THIRTY-FOUR years ago Winnipeg’s John W. Dafoe shattered journalistic precedent by appointing a woman market and agricultural reporter on the staff of the Manitoba Free Press. Her name was Cora Hind.
One day last May, John W. Dafoe, now chancellor of the University of Manitoba as well as editor of the Free Press, faced a crowded convocation in Winnipeg’s new million-dollar auditorium on Memorial Boulevard and placed upon the head and shoulders of Miss E.
Cora Hind, commercial and agricultural editor of the Free Press, the cap and gown of a Doctor of Laws.
Between those two events, and beyond, lies a remarkable story of a woman’s achievement.
For the fifty-three years she has been in Western Canada, Cora Hind has been a trail-blazer extraordinary.
She was the first girl typist in Winnipeg. She produced the first typewritten brief presented in Winnipeg law courts. She organized the first public stenographer’s office in the capital of the West, and in time she became the first woman commercial and agricultural editor in Canada.
She organized a marketing service for creameries and cheese factories. She developed the first general statistical, agricultural issue of a daily paper published in Western Canada. She was the first to recognize the value and importance of periodically checking wheat crop prospects; while her forecasts of the amount of wheat Western Canada would produce annually have long been recognized as the most authoritative compiled by any agency.
Today her position as one of the world’s most successful crop estimators is unchallenged, and she has few peers in judging livestock. Add to that record the undisputed fact that she is the only woman agricultural editor on a metropolitan newspaper anywhere in North America, and the reason for her inclusion in the honor list of her adopted province’s university is understandable.
Grain and stock men who have long been accustomed to see her sturdy figure stalk among animals and through grain exhibits in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Brandon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Chicago and other internationally known centres in riding breeches, kneehigh boots, slouch hat and stout walking stick, will have difficulty in recognizing her in the cap and gown of a Doctor of Laws, but receiving honors, academic or otherwise, has been rather commonplace in the experience of this adopted daughter of the West.
Years ago she was accorded an honorary diploma in agriculture from the Manitoba Agricultural College, now a part of the University of Manitoba. The Canadian Society of Technical Agriculturists made her an honorary member of that distinguished body. The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Board presented her with a beaded deerskin coat, the work of Fisher River Indians. The Winnipeg Grain Exchange granted her a ticket for the trading floor. The Western Canada Livestock Union contributed a beautiful illuminated address accompanied by a purse containing $1,300 in gold; while the Manitoba Sheep Breeders’ Association, not to be outdone by their livestock rivals, presented her with a pen of twenty-five ewes.
Enough honors, you will say, to do for half a dozen persons, but she has still another achievement to her credit. For more than forty years she was an ardent champion ol the Hudson| Bay railway to Manitoba’s seaix>rt at Churchill. By the power of her tongue and the might of her pen she championed that line, which for years closely resembled a lost cause; and she lived to see completion of the route and construction of the terminal, and had the signal honor of being the first woman passenger on a grain boat carrying a cargo from Churchill to London.
A careful check of women’s activities in a realm reserved exclusively for the male of the species shows that Miss Hind has only one counterpart on the North American continent —Miss Elizabeth Dangerfield, Kentucky horse-breeder; and Miss Dangerfield simply succeeded in the footsteps of her father, following many years careful training under his expert eye.
BORN IN Toronto in September, 1861, Cora Hind was orphaned at two and was raised on the farm of her grandfather in Grey County, Ontario. Here was bred in her a love of the farm and animal life, which never left her. She trained for a teacher, but was unsuited to that vocation and struck out for the West in 1882, with little more than a boundless ambition to spur her on.
With her fostermother, Alice Anna Hind, she took up residence in Winnipeg and looked about for something to do. But women had not yet invaded the business world and she found little encouragement.
Some time after her arrival she had occasion to go to the office of the late Chief Justice Howell to sign some family papers. In his kindly way he enquired about her hopes and ambitions, and she mentioned her desire to write. She had previously interviewed W. F. Luxton, then editor and owner of the struggling Free Press, but he assured her there was no place on his newspaper for a girl.
When she mentioned her ambition to write, Lawyer Howell smiled and said: “Why don’t you take up this new line of work for girls—typewriting? I have just come back from the States and saw quite a number of girls doing it down there.”
A few questions asked and answered and Miss Hind was off to the office of a typewriter concern. The agent rented her a machine and gave her a few pointers, and then there followed a month of intensive two-finger practice.
When she returned the machine to the typewriter company the manager told her he had just sold one to the law firm of Macdonald and Tupper, who had no one to run it. She applied for the position immediately and was engaged at $6 a week.
She spent seven and a half years in that office with the late Sir Hugh John Macdonald, onetime premier of Manitoba, and W. J. Tupper, present lieutenant-governor of the province.
In 1893 she established a shorthand and typewriting bureau. Commissions for the reporting of conventions resulted and this brought her into contact with numerous farm organizations. Appointment as Winnipeg correspondent of Canadian Grocer and Hardware and Metal, two MacLean publications, launched her into journalism. In time she was named secretary of the Manitoba Dairy Association. Her knowledge of farm and marketing conditions was growing apace, and with the appointment of John W. Dafoe as editor of the Free Press came her great opportunity.
This astute picker of able editorial associates saw in Miss Hind and her work a possible avenue for advancement of the Free Press, and he offered her a position on the staff as market and agricultural reporter. From that day onward she steadily built up a reputation as a crop and stock expert.
