Who was Gladys Porter?

Wendy Elliott welliott@kingscountynews.ca
Published on October 14, 2011


Kings County Advertiser/Register

Due to repairs on the Gladys Porter Bridge in Port Williams, many motorists waiting for the light to change are wondering, who was the namesake?

According to the Women's Institute history of the village, the current bridge is named after Porter because she was the MLA responsible for securing provincial funding for its construction. The bridge was opened in 1968, at a cost of $650,000, 50-feet west of earlier bridges over the Cornwallis River.

Although the bridge is more than 40 years old and undergoing a two-year repair project, the sign indicating Porter's name was only installed by the transportation department about a year ago.

Kings South MLA Ramona Jennex was pleased to see the installation because she believes Nova Scotians should honour women and men who made a difference.

Born into a political family in Sydney in 1894, Porter was the first woman elected to the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly and prior to that the first woman elected as mayor of Kentville.

In 1943 she became a Kentville town councillor and three years later became mayor, making her the first woman in the Maritimes to do so. She was re-elected mayor for a total of 11 years and only resigned after running and winning in the provincial election of 1960. At her death in 1967 she was still a sitting Progressive Conservative member of the legislature, according to The Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia 1758-1983: a biographical directory.

Porter was known as a tireless worker on behalf of her community and constituents in Kings North. Much of her community work was connected to hospitals and health-care organizations. She was active in the United Baptist Church in Kentville and was first president of the local Business and Professional Women's Club and later provincial president.

In honour of her contribution to the civilian defense and war effort during two world wars, she was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1946. Porter was also presented with an honorary degree from Acadia University.




Editor's note:

Originally printed in The Register on Thursday, Feb. 7, 1946

Kentville elects province's first woman mayor

Mrs. H. W. Porter wins mayoralty contest by biggest majority ever polled in Kentville - daughter of seven-time mayor of Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Kentville made Nova Scotia history on Tuesday of this week by electing Mrs. H. Wyman Porter as the first woman mayor of a town in this province, adding emphasis to the fact by giving her the highest majority in he town's history, and in the largest vote ever polled there, 970 citizens having marked ballots for the successful candidate, and 442 for her opponent, ex-councillor W. C. Vincent.

Mrs. Porter's successful contest was the third in which she has engaged in recent years in the Kentville civic arena. She led the field in the 1942 campaign for election to town council, having then a majority of 240 votes, and was re-elected in 1945 with a 300 majority. She resigned as councillor to run for the mayoralty, as did her defeated opponent.

Gladys Muriel Porter, Kentville's mayor-elect, who told the voters in her election message that she wanted nobody to vote either for or against her as a woman, but to consider her only as a human being, was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Walter S. Richardson. She moved to Kentville in 1912, when her father became editor of The Western Chronicle, after having suffered his first and only defeat in an election for mayor of the Steel City. She found a position in the Dominion Atlantic Railway offices, as stenographer, and when her father returned in 1913 to successfully contest the Sydney mayoralty, she remained in Kentville, where she married and has since resided continuously. Her father was mayor of Sydney for seven terms.

Her father's only defeat is directly responsible for her becoming not only Kentville's first woman mayor, but also along with it the honour of being the first woman chief magistrate in Eastern Canada, it is believed.

Incidentally the same year she came to Kentville, W. E. Porter, her father-in-law-to-be, was defeated for the Kentville mayoralty by 12 votes.

A tireless worker in the community, Mrs. Porter is credited with a fine record of service, particularly during the war years. She is the head of several organizations but politically has remained strictly an independent.

After working at the polls all of election day, Mrs. Porter, without waiting for the final returns, took over her duties as instructor of the cooking class at the Kentville Evening Technical Class.

On returning to her home she was greeted by scores of congratulatory telegrams and phone calls. The first telegram was from Mayor Ira B. Lohnes, of Windsor.