Squires, Helena E. (1879–1959)

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Squires, Helena E. (1879–1959)

Canadian legislator who was the first woman to campaign for and win a seat in the Newfoundland House of Assembly. Name variations: Lady Helena E. Strong Squires. Born Helena E. Strong in 1879 in Little Bay Islands, Newfoundland; died in 1959 in Toronto, Canada; daughter of James Strong (a supplier to the fishing industry); attended boarding school in St. Johns, the Methodist College, and Mount Allison University; married Richard Squires (later prime minister of Newfoundland), in 1905; children: seven.

A twin, Helena E. Strong was born in Little Bay Islands, Newfoundland, in 1879. Her family, like many families in that region, was involved in the fishing industry and owned a supply business. Helena attended a private boarding school in St. Johns and the Methodist College before training at Mount Allison University to become a teacher.

In 1905, she married Richard Squires who, with the full support of his wife, began his political career in 1909 and eventually became prime minister of Newfoundland in the 1920s and 1930s. Although Helena Squires often traveled with her husband throughout the province and abroad, she also had seven children to raise and a home to manage. Interested in improving conditions for women, she taught her domestic help the skills necessary to improve their professional positions. She was also active in charity work, instrumental in the founding of a teachers college and maternity hospital, and served as president of the Grace Hospital Auxiliary for many years.

Although she was an opponent of women's suffrage, in 1930 Squires became the first woman to campaign for and win a seat in the Newfoundland House of Assembly. That same year, her father James Strong was appointed by Richard Squires to the Legislative Council. However, the Liberal government lost public support in 1932 and a riot ensued when the House of Assembly tried to meet that April, trapping both Richard and Helena in the House during the fracas. As a result of the June election that followed, they both lost their positions. In 1949, when Newfoundland officially became a part of Canada, Helena Squires was elected the first president of the Liberal Association of Newfoundland. She died in Toronto in 1959.

Martha Jones , M.L.S., Natick, Massachusetts