In 1992, the Government of Canada designated October as Women’s History Month, marking the beginning of an annual month-long celebration of the outstanding achievements of women throughout Canada’s history. Women’s History Month in 2020 includes the International Day of the Girl (October 11) and Persons Day (October 18). For Women’s History Month we will be looking at the life and times of women who have left their mark on the story of Mississauga.
Charlotte Augusta Bonnycastle was born on June 17, 1906 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to His Honour Judge Angus Lorne Bonnycastle and Ellen Mary Boulton. Augusta was a descendant of both the prominent Boulton family of Toronto and of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Richard Henry Bonnycastle, commanding officer of the Royal Engineers in Upper Canada from 1837-1839. The Bonnycastle and Boulton families had a long list of notable members with careers in the military, the legal profession, education and politics.
In 1931 Augusta married Anthony Patrick Cawthra Adamson (1906-2002) in Chelsea, England. Their honeymoon included visits to Holland, Denmark and Russia. They would have three sons: Adrian (born 1933), Inigo (born 1935) and Jeremy (born 1943).
Both Augusta and Anthony came from wealthy families (Anthony was descended from the Cawthra family of historic Mississauga), and as Anthony once stated, they were “relatively successful in the inheritance business.” During his varied career, Anthony was a university professor, town planner and politician. He served as a chairman of the Ontario Arts Council and with the National Capital Commission, the Ontario Heritage Foundation, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, and many other organizations.
Augusta was also very community-minded. She was a life member of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, Port Credit Chapter (I.O.D.E.), in 1946-47 served as the commissioner for the 2nd Port Credit Company of Girl Guides, and took an active role in community aid organizations. However, she is best remembered for her leadership with the Women’s Auxiliary in support of the South Peel Hospital.
In 1953, shortly after government approval to build the South Peel Hospital, Augusta spearheaded research of how hospital support auxiliaries were run. Thus the Women’s Auxiliary of what is now the Trillium Health Partners: Mississauga Hospital at the Queensway and Hurontario Street.
Augusta was the first president and the Auxiliary met each month, often from her home (now known as the Adamson Estate on Enola Drive), from 1955 until 1958, when the Auxiliary Room in the new hospital opened. To keep people informed of the Auxiliary’s activities, Augusta edited and issued the Auxiliary’s newsletter, beginning in 1956. In it, she outlined the purpose and activities of the organization.
At the Hospital Board’s Meeting in October 1956, Augusta reported that the active Auxiliary membership that had grown to 1,870 members and were building a fund to purchase linens for the hospital. A year later, in 1957, Augusta was promoting the sale of Canada Savings Bonds: “We know that this year particularly, people with money to invest, will be more likely to buy bonds than almost any other investment, owing to the uncertain state of the Stock Market.” She remarked on the growing awareness of all Canadians, for the need to invest in the development of Canada. “We unhesitatingly recommend the purchase of Canada Savings Bonds again, as a gesture of confidence in the undoubted future of our own country and consider it an honour for our Auxiliary to be connected with this campaign of national importance.”
In May 1958 the South Peel Hospital admitted its first patient. As the day of the official opening came closer, the excitement in the community grew. On May 3, 1958 Augusta (who served both as the President of the Women’s Auxiliary and as Vice-Chair of the Hospital’s Board of Directors), received over 3000 guests and introduced the Honourable Waldo Monteith, Federal Minister of Health and Welfare at the official opening of the hospital. Augusta read a list of contents that were sealed in a copper time capsule that had been placed in the cornerstone of the new hospital by the Auxiliary.
Through Augusta’s dedication and effort of leadership, the Auxiliary was the largest in the Metropolitan Toronto area and had been operating for two and a half years before the building of the hospital. Her careful organization was credited in maintain the community support for the creation of the hospital – the first hospital in Mississauga.
Augusta resigned in February of 1959 as president of the South Peel Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, which she had been instrumental in establishing. In an interview Augusta said her work with the Hospital Auxiliary had been, “a wonderful and satisfying experience.”
In the early 1960s, Augusta oversaw the conversion of the barn on their property in Port Credit to host concerts, musical recitals, theatrical performances and fundraisers. This continued until 1971.
Outside of her work with the hospital, Augusta spent parts of 1957 to 1960 touring Ontario with her husband and accompanied by his professional collaborator, Marion MacRae. In 1956, during the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Anthony Adamson had persuaded the St. Lawrence Parks Commission to assemble a heritage village near Morrisburg, Ontario, by relocating historic buildings from lands that were about to be flooded by the St. Lawrence Seaway. Anthony, with his extensive knowledge of historic Ontario architecture, served as chief designer for the project, with Augusta has his very capable assistant. Known today as Upper Canada Village, the site opened in 1961.
As Anthony recalled, they drove around Ontario in “an immense Lincoln car … with an 1834 road map.” Whenever they spotted a house or building of interest, they would knock at the door and request admittance: “Augusta, with all the grace of the Family Compact, and a little splash of diamonds, would engage the lady owner … I would rush about every room making plans and sketches, and Marion would walk around sensing the interior.” Thus the concept for Upper Canada Village was born. Anthony and Augusta were honoured in 1991 at the 30th anniversary of the village.
In an article remembering the many community contributions of Augusta Adamson from the Mississauga South Historical Society, she was referred to as the “Hospital Queen.” Augusta passed away in 1997 and was laid to rest in the Adamson family vault at Trinity Anglican Cemetery on Stavebank Road in Port Credit.