Whitton, Charlotte (1896-1975)

Charlotte Whitton A graduate of Queen's, Whitton went on to become one of the most colourful figures of her time as an influential social activist and Canada's first female mayor.

Whitton was born in Renfrew, Ontario and attended Queen's during the First World War. She was one of the university's top students, arriving with scholarships in six subjects and graduating in 1917 with Queen's medals in both History and English.

Whitton also had an active extracurricular career at the university. She was the first female editor of the Queen's Journal and played on the women's field hockey, ice hockey, and basketball teams. A fiery and energetic woman, she became a crusader for children's rights after her graduation and, during the Depression, was a key advisor on federal unemployment relief policy.

Elected Controller of Ottawa's Municipal Council in 1950, she ran for the Ottawa mayoralty the following year. She was re-elected in 1952, 1954, 1960, and 1962. She was a flamboyant mayor and her tenure was notable for her stormy battles with hostile male colleagues - including, in one celebrated case, a battle that ended in Whitton kicking and punching a municipal Controller. She was defeated in 1964, but served as an alderman until 1972.

Whitton always retained a strong affection for Queen's. She was an active member of the Alumnae Association, a driving force behind the building of Ban Righ Hall, and a member of the Board of Trustees from 1928 to 1940. She received an honorary degree from the university in 1941.

Her sister, Kathleen Ryan, another distinguished alumna, is one of Queen's most generous benefactors.

Charlotte Whitton's personal papers relating to her time at Queen's are located in the Queen's Archives.