Prior to securing a position on the staff of the Free Press she had established a marketing service for creameries and cheese factories in Manitoba, and hardly was she settled in her new position than she began to collect statistics on livestock shipments out of the West, an unheard-of procedure up to that time.
A Crop Expert
'T'HREE YEARS after Miss Hind assumed her new posi•E tion an agricultural crisis enveloped Western Canada. This crisis, incidentally, was the medium which contributed most to her international reputation as a crop expert.
It was in 1904 that black rust first made its appearance in the Western Canadian wheat fields. Prairie farmers knew practically nothing of this blight, which hitherto had been confined to the United States. No one knew what to do. Crop experts in the employ of Chicago, Minneapolis and Kansas City grain firms came up, looked over the fields and solemnly wagged their heads.
“Thirty-five million bushels for the whole of the Canadian
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West,” they predicted gloomily, and went away to let the West stew in the juice of dread and uncertainty.
But the Free Press and Miss Hind were not altogether convinced the American experts were right. They decided to make a personal exploration tour, and Miss Hind was elected for the grain census-taker’s job.
“When we came back,” Miss Hind related with a twinkle in her eye, “I made a public estimate that the crop would yield between fifty and fifty-five million bushels and the financial and implement men heaved a sigh of relief. And what were the final figures? Fifty-four and a half million bushels. Beginner’s luck.” she concluded, with a shrug of her shoulders.
But it wasn’t beginner’s luck, as subsequent events proved. This crisis in the agricultural life of the West convinced Miss Hind and Mr. Dafoe that the Free Press could contribute a real service to the whole of Canada by making a yearly forecast of the wheat crop, based on reliable information gathered in the most efficient manner possible.
They tried a number of experiments to determine the best method of assembling this information. For a time picked field men who knew a stand of wheat when they saw one were sent out under Miss Hind’s personal supervision, but the cost of this was prohibitive. Then was adopted a scheme embracing reports from 365 corresjxrndents, which was successfully followed for many years, until the paper discontinued them in 1933.
Station agents, country schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, country bankers of long standing, the odd elevator agent—anyone who had knowledge of local conditions— were appointed local representatives, and at stated intervals sent in telegraphic reports containing specified information.
These data were compiled in a huge table and published in the Free Press. It was always released in the morning paper, and from the time this information was set in type until the presses started to roll, every 1 possibility of leakage was guarded against, for as soon as the Winnipeg Grain Exchange was open the following morning her progress report on Western Canada’s wheat crop was flashed to Minneapolis, Kansas City, Chicago, New York, Liverpool, London, Rome, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne— in fact every corner of the world that was interested in wheat. It was world news being assembled in that steamy composing room, and every person interested got a fair break and no more.
These progress reports at intervals during the summer were followed by personal inspection covering many thousands of miles across the three provinces. In the early days she covered the West single-handed, travelling by freiglit, horse and buggy or any conveyance that would take her where she wanted to go. In later years she travelled by car and as the wheat area expanded she was ably assisted by R. M. Scott.
These two indefatigable investigators climbed over fences into wheat fields, probed in the ground to find out how much moisture was there, shucked the green kernels of wheat to see how they were filling out, examined the stalks to find out if rust was likely to make its appearance, and by a dozen and one additional barometers, all tested by experience, compiled their information.
Each representative filed a daily story to the Free Press, giving the results of their joint investigations. This went on for four or five weeks, the two of them covering thousands of miles. The peak year was reached when the pair covered more than 12.000 miles in one season.
Back in their office, with the rigors of the trip behind them, these two compared notes and compiled a joint report based on the estimated wheat acreage, and unhesitatingly i made their prediction. This final report was
awaited with breath-taking interest by the entire agricultural world, for with the passing of the years grain men were forced to realize that this report on Western Canada’s wheat crop was more reliable than those issued by the Dominion Government, the two railways, the banks or the wheat crop experts from the South.
The reason for this was not hard to find. Miss Hind and her assistant had gone about the preparation of this report in a more accurate and painstaking manner than had any of the other agencies. They compiled this report from first-hand information gleaned through many weary weeks of work. It was bound to be more reliable than any of the others; it was their job to make it so.
How close to the mark these reports came is instanced from the fact that in 1905 Miss Hind estimated the crop to be 85.000,000 bushels and the crop was 84.506,857; in 1907 her estimate was 71.250,000 and the output was 70,922,584; while in 1909 her estimate was 118,109,000 and the yield was 118.719,000. Such close figures would almost lead one to believe she had actually counted the kernels; but she continued to come as close even when the crop passed the half-billion bushel mark.
A Full Life
TT MUST not be supposed that this extremely active woman has been so immersed in her work that she has had no time for outside interests. A patron of the arts and sciences, she is a charter member of the Winnipeg branch of the Canadian Women’s Press Club, and this organization proposes to tender her a complimentary dinner at the triennial convention in Ottawa this year.
She maintains her own domestic establishment, is a charming hostess, and is skilled ; in the culinary mysteries, as many who have been her guests can attest. Widely read and widely travelled, she is a fluent talker and an interesting dinner companion.
The cup of life has been filled to the brim for E. Cora Hind and she has drunk her fill. At seventy-three she looks back on more than a half-century contact with the Canadian West, and it is a never-ending source of satisfaction to her that she has been permitted to play her part in the development of the “bread basket of the empire.” Her enthusiasm for her work is undiminished and her faith in the West is unfaltering.
There is only one E. Cora Hind. There will be no other.
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