Charlotte Whitton, social worker, politician, feminist (b at Renfrew, Ont 8 Mar 1896; d at Ottawa 25 Jan 1975). Whitton was one of this century's most colourful and controversial women. Pugnacious and energetic, she is best remembered as Ottawa's flamboyant and outspoken mayor during the 1950s and 1960s. Her more significant accomplishments, however, occurred during her earlier career as the director and driving force behind the Canadian Council on Child Welfare (later the Canadian Welfare Council and the CANADIAN COUNCIL ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
) from 1920 to 1941. Whitton joined the fledgling council after a brilliant academic career at Queen's during WWI. In the 1920s she crusaded relentlessly for professional standards in the care of juvenile immigrants and neglected and dependent children. During the Depression, she became a key adviser on federal unemployment relief policy. An arch social conservative, however, Whitton's opposition to more liberal spending on the unemployed in the 1930s placed her increasingly on the margins of Canadian SOCIAL WORK
After resigning from the Welfare Council in 1941, Whitton championed women's equality in politics and the workplace. However, her views on women, as on the WELFARE STATE, were contradictory. She opposed more liberal divorce laws and criticized married women who worked. Elected as a controller to Ottawa's municipal council in 1950, Whitton became the first woman mayor of a major Canadian city in 1951. She was re-elected mayor in 1952 and 1954, and again in 1960 and 1962. Defeated in 1964, Whitton continued as an alderman until her retirement from politics in 1972. Her tenure as mayor was notable chiefly for her stormy verbal and, in one celebrated instance, physical battles with hostile male colleagues.
Whitton founded the Canadian Welfare Council and was mayor of Ottawa when this picture was taken in 1951 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-121981).
P.T. Rooke and R.L. Schnell, No Bleeding Heart: Charlotte Whitton a Feminist on the Right (1987).