Janet Craig O’Brien Kemp– Women of Lanark County – Mary Beth Wylie

Janet Craig O’Brien Kemp– Women of Lanark County  – Mary Beth Wylie

Photo and text thanks to Mary Beth Wylie

Hi Linda

This is the history of a Lanark County woman who was a pioneer in Women’s Rights.

My Great Aunt Janet Craig O’Brien (1864-1960) was the granddaughter of the first Darling township pioneer Hugh O’Brien (arrival from Ireland in 1821) and Laura Tooley (daughter of his American immigrant neighbour Lemuel Tooley). They homesteaded in Tatlock adjacent to the current OMYA mine site. 

She was the daughter of Edward O’Brien and Martha Dunn (who had arrived in Canada with her widowed mother in 1848, at age 8).

In 1869, when Janet was 5 her father died. Unable to support the family, her mother sent six of her seven children to live with family members. Janet eventually ended up in Winnipeg probably to live with her older sister Letty Lampkin O’Brien Crawford.

In 1886 at age 21 she married William Andrew Kemp, a soldier who had been in the 90th Battalion Winnipeg Rifles during the Riel rebellion. By 1889 they were living in New Westminster, Vancouver- population 1000. Janet and William had three children during their marriage. He died in Vancouver in 1929.

In Vancouver Janet Kemp became a fierce supporter of women’s rights and a pioneer in many women’s groups. Her contribution to welfare started with the founding of the Presbyterian Mission church in Mount Pleasant district, when much of it was wilderness.

After attending a meeting of the Auxiliary to Alexandria Orphanage, she learned the need for a widower having insurance to help him rear his motherless children. She instituted the idea of women taking insurance as a protection to their husband and families, the idea permeating the Maccabees where she lined up many women in this project. (The Maccabees was originally a fraternal organization providing low-cost insurance to members)

For her work she was chosen delegate for Canada and representative of four western U.S.states to the International convention of Ladies of the Maccabees in Atlantic City in 1908.

She was active in the BC suffragette movement and in 1913 was elected President of the BC Political Equity League.She was active in Local Council of Women, and held life memberships in the National Council of Women, United Women’s Missionary Society. She collaborated with M.L.A.’s when Mothers’ Pensions and Family Testators’ acts were enacted.

Subversive elements were at work in the first world war, but Janet Kemp fought them by organizing women’s groups as farm laborers, 1800 women passing through her bureau in one season. 

She served on 11 women’s club executives at one time.

She organized the Widows, Wives and Mothers of Great Britain’s Heroes Association with the main objective of raising the war pension from $35 to $60 a month. 

At 83 she laid the foundation work for a home for loggers on the same lines as the Seamen’s Institute. 

In 1960 at the age of 96 Aunt Janet Kemp died.

Janet Craig O’Brien Kemp was a woman who survived a challenging childhood growing up in Lanark County. She was brave, adventurous, strong willed and fully committed to women’s rights.

Another amazing Lanark County pioneer.

Photo and text thanks to Mary Beth Wylie

Lanark County Women –Deborah B KERFOOT

Mrs. J. C. Sutherland Deaf Blind Teacher — Women Of Lanark County

The Remedy Women of Lanark County

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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