Aida Flemming was a Canadian teacher, writer and animal welfare advocate. She founded the Kindness Club and was the wife of Hugh John Flemming, who was Premier of New Brunswick from 1952 to 1960.
Her father was Charles Whitfield McAnn. Originally from Kent County he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Allison University in Sackville and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Michigan. After practising law in Moncton he moved to Kaslo, British Columbia, with his wife, the former Ada Boyer. She died three months after their daughter Aida was born at the Boyer family home in Victoria Corner on 7 March 1896. Aida was her parents’ only child. She was named Ada but later changed the spelling of her name to that of the Verdi opera Aida.
Aida McAnn lived with her father, his second wife and their two children in Kaslo. Charles Whitfield McAnn was a successful lawyer who became a Queen’s Counsel and was the mayor of Kaslo when he died in 1907 at the age of 42. Aida was then 11 years old. She returned to New Brunswick to live with her uncle L. Wesley McAnn, who later became the Mayor of Moncton. In 1910 she entered Netherwood School in Rothesay where she excelled academically.
Aida McAnn began her working life as a teacher, first at Mount Allison University, where she taught English and History, and later at Dongan Hall, a private secondary school in New York City where she taught English, Latin, History and Current Events in 1930 and 1931. She worked as a freelance writer of advertising copy in New York before returning to New Brunswick where she worked as a writer for the Department of Tourism for nine years.
In 1938 she published a cookbook entitled “The New Brunswick Cookbook”. She also directed “The Cooking School of the Air”, a program on CHSJ radio in Saint John. She began working as a reporter for the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick’s official records of debate in 1944.
On 20 August 1946, she married Hugh John Flemming, a businessman from Juniper who had been elected to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly in 1944. This was her third marriage, as two previous marriages had ended in divorce. Hugh John Flemming was Premier of New Brunswick from 1952 to 1960 and then served as a member of the Parliament of Canada from 1960 to 1972.
Aida was active in the community affairs of Juniper, where she lived after her marriage. She organized a local branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society in order to secure the services of a visiting nurse for the isolated community, and established a public library in the school.
When her husband became premier in 1952 she moved with him to Fredericton, where she continued to promote reading and libraries. She was the patron of Young Canada Book Week in 1953 and helped to establish the Fredericton Public Library, which opened in 1955. She served on the library’s board of directors from 1955 to 1958. Lord Beaverbrook appointed her to the board of governors of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery when it opened in 1959. She was also active on the boards of directors of the Fredericton SPCA and the Fredericton Children’s Aid Society.
Aida founded the Kindness Club, a club to teach children between the ages of 5 and 13 to love and be kind to animals, in 1959. The organization grew rapidly, reaching 2000 members in over 100 chapters in North America and England by 1961. She remained closely involved with the Kindness Club, whose headquarters were at her home in Fredericton. By the late 1960s she regularly received up to 50 letters a day from club members, which she answered on her own until the organization hired a secretary to help with the correspondence in 1973.
Aida was named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Humane Society of the United States in 1964.
She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of law degree by Mount Allison University in 1958. In 1962 she was named “Atlantic Woman of the Year” and in 1976 she was given the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce’s “Distinguished Citizen Award”.
She was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1978 for “her many services to the community of Fredericton and the founding of the Kindness Club, an organization dedicated to the protection of animals, which has branches in twenty-two countries”.
Aida Flemming died on 25 January 1994. In the 1960s she had purchased a large rural property near Woodstock formerly owned by Tappan Adney with the intention of establishing a wildlife sanctuary. Her will left the 27 hectare property first to the province of New Brunswick, and secondly to the town of Woodstock. The province did not accept the bequest and the town took title of the land in 1998.
In October 2022 the City of Fredericton unveiled two benches to honour her many accomplishments and her founding the Kindness Club. They are located by the pond at the Hugh John Flemming Forestry Complex.
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