Estelle Cuffe Hawley (1894-1995) was an educator, businesswoman and politician, who became the first woman alderman on the St. Catharines City Council. She began her career as a teacher in Peterborough in 1913, and later taught in St. Catharines at Connaught School and St. Paul’s Ward School, where she served as Principal for six years. In 1928-29, she worked as an exchange teacher in Edmonton, Alberta. This would be Estelle’s last year in the teaching profession. She moved back to St. Catharines in 1930 and began a career in business, as an employee of Sun Life Assurance Co. She remained in this profession until around 1952. It was during this period that she became very active in the community and local politics. In 1934 she was elected to the St. Catharines Board of Education, where she advocated for the improvement of teachers’ salaries, the introduction of nursing services in schools, and the inclusion of music in the curriculum. She served as a member of the school board until 1937. The following year, she became the first woman elected to the St. Catharines City Council. As an alderman, she worked to improve the community's social welfare services, serving consecutively as chairman of all committees. She established comprehensive health services (including medical, dental and nursing), in the public, separate and secondary schools of St. Catharines, the first program of its kind in Canada. She was also instrumental in establishing minimum housing standards and engaging the public in local government by arranging a series of lectures by city officials.

She remained a member of City Council until 1943. The following year she campaigned unsuccessfully for the mayoralty. In 1953 she married Hubert Hawley and moved to Orillia. She continued to remain active in the community, serving as President of the Ontario Recreation Association from 1950-1953, and editor of their Bulletin from 1955-1961. During the 1960s, she worked with various groups, including the Voice of Women, the Mental Health Association and the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. In addition to this work, Estelle wrote poetry and short stories, some of which were published in the Peterborough Review, the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Churchman. Some of her short stories (often about her childhood experiences) were broadcast on the CBC, as well as her experiences as a Town Councillor (under the pseudonym Rebecca Johnson in 1961). She also broadcast a segment that was part of a series called “Winning the Peace” in April 1944. Estelle was a sought-after public speaker, speaking on topics such as peace, democracy, citizenship, education, and women’s rights.

In 1976, Brock University conferred an honourary Doctor of Law degree to Estelle for her leadership as an educator, businesswoman and a stateswoman. Her husband Hubert died that same year, and Estelle subsequently moved to Mississauga. With the assistance of an Ontario Heritage Foundation grant, she began work on her memoir. She later moved back to Orillia and died there in 1995, at the age of 101.

Click here to view Estelle Cuffe Hawley fonds finding aid: https://dr.library.brocku.ca/bitstream/handle/10464/5478/Estelle%20Cuffe%20Hawley%20fonds%20RG%20503.pdf?

Recent Submissions

  • Photograph - Harriet Araminta Drope Cuffe 

    Unknown author (1888-01-25)
    A wedding day photograph of Harriet Araminta Drope Cuffe. The reverse of the photograph reads "Harriet Araminta Drope Cuffe married Jan. 25, 1888. This was made from Ann's original Xmas 1972. Hope you love it as I do. ...
  • Life Membership Ontario Recreation Association - Estelle Cuffe Hawley 

    Ontario Recreation Association (n.d.)
    A life membership card for the Ontario Recreation Association for Estelle Cuffe Hawley. It is made of metal and the presidents signature is engraved. The bottom of the card reads "Recreation is for everyone - All Ages - ...
  • ORA Recreation Bulletin September - October 1955 

    Ontario Recreation Association (1955)
    Issue No. 8 of the ORA (Ontario Recreation Association) for September - October 1955. This is the first issue that Estelle Cuffe Hawley is editor. She would continue to be editor for six years. In this issue the highlights ...
  • Article - "Reward for a Job Well Done" 

