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1912 the first Canadian Big Sisters agency formed by Florence Gooderham Huestis

Big Sisters began as a “small sub-committee of the Local Council of Women, initiated by Florence Huestis, the President in answer to a request for assistance from the judge of Toronto’s newly established juvenile court.”

This was just one example of how Florence, adopted daughter of Henry Gooderham, had turned her own early difficult circumstances into a powerful tool of transformative action to help others.

Florence Gooderham Hamilton Huestis b1872 

Henry Gooderham, fourth son of William Gooderham, and his wife, Mary Webster Hamilton had no children.  They adopted Flora Hamilton, granddaughter of Mary’s father, William Hamilton following his death in 1880. Was she the offspring of a son or a daughter of William Hamilton?  Attempts by descendants to discover the answer have been unsuccessful. Flora’s origins were the subject of much gossip among the Toronto elite.   

She was not baptized until her adoption by Henry Gooderham at which time her legal name became Florence Gooderham Hamilton. Florence, by virtue of her adoption by Henry Gooderham, was protected to some extent from the difficulties of her unknown parentage.

At age twenty Florence married Archibald Morrison Huestis who had recently arrived from Halifax, and four daughters were born in quick succession.

Florence Gooderham Huestis was driven by a strong desire to contribute her time and effort to improving the lot of those less fortunate than herself. As a Methodist, with many examples of philanthropy in the Gooderham family, she immersed herself in social action.  Her accomplishments were remarkable and wide-ranging.

As President of the Council of Women in Toronto, Florence initiated many projects that would now be considered government responsibilities. Under her guidance, a depot securing a supply of pure milk was set up for infants. As convenor of the Public Health Committee of the Local Council of Women, she was instrumental in causing the city to filtrate drinking water and improve the sewage disposal systems.

She was responsible for the erection of twenty-four model apartments for women, which led to the passage of the Mother’s Pension Act.  She and others had contributed to a fund to test the practicality of caring for six mothers and twenty-two children for two years to demonstrate the feasibility of such a program.  She devoted much time to the National Social Hygiene Council of Canada becoming the National Vice President.   She was the First Vice-President of Women’s College Hospital.

It is a remarkable legacy left behind by a little girl who began life in difficult circumstances.

Adapted from Kathy Weekes Southee's essay written in 2009, The Story of Florence Gooderham Hamilton Huestis found on our website here:

1912 the first Canadian Big Sisters agency formed by Florence Gooderham Huestis

A remarkable woman, born under a cloud, becomes a powerhouse for social change and the betterment of society

Owner of originalKathy Weekes
Linked toHenry Gooderham; Florence Gooderham Hamilton

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