EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chapleau Post declares 'something out of the ordinary seen' as Mrs. Maud Hands becomes first woman elected to Chapleau council for 1948 term; B.W. Zufelt elected reeve

When Chapleau voters went to the polls in 1947 to elect a reeve and council, it followed "the most keenly interested nomination meeting in years", according to a report in the Chapleau Post.

In those days a nomination meeting would be held in the Town Hall on a Friday night in November with those nominated given until nine p.m. on Saturday night to qualify as candidates for a one year term on council. There were 69 people proposed to fill the office of reeve and four council positions for 1948, including Mrs. Maud Hands, who holds the distinction of becoming the first woman to be elected as a councillor in Chapleau.

As the nine p.m. Saturday deadline approached, it appeared that B.W. "Bubs" Zufelt may become reeve by acclamation, as at 8:30 p.m. he was the only one who had qualified. However, the Chapleau Post reported that shortly before the deadline Edgar Pellow appeared and qualified to be followed a minute later by Frank Edwards, who was the incumbent.

"The two, coming so close together and so late in the evening, it looked as though each of them was waiting for the other to qualify," the Post noted.

Referring to Mrs. Hands, the Post said "something out of the ordinary was also seen" as she became the first woman nominated who qualified to run in a Chapleau municipal election.

When nominations closed there were three candidates for reeve and 11 for the four councillor positions.

As the election campaign got underway, the Chapleau Board of Trade published a letter in the Chapleau Post giving its views on the election. Note the emphasis on electing "men" in the following excerpt from its letter.

"Chapleau is now apparently on the eve of one of its most progressive moves in its history; important industries are building up all around us; major adjustments to our townmakes it a better place to live ... matters will require the attention of only the best men we can get, sound thinking men with experience in handling financial matters, and common sense in looking after the welfare of their fellow men.

"Successful reeves and councillors are always men who have progressive ideas and who have made a success of their own life -- they can contribute something lasting to the community."

Major issues in the 1947 municipal election included a new water tank to replace the one built in 1910, a new intake pipe for the pumphouse, a sewage system and a municipal insurance plan. Interestingly, all these projects were undertaken plus some others as Chapleau moved into the 1950s and experienced a boom period.

In the most keenly contested election in years , the Chapleau Post reported that B.W. Zufelt was elected reeve with a majority of 45 votes over Edgar Pellow while incumbent Frank Edwards placed third.

Newcomer Walter Steed led the polls in the race for council seats while J.M. Shoup and J.O. Cahill tied for second place while Mrs. Hands made history, becoming the first woman elected to Chapleau council.

Born in England Mrs. Hands first came to Canada to ber with her husband Ambrose Evans, who was later declared missing in action during World War I. She had returned to England and stayed there training as a nurse and midwife, and nursing wounded soldiers until the end of the war in 1918. According to a piece in Chapleau Trails by Joy (Evans) Heft, she came to Chapleau with encouragement of the Evans family to work with Dr. J.J. Sheehan who was badly in need of assistance. Chapleau Trails was edited and published by Dr. W.R. Pellow.

She later married Fred Hands, a widower, and they lived in a house on Queen Street, across the lane from my grandparents Harry and Lil (Mulligan) Morris in the area that became known as Little England. They raised their family there as well as at Healy where they had a camp for many years.

Mrs. Hands worked with Dr. Sheehan and was also at Lady Minto Hospital for years. She was also very active at St. John's Anglican Church in the Women's Auxiliary and as superintendent of the Sunday school for many years. In 1968, as I wrote in my book 'Sons of Thunder.. Apostles of Love"' it was the end of an era at the church when Mrs. Hands retired as leader of the Junior Girls Group.

The church honoured her by renaming the Senior Women's Group the 'Hands Group.' But Mrs. Hands was not retiring completely as she would continue to visit the sick and shut-in of the parish.

She was also active in the auxiliary to Branch 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion and during World War II and after it was a prominent hard working member of the Chapleau Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society, serving as its president.

As an aside, shortly after I became Chapleau's reeve in 1974, Mrs. Hands and I were having a chat at a function in the Legion hall. After a few minutes, she put her hand on my arm, and said, "You have my vote but you don't have every vote in this hall. Now you go and work the room." And so, my former Sunday school teacher, a veteran politician, taught me to work the room.

With the election of the council for 1948, Chapleau was headed into some very active years for the municipality, and it was perhaps very fitting that an outstanding citizen like Mrs. Hands, who was devoted to the health and welfare of the citizens was a member of it. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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