    Unknown author (1961-05-29)
    A newspaper article called "Reward for a Job Well Done" from the Orillia Packet and Times in 1961. The article reads "Mrs. Hubert Hawley of Atherley, left is presented with a lifetime membership engraved on silver when ...
  • Series of Talks - Freedom from Hunger Campaign 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (circa 1962)
    A set of six talks all with the focus of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign during the 1960s.
  • Photograph - Estelle Cuffe Hawley 

    Roy Photography (n.d.)
    A photograph of Estelle Cuffe Hawley as a young woman. A portrait style photograph by "Roy Peterboro, Canada".
  • Photograph - Group and William John Drope 

    Unknown author (n.d.)
    A photograph of a group of four women and two men. The far right is William John Drope. The Drope family is part of Estelle Cuffe Hawley's family genealogy.
  • Photograph - Estelle Cuffe Hawley 

    Unknown author (1943)
    A photograph of Estelle Cuffe Hawley used during her mayoral race in 1943/1944.
  • "My Favourite Pioneer Family" - Orillia Historical Society 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (1976-02-19)
    A presentation for the Orillia Historical Society by Estelle Cuffe Hawley about her "two pioneer families, the Dropes and the Cuffes". A genealogy presentation that starts with Thomas Drope leaving Ireland in 1825 with ...
  • Article - "Selling to Women" 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (1939-07)
    An article from The Monthly Agency Review, published by the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, titled "Selling to Women" by Miss E.B. Cuffe. The introduction states that Estelle is a decade into service as a Sun Life ...
  • Speech "Our Democratic Responsibility" 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (circa 1944)
    A speech titled "Our Democratic Responsibility" by Estelle Cuffe Hawley. Within the speech, Cuffe Hawley mentions "...we must face the fact that only by political action can our desires for society become realities; we ...
  • St. Catharines City Council Standing Committees list for 1942 

    City of St. Catharines (1942-11-09)
    A list of standing committees for the 1942 St. Catharines city council, including: Finance committee, Works committee, Civic Development committee, Executive committee, Relief committee, Traffic committee, Housing Standards ...
  • Speech "If I am elected as mayor..." 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (ca. 1944)
    A brief speech by Estelle Cuffe Hawley at the time of the mayoralty race in the early 1940s.
  • Poem - The Voice of Women 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (n.d.)
    A poem from a collection of works by Estelle Cuffe Hawley. This poem is titled "The Voice of Women" and begins "December eighth, nineteen sixty-one here at Tarleton Trees new snow nestles in the foliage of cedars; has ...
  • Rama Young People's Theatre presents "Ojibway! An evening with David Campbell in Concert" 

    Rama Young People's Theatre (1979)
    A pamphlet for the Rama YOung People's Theatre presentation of "Ojibway!". The evening includes painting by Arthur Shilling.
  • Letter from office of Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Indian Affairs Branch to Estelle Cuffe Hawley 

    Bailey, S. (1960-03-04)
    A letter to Estelle Cuffe Hawley from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Indian Affairs Branch. The letter reads "I am most interested to find that you are becoming involved in work with the Indians on the ...
  • Nomination form - Arthur Shilling for Order of Canada 

    Unknown author (1979-11-20)
    A nomination form for Arthur Shilling to receive Order of Canada, completed by Estelle Cuffe Hawley. The form contains a brief list of accomplishments for Shilling and a four page biography.
  • Article - "Peace That Passeth Understanding 

    Cuffe Hawley, Estelle (1918-11)
    An article written by Estelle B. Cuffe in late 1918, following the war. She writes about "Peace on the Battlefield", "Our Boys Reprieved" and "The Men Who Shirked". Estelle concludes her article with the following "But, ...
  • Photograph - Estelle Cuffe Hawley, Convocation 

    Unknown author (1976)
    A photograph of Estelle Cuffe Hawley during convocation as she receives her honourary law degree.
  • Brock University Order and Form of Convocation, 4 June 1976 

    Brock University (1976-06-04)
    A programme outline of the June 4, 1976 convocation in which Estelle Cuffe Hawley receives a Degree of Laws Honoris Causa.

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