Martha Jane Hample
Martha Hample was Winnipeg’s first businesswoman and an important financial backer of The Political Equality League. She leaves an important legacy behind in Winnipeg as a philanthropist, real estate investor, employer and politician. The three-story Hample building, which was the first building in Winnipeg built and owned by a woman, was constructed in 1906 and it continues standing near Portage and Main.
With little formal education, as Hample was born into a large family in England with limited resources, she followed her brother to Canada in June 1885. In 1888, she married and had two children. Also in 1888, her husband opened a meat shop on Main Street and from that shop, Hample began her career as a caterer, eventually employing as many as 14 regular employees and many others as casual workers when the occasion required. She was widowed in 1899, and fitting the norms of the day, Hample opened up a delicatessen shop in the Hample building and invested further in real estate. Amongst her investments was a large tract of land at Sturgeon Creek.
However, being the family breadwinner, Hample yearned for the right to vote. In 1912, she built a substantial home at 808 Wolseley Avenue, and this was the location where The Political Equality League was first organized. Word has it her home and purse were always open to help the cause of women. She was elected to the Winnipeg School Board in 1916 and ran for provincial office in 1922.
Hample also helped to establish the Knowles Home for Boys in 1907. Situated then at
738 Broadway, it provided accommodation and meals for abandoned and orphaned boys between the ages of 11 and 16.
Martha Jane Hample was a remarkable woman and Manitoban – Winnipeg’s first businesswoman, an employer, a real estate investor and builder, a politician, a philanthropist and financial backer of The Political Equality League – assuredly worthy of being a “Manitoba Female Trailblazer”.