Know Your Neighbours – Estelle Cuffe Hawley

Photo attribution: St. Catharines Standard Collection, S1938.25.4.1



Estelle Cuffe Hawley was born at Cuffe’s Corners, south of Hastings, Ontario sometime around 1894. Her mother was Harriet Drope Cuffe.

In 1919 Estelle moved to St. Catharines and began teaching at Connaught School for one year, then at St. Paul’s Ward School for eight years, six of which, she was the Principal. She was an exchange teacher in Edmonton Alberta for the year 1928 and this was also her last year as a teacher. She became an employee of Sun Life Assurance Co. and in 1930 returned to St. Catharines.

She began speaking over the radio as an advocate of the unemployed. She also spoke out about housing and relief.

In January 1934, she was elected to the St. Catharines Board of Education and became involved with improving teacher’s salaries and introducing nursing services in schools.

She formed the St. Catharines Home and School Council while she was on the Board of Education.

In January 1938, Estelle became the first woman to be elected to the St. Catharines City Council. While on council she was able to establish complete health services – medical, dental and nursing – in the public, separate and secondary schools of St. Catharines, a service unique in Canada at that time. After 10 years in public service, Estelle campaigned and ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of St. Catharines.

Estelle continued her “civic energies” through other organizations and speaking. She also continued her radio talks from 1944 until the present time (1976) [from “Women of Action1876-1976”] dealing with peace, world hunger, education, history of St. Catharines and story reading.

In 1953, she married Mr. Hubert Hawley and they made their home in Orillia.

Estelle was honoured by Brock University on June 4, 1976 where she received an honourary doctor’s degree – L.L.D. – for her contributions to the community in the fields of education, business and politics.

Estelle died on April 5, 1995 at the age of 101 at the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. She is buried at St. Mark’s Cemetery.

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