Byrne Hope Sanders: journalist, editor, author…and more 

Hope Sanders as Consumer Branch Director, Wartime Price and Trade Board, 1942. Photo Ottawa Citizen/Ancestry.ca.

Some extraordinary women have called Leaside home over the years: Beth Nealson, Leaside’s first woman mayor; Agnes Macphail, Canada’s first female Member of Parliament; Maureen Kempston Darkes, CEO of General Motors Canada; and novelist Margaret Atwood, who lived in nearby Bennington Heights, but attended Leaside High School. 

While this is just a partial list, I’d like to expand it by adding the name of Byrne Hope Sanders (1902-1981), who lived with her husband on Bessborough Drive in north Leaside from 1948 until her death in 1981.

Byrne came to Leaside already an accomplished career woman.

Born in South Africa, she arrived in Canada at the age of 11 and attended St. Mildred’s College School in Toronto. As a young woman she worked as a journalist, and then in the advertising department of Eaton’s. Still in her mid-20s, she was named editor of the magazine Business Woman, and by 1929 had become editor-in-chief of Chatelaine – a position she held until the early days of World War II when she was appointed Director of the Consumer Branch of the Wartime Price and Trade Board (WPTB) in Ottawa.

During the war, Byrne oversaw a volunteer staff of 15,000 women who helped control hoarding, price gouging and inflation by monitoring the purchasing needs and behaviours of Canadians. Byrne herself travelled across the country addressing hundreds of groups on the importance of price ceilings imposed by the government. When the conflict ended in 1945, she published a biography of Canadian Emily Murphy (researched and written in her spare time at the WPTB), the first police magistrate in the British Commonwealth and the driving force behind getting women legally recognized as “persons” under the British North America Act. One reviewer called it “the best piece of biographical writing to come out of Canada in a long time.” The following year, she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in recognition of her wartime service, and in 1948 was named “Woman of the Year” by the Quota Club of Toronto.

Byrne Hope Sanders (centre, holding artboard) with Chatelaine staff, 1949. Financial Post, March 5, 1949.
Byrne Hope Sanders (centre, holding artboard) with Chatelaine staff, 1949. Financial Post, March 5, 1949.

The war over, Byrne left Ottawa to resume her role as Chatelaine’s editor. Soon after, she and her husband with their two children moved into their newly built home on 364 Bessborough Dr. During her first years in Leaside, she continued working at the magazine, until 1951, when she left to try something new. Over her long tenure as editor, she turned Chatelaine into one of Canada’s leading and most popular women’s publications – with a readership of over 1.5 million.

Drawing on her extensive experience with Chatelaine and the WPTB in identifying and tracking issues of public concern, Byrne joined her brother Wilfred in 1951 as an equal partner in owning and operating the Gallup Poll of Canada (aka Canadian Institute of Public Opinion). Specializing in both political and general opinion polling, the Gallup Poll – which Byrne operated out of an office in her home – grew to become Canada’s most prominent public opinion firm, whose research was carried in 30 newspapers across the country. Byrne became its sole owner in 1958 and ran it until 1973, when she retired. During that time, she wrote and published two more books and saw her biography of Emily Murphy adapted for television by the CBC.

Byrne died in her sleep at her Bessborough Drive home on June 24, 1981 – a Leaside resident for more than 30 years. Two years later, she was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame by the Toronto Press Club in recognition of her significant contribution to Canada and the communications business. Byrne Hope Sanders – truly an extraordinary woman.

About Ted DeWelles 41 Articles
Ted DeWelles is a retired public relations professional and community college professor. A Leaside resident for more than 20 years, Ted currently serves on the board of the Leaside Heritage Preservation Society. He loves reading, cycling and researching and writing about Leaside’s history.