Today, the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame inducted five deserving men into their ranks. Among them, a man known as the “father of 4-H” in Canada, the late E. Ward Jones. Though 4-H started over 100 years ago as a Boys club, it quickly morphed into the Boys and Girls Clubs and today, Canadian 4-H membership boasts a slightly higher percentage of female participation over males.
Sadly, this level of equal representation is not yet the norm everywhere in agriculture and the Hall of Fame is no exception. The Mission of the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame is to “honour and celebrate Canadians for outstanding contributions to the Agriculture and Food Industry and to publicize the importance of their achievements to Canada.” Since its inception in 1960, no more than four women have been inducted:
- Mrs. David Dunlap (who would certainly be proud to see the progress we’ve made. At least today, she could be recognized by her own name, Jessie, rather than her husband’s)
- Dr. Cora Hind
- Adelaide Hoodless
- Helen May McKercher
All four have made formidable contributions to agriculture in the areas of animal breeding, journalism and home economics. One cannot help but wonder though why there aren’t more women’s portraits hanging on the gallery walls?
Just last year, the Ontario Agricultural College celebrated 140 years with a campaign called “140 Faces of OAC“. I distinctly recall many other women featured in this campaign who had made incredible and fascinating contributions to agriculture. Laura Rose, an expert “butter maker”, pioneer in modernizing dairy and the namesake for the Women’s Institute’s Rose program. Sarah Potter, who was not only an instructor but modelled over 900 fruits and vegetables from wax to be used as teaching aids (that in itself deserves recognition in my opinion). Closer to my current home, there’s Susannah Isabella Steckle, who planted the first commercial orchard in Waterloo, after being the first female agriculture graduate from the OAC.
Where are these women among the Hall of Fame inductees?
We cannot fault the Hall of Fame alone. Their role is to select from the nominations received and nominations come from the industry. Two of the above women were nominated by the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario, but the responsibility should not rest solely with them. All agricultural associations and corporations should be stepping up to recognize the women who have made notable impacts on agriculture, lest they be forgotten.