk, shipped to centralized dairies were combined with other containers of milk from other farms. Once delivered to homes, this contaminated milk was left in open containers on the doorstep. In the summer time, the heat would increase the production of harmful bacteria. Those with compromised immune systems were the most susceptible to something called “Summer Complaint” which is defined as an acute condition of severe diarrhea and dehydration that occurred most often during the hot summer months. Chiefly affected were infants and children who were often ingesting milk from a variety of sources other than breast feeding.
By the time Adelaide’s youngest child, John Harold, was born, glass bottle feeding was gaining in popularity– in part because so many women were either working outside of the home (post-industrial revolution factory work, for example) and others just embraced the convenience of not having to breastfeed. There was no such thing as sterilization or pasteurization on a mass scale or especially on a commercial scale (especially within the dairy industry). Lacking knowledge of hygiene and germs, baby bottles were often not fully cleaned and nipples weren’t usually changed until they disintegrated through continued use earning the bottles the deadly nickname of “murder bottles.”
We can only speculate about how devastated Adelaide must have felt at John Harold ’s death but we do know that afterward she campaigned tirelessly for the application of scientific knowledge to the training of women in the field of Domestic Science Education. In 1898 she wrote a textbook entitled “Public School Domestic Science.” It later became known as “The Little Red Book” and stressed the importance of hygiene, cleanliness and frugality as core components of a well-managed home. Adelaide, along with many of her social advocacy contemporaries, believed that “we cannot raise above the level of our homes” if the home was poorly managed.
So, what was the official medical cause of John Harold’s death? Meningitis
Over the past 8 months, I have poured through a number of family documents, historic documents and all kinds of published articles (most of which feature the same information, clearly borrowed from one another in scope and information). What was the most frustrating was that there is a decided lack of published, cited, academic articles from which to draw upon for research information so going through primary documentation just makes good sense.
What was the most surprising, however, was that what I found in the primary documents did NOT correspond with what is most commonly discussed about Adelaide Hoodless or the death of her young son, John Harold!
Welcome all visitors–on-line and off, in-person or virtual….
I am the museum curator and have been with the Homestead since last September 2014. My job has been very exciting and I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my journey thus far. Since then, the homestead has a new interpretive narrative or story and a new gallery space that features its first exhibit entitled “The Empty Crib.”
Why a new interpretive story? How could Adelaide’s story have changed?
Good questions. Since I started, I have had the pleasure of pouring through primary documents, homestead artifacts, old Tweedsmuir Histories, articles, death records, marriage records and so on. I was both amazed and thrilled at what I found. I started reading in an attempt to get to know Addie and what happened was I discovered that what we thought we knew about her was not entirely accurate. In an attempt to showcase some of these new discoveries, it was first of all important to establish a story for the homestead so that visitors could really see the museum for what it really was: Adelaide’s childhood home. What does this mean? Well, Adelaide Sophia Hunter (her maiden name) left her childhood home sometime around 1880-81 to get married so that meant that she was not living there past that time. In order to tell the story of her childhood home, then, we needed to focus on the time BEFORE 1880 (i.e. before she left).
How much before? Well, this was tricky. Adelaide was born in 1857-yes 1857 (NOT 1858 as it has been reported. A clerical error in the family bible quickly proves the point as does her tombstone which also dates her birth as 1857)! In the museum world, an interpretation date of 1857 to 1880 is somewhat too broad for a number of reasons so considering that the homestead had several lovely stoves installed (one of which is an 1876 Granger Step Stove) and an architectural alteration that dated to about the 1870’s–namely the centrally visible Neo-gothic Arch that sits predominantly over the front door the mid-1870’s were looking really good. (Originally, the house was built c.1829-30 as a two-room cottage that underwent numerous additions over the years including the addition of a second floor and eventually the arch which would have been “de rigeur” or very popular at the time).
So let’s recap….
Adelaide is born in 1857, grows up in the homestead that over the years is expanded into its present form sometime during the 1870’s. Also in the 1870’s the lovely Granger Step stove is manufactured (see below).
So, all that being said, I decided to choose the mid-1870’s as my starting point for the new narrative. The homestead now reflects the last few years of Adelaide’s youth before she leaves her childhood home to marry John Hoodless. The interpretive date of the homestead, then, is c. 1875-1880. (Adelaide’s ages at this time would be 18-23).