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History Made in Webbwood When Woman Mayor Elected

It was 30 years ago today, on Jan. 6, 1936, that Webbwood voters went to the polls to elect Canada's first woman mayor. The woman who made history was Mrs. Barbara Hanley. Twenty-five years earlier she had moved to the town as Miss Barbara Smith, public school teacher.

Thirteen was not an unlucky number for Mrs. Hanley. She defeated her opponent, R. E. Streich, by 13 votes - 82 to 69. Her "victory speech" as reported in The Sudbury Star was as follows: "I had a four-square platform. I promised to do the best I could. It makes me feel very meek, indeed, to be the first woman mayor of Webbwood. I feel that it is a great responsibility."

It was not immediately realized that history was made in the little town some 50 miles west of Sudbury on Highway 17. A search of the records later showed Mrs. Hanley to be the first woman mayor ever elected in Canada. Prior to her election as mayor she had served for 12 years on the public school board and one year on the town council.

Mrs. Barbara Hanley

In her term of office, and as a member of the Sudbury District Municipal Association, Mrs. Hanley was strongly in support of the establishment of a home for the aged in the Sudbury district. She met with officials of the Ontario Department of Public Welfare in Toronto in late 1943 to urge that such a home be built as a post-war project.

Mrs. Hanley retired as mayor after eight consecutive terms and was appointed clerk - treasurer of Webbwood, a position she filled for four years before retiring from active municipal work.

Mrs. Hanley died in Sudbury Memorial Hospital on Jan. 26, 1959, at the age of 76. Funeral services and interment were at Burk Falls, the village of her childhood in the Parry Sound district.

Many women have followed in the footsteps of Mrs. Hanley to head civic governments in Canada. But there is only one "first" and only one municipality in Canada that can claim the distinction.

The Sudbury Star
Thursday, Jan. 6, 1966

For more Barbara Hanley info, click here: Laurentian Library

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.: © 2003 Heather Bot :.