The 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.
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
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.
In 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.