One Year Into COVID-19 It’s not every day that you start a new job and then immediately have to close down the office indefinitely and send everyone home amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic. But that was my whirlwind experience when I joined YWCA Edmonton as our new CEO one year ago today. I hadn’t even met most of our staff yet before making that difficult decision after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mandated an historic stay-at-home order
ELIZABETH (BETTIE) JANE HEWES
Bettie was born March 12, 1924 in Brampton, Ontario.
She received her Occupational Therapy degree from the University of Toronto in 1944. She worked in several Ontario hospitals and sanitoria, providing therapy to patients, many were WW11 veterans. She came to Edmonton in 1949 and was a housewife until 1964. Mrs. Hughes was active with the Canadian Mental Health Association for many years and was their executive director between 1964 and 1967. She was a planner and acting director for the Edmonton Social Planning Council between 1967 and 1974.
Bettie was a leading member of an enlightened urban reform group called Urban Reform Group Edmonton (URGE), which eventually elected several members to city council. Bettie served as acting mayor after the death of William Hawrelak in 1975.
In 1984, Bettie was appointed as Chairman of the Board of Canadian National Railway; she was the first woman to hold that position. It was at this time that she resigned her seat on city council. She was chairman only a year when Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives achieved a majority in the house of Commons and removed her from CN’s board of directors.
Bettie became the MLA for Edmonton-Goldbar in 1986 and was continually re-elected until 1997, when she chose not to run again. She was the first Liberal woman to be elected to the Legislature since Nellie McLung in 1921. In the 1993 election, she received over 10,000 votes, the largest number won by any candidate in that election. She was interim Liberal leader for 5 months in 1994.
Her countless contributions to her community were achieved through the time she spent serving on 22 public and community service boards.
Bettie passed away on November 6, 2001 at the age of 77.
Source: City of Edmonton Archives