HUSSEY, FLORENCE SARAH (Hall), temperance worker, suffragist, and feminist; b. 15 Oct. 1864 in Newland, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of John Hussey and Mary Anne Seward; m. 1898 the Reverend William Lashley Hall (d. 1947) in New Westminster, B.C.; d. 10 Oct. 1917 in North Vancouver.
Nothing is known of Florence Hussey’s life before she married William Lashley Hall. The early years of her marriage were spent raising her two stepdaughters and helping her husband with his duties as a Methodist minister. She was evidently well educated; she was described in the Western Methodist Recorder as “a refined and cultured English lady, with a remarkable ability for platform work . . . she has occupied her husband’s pulpit with great acceptance on more than one occasion.” Hall was a deeply spiritual woman whose writing suggests a strong belief that a moral society could be created only by mixing active Christianity with politics and by acknowledging the absolute equality of the sexes.
Being married to a Methodist minister could not have been easy for Hall, who moved every few years to a new area of British Columbia. From 1906 to May 1910 she and her family lived in Fernie. While there, Hall acted as the Methodist Woman’s Missionary Society reporter for the province and published a series of columns in the Western Methodist Recorder on its work in British Columbia. Topics included missions to Japanese immigrants and the Crosby Girls’ Home in Port Simpson. As well, she worked with the British Columbia Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, serving on the executive and acting as superintendent of the evangelistic department from 1907 until her death. This position involved coordinating hospital, jail, and city missions throughout the province. She also established a local union in Fernie. In June 1908 Hall attended the annual convention of the British Columbia WCTU; she conducted prayer meetings, reported on the activities of her department, and recounted her trip to California, where she had attended the state WCTU convention.
In August 1908 the town of Fernie burned and Hall’s family lost, she said, “all but Christ.” She and her husband preached from a tent while they constructed a new Methodist church, which was completed early in 1910. That May the family was posted to the Mount Pleasant district of Vancouver. Hall carried on her work with the WCTU, speaking at conventions, participating in women’s missions, and holding religious services for prisoners. She also continued to help her husband with his ministry. She worked with children and adults in the church’s Sunday school and reported on the successes of her pupils, the “future militant victors of the Church of God,” in the Western Methodist Recorder. In the same journal in 1912 she published a two-part series on the ideal Christian woman and man.
At this time Hall began to promote women’s suffrage. At the WCTU’s annual convention in 1912 she offered a resolution in its favour. She was also involved with the British Columbia Political Equality League, an organization devoted to “the establishment of the Political, Social and Industrial Rights of Women and Men.” The league worked actively for women’s suffrage and waged a campaign to expose the “inefficiency” of some of the provincial laws affecting women and children. It also published a monthly magazine, the Champion, which featured articles, letters, and editorials on women’s suffrage, white slavery, temperance, and women’s legal status. Hall wrote for the Champion and acted as an organizer for mainland British Columbia from the coast to Kamloops. In November 1912 she travelled through her district establishing local leagues and circulating a petition demanding women’s suffrage, an activity she described as “peaceable orderly revolution.”
In June 1913 the family was assigned to Revelstoke, where Hall pursued her WCTU and suffrage work. In the Champion in September she published an article on “Suffrage and morals” in which she asked “if political freedom is a spiritual gift? If so, pray who is to bestow such a gift? Sinful men? How very funny!” Hall went on to state that the “women’s movement has been called into existence to teach the world the value of human life and human freedom,” issues that were fundamental to her view of herself and the place of women in Canadian society.
In 1914 Hall’s health began to fail but she continued to write for the Champion and, as well, started a column in the Western Methodist Recorder entitled “Suffrage sermonette.” A series of 11 columns followed in which she argued for the “equality of the sexes in all but physical strength.” Her central contention was that male usurpation of political power led to “the misery and sorrow of life” politically, economically, and judicially. Only by according women the same status as men could a moral and just society be built.
In June 1915 Hall and her family moved to North Vancouver. Despite chronic illness she served during the last year of her life as president of the local branches of the Woman’s Missionary Society and the Political Equality League; she also continued to publish her sermonettes and to attend and speak at the annual conventions of the WCTU. During World War I she increasingly focused on creating a moral society. She explained to WCTU members in 1916 that, even with the “pressing demands of the Red Cross and Relief Societies,” the membership should not lose sight of Canada’s spiritual needs. The “supreme importance of prayer in these testing, trying times” was again the focus of her 1917 report. Her final article written for the Western Methodist Recorder argued not only for political and legal equality for women but for spiritual equality. She called for women’s ordination into the ministry, maintaining that without religious equality, civic equality was meaningless.
Hall died of asthma and heart failure on 10 Oct. 1917. In the five years before her death, she had become increasingly radical in her beliefs, moving far beyond the arguments of many of her colleagues whose demand for equality focused on woman’s role as mother and helpmate of men. Hall saw the war as the logical consequence of a society in which women’s voices were not heard. If women had had the vote, she declared, “this awful slaughter of precious life would never have blotted the twentieth century civilization.” For Hall, true equality of the sexes would lead to a new moral society based on divine rather than human law.
BCARS, H/D/H14. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Geneal. Soc. (Salt Lake City, Utah), International geneal. index. City of Vancouver Arch., Add.