HUTCHINSON, JENNIE PHELAN (MacMichael), reformer and suffragist; daughter of Robert Hutchinson; m. 20 June 1878 Charles Edward Hill MacMichael in Saint John, N.B., and they had two sons and a daughter; d. there 14 Dec. 1902.
Jennie Hutchinson MacMichael, described as a woman of “exceptional executive ability,” was an early driving force behind the New Brunswick branches of the Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons and the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association. The King’s Daughters, an organization similar in scope to the Young Women’s Christian Association, originated in the United States in 1886. Circles were organized in Saint John in 1888, and by 1891 the Saint John City Union had been formed, with Jennie MacMichael as president. In June 1891 the union opened the King’s Daughters’ Guild for girls, a room where cooking lessons, mothers’ meetings, classes in typewriting and dressmaking, and other “Educational work” took place. An employment bureau was also offered. The services provided by the King’s Daughters soon expanded to include relief projects and meeting immigrant girls who arrived by train or boat at Saint John. MacMichael was instrumental in the guild’s purchase of and relocation to a three-storey headquarters in 1899. When she died suddenly in the midst of relief work during the smallpox epidemic of 1902, the Jennie MacMichael Circle of the King’s Daughters was formed in Saint John in her memory.
MacMichael was also a founding member of the suffrage club that became the New Brunswick branch of the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association. Initiated in 1894, this tiny group of 18 suffragists, although of respectable social standing, faced “indifference and hostility” in its drive for women’s suffrage. Yet the group was the “standard bearer” of this reform in the province, since it was, as Elspeth Tulloch points out, “the first and only provincially-oriented society to dedicate itself exclusively to the cause of women’s enfranchisement.” In 1899 the Saint John Women’s Enfranchisement Association, despite its limited membership, sent a petition of 4,000 names to the legislature demanding female suffrage. It was more immediately successful in its application to have a woman appointed to the local board of school trustees. Although many WEA members were also associated with the temperance movement, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had diverged from the WEA by 1899. The WCTU was committed to the essentially conservative ideology of maternal feminism, that is, to the premise that the superior qualities of womanhood rendered women, as the mothers of the world, more fit to direct society than men. It viewed women’s suffrage as a means of protecting the family, primarily through the institution of prohibition. The WEA, however, became interested in political theory, debating collectivism, socialism, and such issues as equal pay for work of equal value at its meetings. The relatively disreputable nature of the WEA may be surmised from the fact that while Jennie MacMichael’s participation in the King’s Daughters and the WCTU was noted in her obituary, her participation in the WEA was not.
MacMichael had been in poor health for some time before her death and had occasionally suffered bouts of serious illness. She was buried from Centenary Methodist Church, of which she had become a member in 1874 and where she had been active in the Sunday school, the conference branch of the congregation, and the Woman’s Missionary Society.
A portrait of Jennie Phelan Hutchinson MacMichael may be found on p.413 of Gugle’s history, cited below. She also appears in an 1896 photograph of the officers and teachers of the Centenary Church Sunday school, reproduced in Milestones in Methodism: a history of Centenary-Queen Square United Church of Canada, Saint John, N.B., 1791–1966, comp. F. D. MacLean and M. G. MacCollum ([Saint John], 1967).
N.B. Museum, Women’s Enfranchisement Assoc. of Canada, Saint John branch, minute-books, 1894–1912; Women’s Interchurch Council of Saint John (formerly Women’s Missionary Soc. of Saint John), minutes, 1 (1897–1906). Daily Telegraph (Saint John), 2, 9 June 1899. St. John Daily Sun, 15 Dec. 1902. S. F. Gugle, History of the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons, year 1886 to 1930 (n.p., 1931), esp. 410–15. Elspeth Tulloch, We, the undersigned: a historical overview of New Brunswick women’s political and legal status, 1784–1984 (Moncton, N.B., 1985), 41–45.