By Mary Cook Citizen special correspondent CARLETON PLACE (Special) February 22 1974
Those people who are directly-responsible for the welfare of the county of Lanark, the elected representatives, would concur the county is a beautiful place to live in, the urban centres modern and progressive, the people alert to new ideas and keenly aware of the need for continuing progress. In the most part they would be right, however there is one area in which the county is completely backward – that is in the electing or appointment of women to municipal or community office.
A recent survey within town offices in the county found the town of Almonte was the most progressive in appointment of women to town positions. After a recent resignation of a council member a woman was appointed to fill the post. The direct opposite is true in the town of Carleton Place. It is next to impossible to get elected by public ballot in this town of 5,000 let alone be appointed to any board of any significance if one is female.
Two women ran during the last municipal election and both trailed at the polls miserably. Only one woman was ever successful at the Carleton Place polls and that was more than *20 years ago. Of the 46 appointed people to eight different town boards only five are women and those five have been strategically placed on boards which have little or nothing to do with the actual workings of the town.
Two of the five are on the library board, a nice quiet place, where the main concern is to keep the shelves stocked with good books and the library working within its allotted budget. One woman is on the community centre board and two are on the committee which jointly handles parks and recreation.
The hospital board always been male dominated with the president of the hospital auxiliary the only woman allowed into the group. Almonte boards contrast greatly in that not only does the board have several female members, its chairman is Mrs. Barbara Potvin, a dynamic leader who carries on the hospital business in a manner enviable to many other boards and organizations.
Perhaps the glaring example of discrimination appears in the Industrial Commission of all three towns. A woman has never been part of this committee which operates much like an exclusive private club. In Carleton Place council has no control over the committee’s appointment and until it is notified by the Industrial Commission is unaware of who a new member might be. No one seems to know how or why new members are chosen but women on the Industrial Commission so far have been strictly taboo.
All male committee Almonte has one female on its planning board and Perth has two but again Carleton Place hasn’t made the leap from an all male committee since the start of the board many years ago. Perth’s lone female councillor, Mrs. M. R. Church, headed the polls in the last municipal election and although most of the council appointed committee members are male, Mrs. C. C. Inderwick heads the historic Preservation Committee and the Perth Museum board.
The rural areas are not much different from the three urban centres. Marilyn Tufts, from North Elmsley, and Eleanor Brady, of Bathurst, are the only elected representatives from 12 townships in the county. In the rural areas very few women have ever sought public office which accounts for the scarcity in those regions and rarity are women appointed by rural councils to sit on committees. No one has a pat answer as to why women are so scarce on the government scene. Carleton Place Mayor Eldon Henderson said he has tried on many occasions to get women to run for public office with little success. Allan Code, deputy of Carleton Place, said he would like to see more women politically active but doubts they are really interested.
However the fact remains that few women are chosen for appointed jobs which would directly affect the basic running of the town. There is no woman on the Industrial Commission so questions asked directly relating to the employee’s families such as school, shopping and housing are answered by men. One civic minded female from Carleton Place sums up the situation this way. “Women have a lot to offer but for some reason men are terribly afraid they might lose some of their prestige if they open their doors to women in public office. This situation isn’t so prevalent in big government or larger urban areas but it’s almost an illness in the smaller communities”.
She asked to remain anonymous she doesn’t want to jeopardize her chances of ever being appointed to a committee or being elected to public office.
Here is your Carleton Place question today. How many women have been in Carleton Place government? Only 7 since 1901 when Dr. Preston became the first mayor (before that there were reeves)
Wendy LeBlanc (mayor)
Melba Baker (mayor)
- The Ottawa Citizen,
- 07 Dec 1954, Tue,
- Page 4
- Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and theSherbrooke Record and and Screamin’ Mamas (USACome and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place. Tales of Almonte and Arnprior Then and Now.