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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rhoda Tennant, Brandon's first female alderman

There's not much to say about last night's Winnipeg civic election. Apparently we've been happy with what we've had for the past four years !

As Curtis pointed out last week, the winds of change were blowing in the Wheat City. Congrats to Shari Decter Hirst on being elected the first female mayor of Brandon. Her victory comes just shy of the 75th anniversary of that city electing its first female alderman.

Rhoda Power Tennant
(Image: MB Archives from Brandon Politics)
Born in 1891, Rhoda E. Power was raised in Brandon along with her seven sisters. In 1907 she wrote her entrance exam for teaching college and graduated in July 1911. Her first teaching job in Brandon was at Assiniboine School, 60 - 13th Street North, where she is listed as a staff member from at least 1917 to 1919.

Around 1921 Tennant moved to Minnedosa. There, she met
George A. Tennant, a CPR brakeman. The two wed and returned to Brandon in 1935, George now a CPR conductor. Mrs. Tennant did not go back to teaching, (I'm not even sure if married women could teach at that time ?) Instead she became heavily involved in community work through the Brandon YMCA and United Church.

It would have an unpleasant time to be in Brandon as the Depression was at its peak. The city cut many services to the bone, or did away with them altogether, and was living on lines of credit just to pay the bills for their massive Depression relief costs.

It was in this environment that Mrs. Tennant decided to run for city council in the
November 26, 1936 civic election. She won, becoming the first female alderman in Brandon and went straight to work.

Brandon's 1937 Henderson Directory

Tennant sat on a number of challenging committees, given the era. They included the finance committee, welfare relief committee and she chaired the children's welfare committee.  

During her first year in these positions, the situation in Brandon grew worse. Borrowing money became problematic as council wase openly debating whether or not they could even afford to pay the interest on their current lines of credit.

June 21, 1936. Winnipeg Free Press

Mayor Cater, now in the final two years of an 18 year reign, and members of council finally raised the white flag in 1936. They essentially declared themselves bankrupt and requested a provincial administrator to oversee the affairs of the city. (It would take nearly two decades to come out from receivership).

It appears that Tennant did not run again in 1938, though her two years on council probably felt more like ten.

After her time on council. She and George continued to live at 223 - 3rd Street and they raised a son, James. Rhoda remained involved in the community with St. Paul's Church, the YMCA and was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. 

In 1952 George died. Rhoda died at Brandon on September 15, 1970.

If you have any more information about Rhoda Power Tennant, feel free to drop me a line. With eight Power daughters there's gotta be a lot of siblings out there !

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