“I had not intended to place myself in competition… for council,” Leontine Chipman wrote in an advertisement headed ‘To The Electors of the Town of Kentville.’

In the advertisement published in the February 1, 1933, issue of the Advertiser, Chipman wrote that she is not asking people to vote for her. “But if by any chance I find myself in the council again, I will try, as I have done, to realize and act up to (my) responsibilities.”

Despite suggesting people didn’t have to vote for her, Leontine Chipman was elected to a second term on town council (she “won” her first seat by acclamation). Chipman has the distinction of being Kentville’s first-ever female councillor. “Miss Chipman was the only woman councillor sitting on a Nova Scotia Council Board,” the Advertiser noted in an article summing up her political career. “She has rendered invaluable service to the town during her term of service,” the newspaper said. “She first entered the local political arena in 1932.”

I note that Chipman’s pioneering role as a town councillor has never been recognized here at the local level. I only have a few details on Leontine Chipman’s career with the town of Kentville, and on her life in general, but her entry into local politics possibly could be hailed as a first, at least in the Annapolis Valley, and perhaps in Nova Scotia.

Leontine may have been recognized elsewhere for her role in politics, however, since the newspaper referred to her in one report as “Miss Leontine Chipman, O.B.E.” In the report, the Advertiser provided a few details on Chipman’s career in England:

“A daughter of Colonel Leverette Veber Chipman, Miss Chipman spent most of her life in England. She went up to the Old Country in 1881, taking up her residence in Northumberland County where she later became a member of the District Council. She served for many years, being repeatedly accorded an acclamation. It was during the war years that Miss Chipman probably gained her greatest prominence and she saw service in both France and England. She returned to Kentville in 1931.”

Leontine hailed from the prominent Planter Chipmans, a family that once dominated Nova Scotia’s courts, churches and political circles. Handley Chipman (of whom Leontine is a direct descendant) was one of the first Planter grantees in Kings County’s Cornwallis Township, in 1761; from Handley flowed a long, impressive line of court officers, clergymen, politicians, and medical people.

A final word on Leontine: she ended her days in England, apparently not completing her second term on the town’s council. When in England, the Advertiser reported, “she had been appointed Honorary Secretary of Bishop Creighton House.” A distinguished lady, no doubt, and well worthy of recognition as one of the first, if not the very first woman in local government.

Now, on to another pioneering lady politician, Opal Parker (1914-2012) of White Rock. Opal Parker carved out a career in local politics that rivaled that of Leontine Chipman’s. And like Chipman, she has never been formally recognized for her role as a lady politician.

Opal Parker had a remarkable career in politics and was an amazing, talented person all around. Taken from a tribute written by her daughter Marnie, and from her obituary, here’s a summary of her life and her career as a politician:

“Mom had a ‘calling’ to help people,” Marnie Parker wrote. “Thus, to get people on social assistance or to get a property dispute rectified, she agreed at the urging of her friends to go into politics. She has the distinction…. to have become the First Female Municipal Councillor for the County of Kings — a position she enjoyed by acclamation for three 3-year terms (9 years).”

Another quote (from the obituary) sums up Opal’s lifelong involvement in community affairs:

“Opal Parker is a past Noble Grand of Horton Rebekah Lodge, Wolfville; a founding and Charter Member, as well as a Past Worthy Matron of Blomidon Chapter, No. 68, Order of the Eastern Star, Wolfville; Past President of the Wolfville Ladies’ Curling Club, former member of the Kings County School Board, Past President of the Wolfville Ladies’ Lionettes Club, Past President of the Kentville Business and Professional Women’s Club, and has served on many committees and boards throughout the County. Opal and her late husband, Nat Parker, organized many variety shows for the community during the war years, and also entertained with music and magic shows.”

On Opal’s amazing musical ability, in the tribute, Marnie Parker wrote that

“Mom showed the very unique ability to be able to ‘transpose’ any song she played, into another (usually “lower”) key, if she thought the song was “too high” for whomever she was accompanying. “This is a very rare talent — I remember hearing her one day at home, playing “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me”, transposing in four different keys, in succession, one right after the other, without hesitation and without missing a beat. She was brilliant on the piano keyboard! Mom was also an accomplished wide-voice-range vocalist, singing soprano, alto, and tenor.”

From what I’ve presented here, we can see that Chipman and Parker were remarkable women – Leontine was certainly ahead of her time. And since neither has received the level of recognition they’ve earned and certainly deserve, perhaps one day this will be rectified.

Leontine Chipman and Opal Parker, two women with pioneering roles in local politics

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