I gently landed the Time Machine, in invisible mode, near our main intersection. It was December 11, 1951, the morning after the election for the next year’s Town Council. One incumbent Councillor had made local history the year prior, and I hoped to find out all I could about her before the results were read, and before we would find out whether she would return for a second term. As I wove through the crowd at Scanlon’s Bakery, I paused, overhearing a local telling a visitor about Thelma Fielding, Aurora’s first Woman Councillor.
Thelma rode into local politics a virtual unknown in late 1950, defeating her rival Ralph Tucker by a mere 21 votes to take one of six places on the Town Council. While her win was celebrated, the local paper reflected in the first months of 1951 some of the challenges of ingrained sexism that she would face. Alternatively referred to in print as Mrs. or Councillor Fielding, and sometimes the “Lady Lawmaker,” she was excluded by the almost wistful nicknaming of Council as “The Boys,” while later editorials expressed worry about whether or not she would be bored attending council meetings.
On the contrary, Councillor Fielding would become a prominent voice in Council during the year. She was among those who pushed successfully for the installation of parking meters on Yonge St., in an effort to curb the issue of long-term parking. She voiced her concerns about the preservation of the Public School on Church St., and the use of the Mechanics’ Hall for the community rather than industry. However, she also promoted, as part of the By-Laws/Industries Committee, bringing new industrial facilities to the town, provided they were outside of residential areas!
Word of Councillor Fielding’s kindness also got around, as she received front-page positive press for her successful motion in Council to assist a destitute local woman who was unable to afford her medicine. The motion passed, but not without pushback from other councillors, one of whom insisted on raising the woman’s water rate upon discovering that she was a tenant. Compassion won the day, and the woman would ultimately receive $23.00 from the Town, the amount amended by Thelma Fielding to cover the water rate increase.
The next month, Councillor Fielding was interviewed by the local paper that highlighted her struggles and successes, and which concluded that her election to Council had been a wise choice. It seemed her popularity was growing, and a second term was in her sights. That brings us to the morning after, as I awaited the results of the election, the showdown was between Councillor Fielding and another woman, Jean Moffatt. Finally the results rolled in – and our two female candidates seemed to have split the vote – with neither having enough votes to take a seat! As much as I had hoped our Lady Lawmaker would take the day, Aurora in 1952 was to have an all-male Council again. I hopped back in my Time Machine to pen this article, and promise to investigate more about the years of women’s rising influence in Auroran politics.
Originally published in The Auroran – March 18, 2021