NWHPS Celebrates International Women’s Day



Women from every walk of life at the height of their careers in mental health, education, media, medicine, literature, entrepreneurship, advocacy and politics; helped shape New Westminster, our province and our country with their contributions. We’ve highlighted these six women whose lives have spanned 173 years (1842 – 2015).


c 1875 IHP0898-38 Florence Amelia Ross NWHPS 2019 IWD blog

c. 1875 IHP0898-38

Flora Amelia Ross – Matron, Provincial Asylum ; 1842 to 1897 

Daughter of a fur trader and Ojibwa woman, she survived and succeeded in a dominant, bullying male environment in both her personal and professional life. In 1870 after 11 years of marriage to a man 40 years older who was described as ignorant, boastful and a bully she left taking their only child a son. She began working and in 1872 she became matron of the Women’s Ward in the Provincial Asylum and went on to weather accusations from the male Superintendentwho was demanding her resignation; accusing her of  theft, insubordination, infractions and visiting with “half breeds”. The superintendent was dismissed while she carried on through four more male superintendents and two investigations into the asylum. Despite unfavourable findings regarding the asylum, her own work with patients was praised. Entirely self-taught in mental therapeutics, she engaged her patients in household tasks, dances, games, outdoor activities and minimized the use of restraints.

Courtesy of SFU Digitized Collections, Frances Elizabeth Herring NWHPS 2019 IWD blog

Courtesy of SFU Digitized Collections,

Frances Elizabeth Herring – Teacher, Journalist, Author ; 1851 to 1916 

Born in England, Frances traveled, alone and single at the age of 23, to BC, marrying her cousin Arthur in New Westminster in 1874. For a time they lived in Langley where she taught mainly aboriginal and mixed-race children; but eventually returned to New Westminster and had a family of eight children. In the latter decades of the century, she became a journalist, editing the “Home Circle” column which covered running a household and gardening – plus: inspirational tales of career women and assertive wives and mothers. Her short stories appeared in the newspaper and major national magazines. She went on to write six novels, primarily based on the experience of white women on the topics of immigration, settlement and relationships with aboriginal and Asian people. Her books are available in libraries and chapters to this day. Frances was active in the community as the president of the Royal Columbian Hospital Women’s Auxiliary and a member of the National Council of Women of Canada and was also a public advocate of women’s suffrage and equal rights.



Dorothy Taylor – Journalist; 1900 to 1963 

Owner, shareholder, reporter and editor of New Westminster’s longest running newspaper, The Columbian, established in 1906. Dorothy’s father, Senator James David (JD) Taylor, became managing Director of The Columbian in 1906. While Dorothy contributed to the newspaper, she was not acknowledged as an employee until the early 30’s. In 1948 she became the editor of The Columbian for approximately seven years after her brother and father died and the editor appointed after their deaths retired. Dorothy was asked to resign by the shareholders (who were primarily Taylor family members) due to family conflict. Ultimately, Dorothy resigned and pursued her interests in agriculture. Her accomplishments include president of the Canadian Women’s Press club, involvement in the New Westminster Business and Professional Club, Soroptomist Club, North Surrey Board of Trade; and Director of Livestock Committee, and Lower Fraser Valley Agricultural Association.

Photo courtesy from BC History of Nursing Society website, Esther Paulson NWHPS 2019 IWD blog

Photo courtesy from BC History of Nursing Society website




Esther Paulson – Nurse; 1906 to 2004 

Esther Paulson graduated from the Royal Columbian Hospital School of Nursing in 1928, starting out as a staff nurse on the Tuberculosis ward. She established a long career in nursing with a focus on TB. Esther developed the compulsory TB affiliation course for nurses, became the Provincial Director of Nursing and Nursing Consultant for TB Control. She was the President of Registered Nurses Association of BC, received the Centennial medal and Honourary Life Membership in the Canadian Lung Association for her leadership in the advancement of TB nursing in Canada.


Contributed Photo, New Westminster Record Susan Chew NWHPS 2019 IWD blog

Contributed Photo, New Westminster Record


Susan Chew – Entrepreneur, Social Catalyst; 1927-present 

Susan (Susie) Chew founded the original Waffle House in 1955 at the corner of 6th & 6th. She became a catalyst for fair accommodation legislation in BC when she and her best friend were repeatedly denied tenancy when landlords saw Susie was Chinese. When they finally they found a place, they were subsequently denied once the American buyers of the building discovered she was Chinese. This made national headlines. Susie was featured on Front Page Challenge and the community rallied around Susan. Eventually the original owners canceled the sale of the building and Susan and her friend were able to move in without further incident.

File Photo from New Westminster Record, Anita Hagen NWHPS 2019 IWD blog

File Photo from New Westminster Record

Anita Hagen – Politician ; 1931 – 2015 

MLA for New Westminster from 1986 to 1996, Anita Hagen took on  the posts of Deputy Premier of BC and Minister of Education. She was awarded our city’s Citizen of the Year award in 1999. Anita was fundamental to bringing the Justice Institute of B.C. to New Westminster. She chaired the committee to raise funds to establish Monarch Place, the city’s first transition house for women and children fleeing violence.


Flora Amelia Ross:  Mary-Ellen Kelm, “ROSS, FLORA AMELIA,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 12, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ross_flora_amelia_12E.html.

Frances Elizabeth Herring:  Adele Perry, “HERRING, FRANCES ELIZABETH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 12, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/herring_frances_elizabeth_14E.html.

SFU Digitized Collections, Canada’s Early Women Writers. SFU Library Digital Collections. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. 1980-2014. http://digital.lib.sfu.ca/ceww-597/herring-frances

Mabel & Beatrice Cave-Brown-Cave:  New Westminster Archives, Cave-Browne-Cave fonds. – [ca.1880] – 1979., Record ID 823; June Harrison and Margaret Fairweather Grace Grit and Gusto,  Vivalogue Publishing 2012; June Harrison and Margaret Fairweather Grace Grit and Gusto,  Vivalogue Publishing 2012

Dorothy Taylor:  June Harrison and Margaret Fairweather Grace Grit and Gusto,  Vivalogue Publishing 2012

Esther Paulson:  BC History of Nursing Society, No restrictions. https://www.bcnursinghistory.ca/archives/nurses/esther-paulson/

Susan Chew:  NewWestrecord.ca. Web. 13 Apr. 2017, Cornelia Naylor, The Unbreakable Susie Chew, Part One, https://www.newwestrecord.ca/community/the-unbreakable-susie-chew-part-one-1.15273340; NewWestrecord.ca. Web. 20 Apr. 2017, Cornelia Naylor, The Unbreakable Susie Chew, Part Two, https://www.newwestrecord.ca/community/the-unbreakable-susie-chew-part-two-1.16224825

Anita Hagen:  NewWestrecord.ca. Web. 9 June. 2015, Theresa McManus, Anita Hagen leaves a legacy in New Westminster, https://www.newwestrecord.ca/news/anita-hagen-leaves-a-legacy-in-new-westminster-1.1962840


Tags: , ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 at 4:53 pm and is filed under Heritage Homes Tour, News and Events. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.