National Reference book on Canadian Personalities with other General Information for Library, Newspaper, Educational and Individual Use, eighth edition, 1947-1948, Canadian Newspaper Service, H Harrison.


Kinnear, Helen Alice, BA, KC, Judge of the County and Surrogate Courts of Haldimand County and local Judge of the Supreme Court of Ontario, (Formerly shown in on June 23, 1943), is believed to be the first woman to be appointed to the Bench within the British Commonwealth of Nations, likewise a King’s Counsel.  Her Honour Judge Kinnear, one of the most distinguished figures among Canadian women whose brilliant attainments have been deeply etched upon the legal and political body of her native country, was born at Cayuga, Ont, May 6, 1894 of Scottish descent. She is the daughter of the late Louis Kinnear, MA, born July 11, 1860, and died on March 26, 1924 at Port Colborne, Ont.  The biographers of that period refer to him as a noted educationist identified with the teaching profession in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties, Mr Kinnear graduated from the University of Toronto in 1885 and took his MA degree in 1997.  He followed the teaching profession until 1899 when he enrolled as a student at Osgood Hall Law School and was called to the Bar in 1902.  Deciding to establish himself in his old home town Mr Kinnear removed his family to Port Colborne the same year. For a quarter of a century he practised his profession there, becoming an honoured member of the Bar in Welland County and prominent in the Port’s activities.  Judge Kinnear’s mother was Elizabeth Eleanor (Thompson) Kinnear, born in the Township of Dunn, in Haldimand County.  Judge Kinnear attended public school at Port Colborne and high school at Welland, after which she took up study at the University of Toronto graduating with honours in English and History with the degree of BA in 1917.  Desiring to climb higher and showing evidence of her bent for law, she, like her father, entered Osgoode Hall Law School.  Revealing outstanding talent in her chosen profession by capturing a scholarship the first year, which was followed by honour standing throughout her course, Miss Kinnear was graduated in 1920 and admitted to the Bar in the same year. Immediately thereafter she joined her father in partnership, at which time the firm name changed to Kinnear and Kinnear.  During the years of active legal practice she attained a status of responsibility, gaining an understanding of questions affecting the human family.  Quietly delving the same thoroughness, travelling to different lands, penetrating the departments of administration and attending trials she acquired a background for success.  Possessed with outstanding ability, a judicial mind and good judgment, she is the recognized choice among her colleagues to be the first woman to “occupy a seat on the Bench.”  After her father’s death, Miss Kinnear carried on alone for several years the law firm he established.  She practised in Port Colborne from 1920 until her appointment to the Bench in 1943.  Aside from the two high posts bestowed upon her by the Crown, Judge Kinnear has, with characteristic simplicity, opened the door to women members of the legal profession in other phases within the circuit of the Bar.  In glancing over the highlights of her legal career, on which she has shed so much lustre of “firsts” being the first woman to plead as counsel at the Welland Sitttings of the Supreme Court of Ontario, one of the first women to plead before the Supreme Court of Canada at Ottawa. She was the first woman to preside as Acting County Court Judge at a Division Court Session when early in 1943 she acted for His Honour Judge Livingstone at Niagara Falls, Ont.  Also in another sphere, the first woman ever to be appointed to the Board of Management of First Presbyterian Church at Port Colborne. Early records show that Judge Kinnear comes by her interest in things legal from a line of forebears who have played a part in the judiciary since 1574.  On the wall of her chambers at Cayuga, one finds the original signature of a kinsman, Henry Kinnear, Lay Abbot of Balmerino Abbey, 1574-1587 (born about 1552 and died after 1608) a Lord of the Session 1575, as well as the original signature of Rt Honourable Alexander Baron Kinnear of Spirness, PC LLD, a Lord of Session, 1882 to 1917.  From the beginning of her career she has enthusiastically supported causes pertaining to the advancement of women, serving in an official capacity in welfare organisations, and in the political field.  In 1922, she became Recording Secretary of the Ontario Women’s Liberal association, and was for four years, President of the Hamilton district Women’s Liberal Association, and President of the Welland County Liberal Association from 1936 to 1938, being the first woman to head a County Liberal Association.  At the Liberal Convention in 1941 following the death of AB Damude, MP, Miss Kinnear received the nomination as Liberal candidate for the Federal Riding of Welland. The largeness and loyalty of Miss Kinnear was proved when later she withdrew her nomination to open the riding to the newly appointed Minister of Labour, the Honourable Humphrey Mitchell.  She is the first Honorary Member of Alpha Mu Chapter of Kappa Beta Pi Legal Sorority.  In 1944 Judge Kinnear was elected to the Senate of the University of Toronto to represent the graduates of University College for a term of four years and she is a member of three of its committees. The Discipline Committee, the Honourary Degrees Committee, and the Chancellorship Committee.  In 1945, she was made an Honourary Life Member of the National Association of Women Lawyers (USA) and in 1947 she was appointed Juvenile Court Judge for the County of Haldimand.  She is Honourary President of the Haldimand Law Association.  Feminine, a gracious hostess, she enjoys with her sister, entertaining, reading, gardening, motoring and outdoor life during the hours of intermission from official duties.  Member: Women’s Law Association of Ontario (first secretary and charter member); Member Canadian Bar Association.  Hobby: taking moving pictures.  Residence: Cayuga, Ont.


[Of all the biographies in the book, this is one of the largest.  It is also one of the few which talk about the career of the parent in such detail.  It seems that while Judge Kinnear was a brilliant woman, her brilliance can only be considered in relation to that of her father, who was also a lawyer, although not nearly as successful.  And the references to the Kinnear forbears also being lawyers, seems to be a way of explaining why Helen Kinnear was so good at law, and not present in the other biographies in the book.]