Kate Aitken – Mrs. A – was Canada’s Martha Stewart decades before the U.S. version, and with a far wider audience proportionately. Mrs. A had up to three million listeners in the ‘40s and ‘50s when she was Canada’s most popular broadcaster – that’s a quarter of all Canadians at the time.
She could receive 75,000 letters in response to a program. At the height of her popularity she had 21 secretaries to answer her mail.
Mrs. A talked about domestic issues such cooking, homemaking and etiquette but she also travelled the world and interviewed world leaders like Josef Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and she considered the young Queen Elizabeth II a friend.
She was born Kate Scott in the village of Beeton, now part of New Tecumseth, just north of Toronto. By age 12 she was selling cosmetics door-to-door on her bicycle. At 14 she trained as a teacher. She moved west and learned to ride and shoot but her father died and she returned home to help her mother, Anne, to run the family store. She married Henry Aitken in 1914. After a stop in Minnesota, they returned to Beeton where Henry helped to manage his family’s mill and where they had two daughters.
They bought 10.5 hectares of land across from the mill and started a small farm, and Kate started a canning business using their products. Her experimental work was so successful that she was hired by the federal and provincial agriculture departments to lecture. She was put in charge of the Canadian Craft Exhibit at an Empire craft show in London, where she met the royal family, including an 18-month-old girl who was to become Queen Elizabeth II. A writing assignment by a farm journal paid for further travels in Europe and a year later a government assignment led to an interview with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Kate Aitken was curious, energetic, and always professional. She said she just hopped from job to job like a grasshopper having a good time. She advised people to try new things, to treat them as an adventure, and, if they failed, to try again. One of her books was Making Your Living is Fun. She believed anyone could talk to world leaders as she had if they were just persistent.
She died quietly in 1971 at the Beeton farm, Sunnybank, where it had all started.
Written by Jerry Fairbridge - January, 2004« Previous Personality Bio | Next Personality Bio »
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