Kate Aitken, affectionately known as Mrs. A, was director of the CNE Women’s Division from 1938 to 1952.
Although many people may not recall her involvement at the CNE, she was once an icon of domesticity for many Canadian women from the 1920s to 1950s.
Already well-known for her programs on CFRB radio and her role as Women’s Editor for the Montreal Standard, her association with the CNE began in 1923 when she opened a Country Kitchen exhibit in the Women’s Building.
Her cooking, canning and preserving demonstrations were such a success that the CNE’s directors were persuaded to further develop women’s programming.
In 1938, The Women’s Division was established and Aitken became its first Director. The new department was responsible for organizing competitive and educational exhibits of interest to women.
Cooking shows were joined by fashion shows, beauty contests, and handicraft demonstrations. Both the Women’s Prize List and School Prize List were expanded and offered a wide variety of competitions.
Aitken also hosted her radio show here on the grounds before a live audience, an annual event that she continued even after she retired as Director of Women’s Activities in 1952.
Over the course of her life, Kate Aitken had travelled to more than 50 countries, interviewed world leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin and worked for the United Nations and UNICEF.
Perhaps it was not so much her cooking demonstrations that inspired generations of young women but the extraordinary professional career she led.