Ruth Houck – An Important Part of Peel's History
United Nations delegate Ruth Houck was a significant figure in her day, representing Canada to the world. But as the decades passed, this Peel resident's contributions to the community and her country were largely forgotten. When staff at Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives learned of her legacy this February, a Google search yielded zero results.
Using their varied collection of historic documents created by municipal governments and community groups, Region of Peel Archives staff has started to compile a more complete picture of Houck and her incredible community involvement.
Ruth Houck lived on a cattle farm near the village of Derry West, in what is now northern Mississauga. She became actively involved in her community, getting involved in the local Women's Institute, serving on a local school board and eventually becoming one of the first of two female advisory board members for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In 1953, she ran for a seat at Queen's Park as a Liberal, the first woman to get any party's nomination in Peel, federally or provincially.
Attracting attention in Ottawa, Houck was appointed as a delegate to the 10th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, following in the footsteps of Carine Wilson, Canada's first female Senator. She was one of only seven women from the 60 member nations.
Returning home, Houck was a favourite speaker for groups across Canada, promoting the values and programs of the United Nations and encouraging women to take a more active role in civic life.Staff at the Region of Peel Archives were able to build this picture through a variety of records, including newspapers, the photographs of a local commercial photographer, a newly digitized film reel, a scrapbook, the records of the Peel Women's Institutes, and the records created by a predecessor of the Peel District School Board. The Region of Peel Archives has millions of pages of documents, and over a million photographs, most of which are available for research by all members of the public. Researching at PAMA is free.