Hamilton’s Patron Saint
Henderson broke barriers as a politician and humanitarian
By Graham Crawford, Hamilton HIStory + HERitage
Her name is in the news today, much as it was throughout her adult life. From her time as a journalist with the Hamilton Herald in the 1920s, to being Canada’s first elected woman Controller in 1935, to her role with the Children’s Aid Society of Ontario in the 1940s, to the current debate about removing her name from the hospital that bears it, Nora Frances Henderson shook things up both socially and politically in the region.
Born in England on March 9, 1897, Henderson moved with her family to Winona in 1913, before re-locating to Hamilton in 1918. The following year, she began writing for the Herald. In 1925, as the Women’s Editor, Henderson used her power with the pen to advance the role of women, including the appointment of four women to the board of the General Hospital.
In 1931, backed by the local Council of Women, Henderson was elected as alderman of Ward 1 on the mountain, becoming the first woman ever named to Hamilton’s City Council. In 1935, she was elected to the city’s Board of Control, the first woman in Canada to hold such a position. But, it was her controversial crossing of the picket line during the 1946 Stelco strike that cost Henderson her seat on Council after 16 years in politics.
Henderson died on March 23, 1949, at the age of 52. The hospital named in her honour, at least for the moment, opened in 1954. A permanent display commemorating her achievements was installed near the hospital’s public elevators in mid-December.