Olive Jane Whyte/Oliver

Fast Facts

Born: March 16, 1898 Lanark County
Education: B.A. Social Services, (University of Toronto)
M.A. Religion (Presbyterinan College of Chicago)
1923: Designated deaconess of the United Church
1930: Served as missionary Presbyterian/United Church (Chicago)
Leader, All-People’s Mission (Langlois Avenue, Windsor, Ontario)
1930: stood as candidate for the CCF in the riding of Windsor-Walkerville
1933: ran for position of alderman (unsuccessful) in municipal election
1934: elected as an elder, Giles Blvd United Church
1934: ran unsuccessfully as candidate for the CCF party in Windsor-Walkerville riding during the provincial election
1934: elected to Windsor city council; first woman alderman
1935: re-elected as alderman
1936-1939: member City of Windsor Board of Control
1939: Married Norman Oliver, campaign manager
Died:  July 31, 1985 Almonte, Ontario (Lanark County)

Olive Jane Whyte was born in 1898 and raised in Lanark County in eastern Ontario. The early twentieth century must have seemed an exciting time for her. The general right to vote was granted to women by the end of 1917, and WWI opened opportunities for women to work outside of the home. Outreach work sponsored by the major churches provided a means for women to engage in faith-based social activism. Ms Whyte chose this route, taking training as a missionary following her completion of a degree in social work from the University of Toronto. For eight years she provided spiritual guidance to the members of remote mining towns, fishing villages and small settlements in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

By 1930, Ms Whyte was living In Windsor and leading the All-People’s Mission located on Langlois Avenue. She quickly accumulated notices in the BORDER CITIES STAR reporting her abilities as a public speaker. Her outreach work caught the attention of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) Study Group, leading to their selection of Ms Whyte -a longstanding party member – for their slate of preferred candidates in the 1933 municipal election.  Despite the CCF-Labour Party endorsement, she ran as an independent. In her campaign speeches, Whyte advocated for the placement of wards of the Children’s Aid Society in private homes instead of institutionalizing them, the provision of assistance to families on relief, and employment of out-of-work citizens in projects to beautify the waterfront.  Whyte also favoured the amalgamation of the border cities. When the results of all the polls were tallied, Whyte did not earn a spot on council, but she did achieve a respectable fourth place finish in her first run in municipal politics.

1934 provided further challenges and achievements. In January, Ms Whyte was elected as an elder in the Giles Boulevard United Church, and was the first female elder to be part of the regional administration (London Conference) for that denomination. On the secular side, she agreed to stand as the CCF candidate for the riding of Windsor-Walkerville, but ultimately lost to David Croll of the Liberal party. Later that year she ran as an aldermanic candidate in the municipal elections on a labour-friendly platform. This time Whyte succeeded, becoming the first female councillor for the City of Windsor.

Re-elected as an alderman again in 1935, and then winning a position on Windsor’s Board of Control for the period 1936 to 1939, Ms Whyte consistently worked to support the unemployed and the vulnerable living in the city. But by the December 1939 municipal election, the electorate seemed to want a change. An editorial in the WINDSOR DAILY STAR observed, “The influence exerted by the war situation may have been the principal factor in bringing about the sweeping defeat of “Leftist” candidates in yesterday’s municipal election”- a slate that included Ms Whyte.

Following her defeat, Olive Whyte married. Though she continued to support labour causes, she did not return to public office. In 1970 she retired to Almonte Ontario, near to where she was born. Her husband, Norman Oliver, died in 1982; Olive Jane Oliver (Whyte) passed on three years later at age 87. Both are buried in the Clayton United Cemetery in Ramsay Township.


“Nomination of Olive White for council”. Border Cities Star. Nov. 21, 1933

“Candidates are heard”. Border Cities Star.  Nov. 28, 1933

“Mr. Eansor feels wrath of crowd”. Border Cities Star. Dec.2, 1933

[Election results. Various articles] Border Cities Star. December 5, 1933]

“Giles United Church Elects a woman as elder”. Border Cities Star. January 19, 1934

“All parties more active”.  Border Cities Star. May 29, 1934

“Thinks CCF has the best platform” . Border Cities Star. June 15, 1934

“First Woman for council”. Border Cities Star. December 1, 1934

[Editorial]. Windsor Daily Star. Dec. 5, 1939.

“Depression crusader dies”. WINDSOR STAR. (August 2, 1985)

Kulisek, Larry. “Windsor History: Female Trailblazers…” WINDSOR STAR. (December 31, 1999)