1939 Mildred Hall, 1st School Teacher in Yellowknife
From wilderness to booming mine town, Yellowknife’s (map) rapid growth in the late 1930s brought about the urgent need for a school. At the first meeting of the first District School Board the decision was made to hire Mildred Hall, a teacher working in Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta, as Yellowknife’s first schoolteacher. On her arrival in 1939 Mildred’s first task was to “make a survey and ascertain the number of children that will be attending school in order that a suitable building be obtained as a school”.
Many readers of Toronto’s Globe and Mail already knew Mildred Hall’s name. While working in Fort Fitzgerald she was interviewed by a reporter who wrote:
“She plays tennis, reads books, takes long hikes on snowshoes … but best of all, when the snow comes, she makes trips with her dog teams and records with her motion-picture camera, the beauty of the Northwest Territories in the winter.
Mildred Hall’s most back-breaking work is writing letters to friends on the ‘outside’ who feel sorry for her and plead with her to come home. She can’t make them understand how wonderful the Northwest is. They’ve never been down north – and perhaps they haven’t the spunk, or self-reliance, to enjoy it as she does.”
Mildred’s survey showed there were twenty-two school age children in Yellowknife and at the nearby Con and Negus mines. A tiny log cabin was the only building available in Yellowknife that could be used as a school so classes for grades one to five were held in the morning and grades six and up attended school in the afternoon.
In 1941 Mildred Hall married newspaper editor Jock McMeekan and they had a daughter in 1944. In 1947 Mildred McMeekan became the first female member of the Yellowknife School Board at a time when Yellowknife’s first ‘proper’ school was under construction. Upon Mildred's passing in 1974, the Board recognized her contribution to education by renaming the Yellowknife Elementary School as Mildred Hall School.