by Dr. Shea Henry/Special to The News
This week, the United States is scheduled to inaugurate its first female Vice-President. Kamala Harris is crashing through a huge glass ceiling as the most senior woman to serve in the United States government and the first African-American and Asian-American Vice President. Looking closer to home, who have been the women to break the political glass ceiling here in Maple Ridge?
Betty Dubé was the first female mayor for the district of Maple Ridge, elected to the office in 1974.
Betty Dubé was born in 1926 in Montreal and moved to British Columbia in 1951 after being widowed with one child. She would eventually remarry and together her and her husband would build a home in Whonnock. Sadly she was again widowed in 1968. While building her political career in local politics, Dubé was a devoted foster parent to over 200 children in her lifetime. She was honored in 1991 by the B.C. Lieutenant Governor for her outstanding work in the foster care system.
Dubé had served as a city councillor since 1969 and entered the mayoral position at a time when Maple Ridge was celebrating 100 years since it’s incorporation in 1874. To celebrate Maple Ridge 100, Dubé was inaugurated in full Victorian garb to highlight our district’s history.
Dubé was mayor from 1974-1975, a time when Maple Ridge was shifting quickly from the rural farming community it was during Solomon Mussallems tenure, to the urban community we know today. These growing pains had to be eased with new municipal sewer treatment, ever present tax adjustments, road building, and something we take for granted today but was quite significant then, the installation of street lights in the district.
To campaign for the needed municipal changes, immediately after her inauguration as mayor she traveled to Victoria to follow up with the initiates of the previous council, including the controversial routing of a new highway to the south of the Haney townsite (the Haney bypass). While she was not mayor for the ground-breaking of the Haney Bypass, she did have an active role in making it a reality.
Betty Dubé remained active in district politics after her defeat in 1975, serving as a school trustee and remaining in public service of the city and province.
Dubé has since been followed by Belle Morse (1991-1993), Kathy Morse (2002-2005), and Nicole Read (2014-2018) as female mayors of Maple Ridge.
While Betty Dubé was the first female mayor of Maple Ridge, her predecessors as first female mayor in Canada was in 1936, and in British Columbia with Peachland’s first female mayor in 1944.
On the national level, Maple Ridge has been part of many electoral districts over the years as our population grew and district lines were drawn and redrawn. Our first female representative in parliament was Joy Langan, elected as an MP in 1988.
Shea Henry is the Maple Ridge Museum executive director