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The Honourable W. Helen Hunley, 1985-91

The Hon. Helen HunleyThe Honourable W. Helen Hunley has the distinction of being the first woman to be appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta. She was very active in Alberta municipal and provincial politics and was the first woman to be given full ministerial status in the Alberta government.

Wilma Helen Hunley was born on September 6, 1920, at Acme, Alberta. She is the daughter of James Edgar Hunley and Esta May Hunley. Her early years were spent in the Delia district. In 1933, she moved with her family to the Rocky Mountain House district. She attended rural schools in southern Alberta and went to the Rocky Mountain House High School. She first worked as a telephone operator in Carstairs, Acme, and Calgary. In 1941, she enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps and served overseas from 1943 to 1945. She was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant. After her discharge, she returned to her mother's farm which she helped operate for one year. 

Helen Hunley, left She was then employed for nine years by an implement and truck dealership and an insurance agency at Rocky Mountain House. She purchased these businesses in 1957 and held the International Harvester franchise in Rocky Mountain House until 1968. She was the first woman to hold an International Harvester dealership in North America. She has her Journeyman's Certificate as a "Partsman." She owned and managed Helen Hunley Agencies Limited, an insurance agency, from 1968-71. W. Helen Hunley has been active in community affairs and volunteer agencies, particularly the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and Rocky Mountain House Memorial Public Library. As well, she served in various executive positions in the Rocky Mountain House Badminton Club, Arts and Crafts Association, and Recreation Board.

She was Town Councillor for six years (1960-66) and Mayor of Rocky Mountain House for five (1966-71). She was first elected the Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for the electoral district of Rocky Mountain House in 1971. She was reelected in 1975. She served as Minister Without Portfolio from 1971 to 1973 and was responsible for the Alberta Health Care Commission. She then served as Alberta's first Solicitor General from 1973 to 1975. And finally, she was appointed Minister of Social Services and Community Health on April 3, 1975. 

She did not run as a candidate at the general election of 1979.

Hon. Helen HunleyIn June, 1980, she was appointed Chairman of the Alberta Mental Health Advisory Council. The same year, she also served on the Alberta Seventy-fifth Anniversary Commission and helped form the Alberta Citizens' Coalition. This coalition was organized to inform other Canadians regarding Alberta's position during the negotiations between the Alberta and Canadian governments over constitutional and energy-related issues.

 In 1984, she served as President of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. On the advice of Prime Minister M. Brian Mulroney, W. Helen Hunley was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta effective January 22, 1985. This appointment was made by Jeanne M. Sauve, Governor General of Canada. The Lieutenant-Governor's first Aide-de-Camp was Lieutenant-Colonel John H.Quarton. He was replaced by Lieutenant Commander Donald J. Stewart. Her Private Secretary was M. Patricia Halligan-Baker. W. Helen Hunley is a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (1985) and she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta (1985). Her term as Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta was completed on March 11 1991. She now resides in Rocky Mountain House.



Voices of Politics
The Honourable Helen Hunley discusses her role as Alberta's Lieutenant Governor with Sharon Vasey. Later in her interview, the Honourable Helen Hunley relates examples of activities in a typical day in her life as Lieutenant Governor.
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Reprinted from the Lieutenant Governors of the North-West Territories and Alberta, 1876-1993 with the kind permission of the Legislative Assembly Office .

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