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McMULLEN, HULDAH S. (Rockwell), temperance reformer and editor; b. 22 Nov. 1854 in Picton, Upper Canada, daughter of Daniel McMullen and Eliza B. Conger; m. there 5 Feb. 1879 John Rockwell, and they had two sons and a daughter; d. 24 Dec. 1904 in Duluth, Minn.

Huldah S. McMullen’s father was a Methodist minister of some note in the Bay of Quinte region. Two of her brothers would also achieve prominence: George William in railway promotion and Harvard C. in municipal politics in Picton. Huldah was educated in the common and grammar schools of Picton and at the Hamilton Ladies College.

McMullen apparently became associated with the temperance movement at an early age, serving as a travelling companion of Letitia Youmans [Creighton*], founder of the Picton local (the second branch in Canada) of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and as secretary of that local. In 1879 she married John Rockwell, a merchant, and the couple moved to Kingston, where John established a dry-goods business and Huldah continued to campaign on behalf of the WCTU.

Rockwell’s efforts, like those of her colleagues, were initially directed towards recruiting new members, obtaining temperance pledges, and petitioning various levels of government to adopt prohibition. Gradually, however, she and her fellow members realized that they could not achieve their objective, temperance, until they had the right to vote, and were thus able to influence directly decisions made on their behalf. As provincial superintendent of legislation, franchise, and petitions (1886–93) and dominion superintendent of legislation and petitions (1889–92), both working departments of the WCTU, Rockwell spearheaded its drive for female suffrage. In 1884 property-owning widows and unmarried women in Ontario had been given the right to vote at municipal elections. At the WCTU’s annual meeting in Owen Sound in 1886, Rockwell reported that “special effort was made to induce those ladies having the right of the franchise to use it at the municipal elections in the election of temperance candidates, regardless of politics.” Despite her best efforts, however, and those of women’s organizations across the country, it would be some years before women had either the provincial or the federal vote.

By the fall of 1893 the Rockwells had moved to Toronto. John eventually became a manufacturing agent there and Huldah entered the ongoing campaign against the operation of streetcars on Sundays. She was editor of the weekly Canada Citizen, a temperance journal. Its publishing company went into liquidation about 1895, and little is known of Rockwell’s activities in Toronto after that time. Through her influence the names of some 70,000 Canadian women had been added to the “World’s Petition” (1884–95) on temperance, initiated by American WCTU organizer Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard.

In 1901 the Rockwell family settled in Duluth, where John assumed the management of a department in a dry-goods company. According to the Duluth Daily Herald, Huldah joined the “Twentieth Century Club” and became “identified with many prominent social affairs.” Operated on for cancer in July 1904, she never recovered and died the following December after a “period of intense suffering.”

Nancy Kiefer

AO, F 885, including annual reports (esp. ser.2, MU 8406.8, p.50), Woman’s Journal (Ottawa; Toronto), 1885–1903, and Canadian White Ribbon Tidings (London, Ont.), 1904–5; RG 80-5, no.1879-009463. NA, RG 31, C1, 1881, Kingston, Frontenac Ward: 89 (mfm. at AO). Duluth Daily Herald (Duluth, Minn.), 24 Dec. 1904. Duluth News-Tribune, 25 Dec. 1904. Toronto Daily Star, 29 Dec. 1904: 7. C. L. Bacchi, Liberation deferred? The ideas of the English-Canadian suffragists, 1877–1918 (Toronto, 1983). Canadian White Ribbon Tidings, 1 June 1905: 274. Directories, Kingston, 1881–93; Toronto, 1894–1902. S. G. E[lwood] McKee, Jubilee history of the Ontario Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, 1877–1927 (Whitby, Ont., [1927?]). Wendy Mitchinson, “The WCTU: ‘For God, home and native land’: a study in nineteenth-century feminism,” A not unreasonable claim (L. Kealey), 151–67; “The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union: a study in organization,” International Journal of Women’s Studies (Montreal), 4 (1981): 143–56. Alison Prentice et al., Canadian women: a history (Toronto, 1988). The prohibition leaders of America, ed. [B.] F. Austin (St Thomas, Ont., [1895]). R. E. Spence, Prohibition in Canada; a memorial to Francis Stephens Spence (Toronto, 1919).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Nancy Kiefer, “McMULLEN, HULDAH S,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 31, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcmullen_huldah_s_13E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcmullen_huldah_s_13E.html
Author of Article: Nancy Kiefer
Title of Article: McMULLEN, HULDAH S
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1994
Year of revision: 2013
Access Date: October 31, 2014