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Women and the Waterfront

The recent death of Flora Macdonald, Kingston MP from 1972 to 1988, reminded me to listen again to our fascinating interview in June with Pat Hodge, City Councillor from 1980 to 1988, and from 1994 to 1997. The early seventies seem to have been quite an important time for the emergence of women in politics in Kingston. Pat remembers:

I had come here in 1973 from Toronto. My interest in the city was certainly helped along by a group that is no longer in existence called the Association of Women Electors. We made it our business to monitor all the council meetings, all the committee meetings, and to offer reports on these. I don’t think the city liked us very much. But that gave both Helen Cooper and I the background for getting involved in municipal politics. I was up at public meetings delivering briefs and so on. In 1980, Stewart Fyfe, who was up at Queen’s in the Political Science department, called me, and suggested that we should look for a good candidate for what was then called Victoria Ward, now Portsmouth, because John Gerretsen, alderman, was running for mayor. Stewart suggested that I could be a candidate. I was completely disconcerted, because the popular wisdom at that time and maybe even now was that you really didn’t qualify for anything unless you had several generations in the Cataraqui Cemetery! And you had to know the Old Stones. So my response was, how can I? I’ve only been here for seven years. But then I thought, new venture, I’ll give it a try. And Helen Cooper had already made up her mind. So much to our mutual surprise, we were elected, and we were two women in a group of fifteen.

Pat told some great stories about what it was like to be a woman on Council in that era, and also provided much information about efforts to improve the state of the waterfront, then empty of industry but otherwise undeveloped. In fact her first political efforts in Kingston concerned the waterfront. In 1979 she and Helen Cooper organized a Waterfront Walk, and she made a beautiful hand-lettered brochure for it. The walk started at Fort Frontenac, and ended at 370 King Street, now the Tett and the Isabel — where strawberries and cream were served. The object was to raise money for the renovation of the Newlands Pavilion. (The header image for this post shows two women of quite a different era, perhaps the early twentieth century, with that pavilion in the background. Courtesy Ontario Archives.)

1979 Waterfront Walk brochure, top of page one, lettering by Pat Hodge

Of the waterfront north of the causeway at that time, she recalls,

It was really deserted. There was not much going on there. There had been one of those turnaround sections for the Kingston & Pembroke Railway, and there was some talk of recognizing that. This was before the Woollen Mill was renovated and was made available for organizations, for offices. There was no Doug Fluhrer Park. There were simply stretches of vacant land. There really had not been given any thought to what might eventually be developed there. Frontenac Village was one of the first to be developed in the area and there was quite a bit of excitement about that, because the developer of Frontenac Village was very reluctant to have the archaeology explored. But it was explored, and before that the actual site of Fort Frontenac had been revealed and a dig had taken place there… [Up near the Woollen Mill] there was also Harold’s Demolition. Harold was busy expanding his land by dumping at the water’s edge with no action on the part of the city… but citizens certainly recognized that. His obvious intention was to expand his land holdings.

Later, as councillor, Pat was instrumental in establishing the Waterfront Walkway. This required considerable on-the-ground and even on-the-ice research and education. I can see how Pat was effective on Council; she is one of the clearest-spoken people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Thank you, Pat, for your work on behalf of Kingston, and for your taking the time to share so much information with us.

— Laura Murray

Bronwyn Jaques and Pat Hodge, June 2015

1 Comment

  1. Pat Hodge

    I enjoyed reading this excerpt from swamp ward history and inner harbour project and found it to be accurate.

    I have a proofreading eye and noticed a couple of instances that could be checked: sentence in italics paragraph: “Stewart Fyfe who was up at Queen’s…” Would it be better to leave out the “up”? Last sentence in that same paragraph: “So so much to our mutual surprise…” – leave out the second “so”.

    Thank you, Laura and Bronwen. I enjoyed the interview.

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