Adelaide Hoodless: Education Crusader and Women’s Activist


Any modern student who has studied home economics in Canada likely has Adelaide Hoodless to thank. In fact, many institutions that support women's rights have been strongly influenced by the actions of this resilient and determined woman. Hoodless advocated for women’s education and community organizations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when few women had the opportunity to gain an education. Hoodless’ dedication to women’s education in the domestic sciences and to the health of mothers and children was groundbreaking. From her work as a young mother until the end of her life, Hoodless strove to make her community better and to improve the quality of healthcare and education for those within it.


Adelaide 'Addie' Hunter was born in St. George, Ontario in 1857. She married George Hoodless and they settled together near Hamilton, Ontario. After the tragic death of their fourth child due to complications from impure milk, Hoodless set out to educate more women in domestic science. New developments in hygiene and nutrition were making it possible to improve child and maternal health. Hoodless co-founded the Macdonald Institute in 1903, which would become one of the three founding colleges at the University of Guelph. The Institute specialized in technical training for rural women. In 1898, Hoodless wrote a textbook, popularly known as the Little Red Book, which stressed the importance of hygiene and frugality in the home environment. The Institute forged the way for university programs in the field of domestic science. Hoodless’ expertise was widely renowned.


Hoodless played a vital role in the founding of the Women’s Institute in 1897, which sparked a worldwide movement. She was also essential to the life and success of organizations such as the Victorian Order of Nurses and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Canada. Interestingly, Hoodless did not support the suffrage movement that sought political equality for women. Still, her personal activism and very public life meant that she inspired other women to break down the boundaries that defined the lives of Victorian women. 


Hoodless worked tirelessly. She died from heart failure while delivering an address to the Women’s Canadian Club in Toronto on February 26, 1910, one day shy of her 53rd year. In 1960 Hoodless was recognized as a Person of National Significance for her numerous and considerable contributions to the history of Canada, especially resonant in the Guelph community. Her legacy is memorialized through the schools in Hamilton, Blaine, and Bridgeworth, Ontario that bear her name. Her life and accomplishments are further recognized by the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead that serves as a museum and by the numerous other organizations that have housed exhibitions and programs recognizing her accomplishments.


Seppia portrait of Adelaide Hoodless wearing a lacy top. Her hair is a bun on the top.

Portrait of Adelaide Hoodless. Hoodless famously claimed "Apart from my family duties, the education of mothers has been my life work".  This is a sepia photo.  Hoodless is wearing a gown and looking pensive.


Seppia photograph of the MacDonald Institute from 1929. Vines can be seen climbing up some sides of the building and there are several trees in front.

The MacDonald Institute, O.A.C. 1929. Thanks to the dedication of Adelaide Hoodless, the institute served to prepare students for the domestic and professional spheres through programs focusing on technical skills in the domestic sciences.  This is a sepia photo of a large building, constructed of brick.