Bernadette Smith fonds

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Bernadette Smith fonds

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  • Textual record

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  • 1978 - 1984 (Creation)
    Puddicombe, Gail
  • ? - 1956 (Creation)
    Smith, Bernadette

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Physical description

1.5 cm textual records

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Name of creator

Biographical history

Bernadette Smith was born in Woodstock on Christmas Day 1895, the daughter of farmer Thomas and Mary Parkinson. She attended St. Marys Catholic School and later Woodstock Collegiate where she attained her junior matriculation. In 1914 Bernadette worked for the Thomas Organ and Piano Company as a stenographer and also played the organ part time at St. Marys Roman Catholic Church. When the first World War start she joined the I.O.D.E. Vansittart Chapter and assisted in producing musical shows as part of the war effort. It is during these shows she met a young pharmacist, Norman McHardy, who she would marry in 1917. They lived in Woodstock until their marriage ended in divorce in 1932.

Bernadette then moved to Ottawa where she worked as a stenographer for H.F. McLean, rubbing shoulders with federal politicians. It is this period in her life that would help convince her she was qualified for municipal politics. In 1939, Bernadette returned to Woodstock to care for her aging mother after a tragic accident killed one of her sisters. Upon her return, she became friends with an old school chum, Michael Patrick Smith, whom she would marry in 1940.

She was first elected to municipal council in 1948, but was defeated in the aldermanic race in 1949. Elected again in 1950, she served another year as alderman until December 3, 1951 when she beat Fred Childs by 500 votes in the mayoral race. She held the mayor’s chair for the next five years (and again from 1959-1961), during which time she garnered a mixed notable reputation: she drank in the pubs, her language at times was somewhat callous, she dyed her hair and wore what some people considered excessive make-up. Yet, she was also described as a mayor who served with her whole heart. She was praised for her work in attracting industry to the city and helped to save the former Woodstock city hall which would become the Oxford County Museum (and for which she was later curator). She was also an avid participant in county plowing matches where she gained a reputation for plowing a straight furrow. In 1954 she met and entertained Eleanor Roosevelt during a 1954 visit to Woodstock.

During her political career she was elected alderman 12 times and mayor five times while suffering a total of five defeats. The last time she ran for office was in 1970, when she failed in her ninth consecutive bid to serve as an alderman. She was the second woman elected as mayor in Canada.

In April 1972, Bernadette died after suffering blindness due to diabetes. She was 77.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Gail Puddicombe moved to Woodstock in 1969 but never met the mayor. She began to research the life of Bernadette Smith in 1979 as part of a Women’s History course at the University of Western Ontario. Her resulting paper on the life and political career of Bernadette Smith was published by the Oxford County Museum Board in 1984.

Custodial history

The records were created by/about Bernadette Smith during her time as Mayor of Woodstock (1951-1956) and by Gail Puddicombe while writing her paper on Bernadette Smith in the late 1970s. These records were donated to the Woodstock Museum and later transferred to the County of Oxford Archives in February 2012.

Scope and content

The fonds consist of various materials related to Bernadette Smith and including the following:

- Correspondence to Bernadette Smith and Michael Smith
- newspaper clippings and scrapbook on the political career of Bernadette Smith
- Gail Puddicombe’s research papers, notes, correspondence, etc
- Gail Puddicombe’s essay on Bernadette Smith

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Physical condition

The materials in this collection are mostly in good condition.

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was acquired in February 2012 by the County of Oxford Archives from the Woodstock Museum.


Language of material

  • English

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Restrictions on access

The fonds is open to publish research. However, please contact the archivist responsible for the records regarding access, as some materials may be too fragile to handle. The Archives will make every effort to supply reference copies where feasible.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Copyright is held by the archives. Researchers are responsible for observing copyright regulations that may apply to the publication of their research. If you wish to publish any of this material, please contact the archivist responsible for the records.

The Archivist has the right to restrict reproduction if the material is in a fragile condition.

Finding aids

At this time, no detailed finding aid is available. Please contact the Archivist for further information.

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No further accruals are expected.

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