You might call Elizabeth Corker, L BA 68, MBA 76, a reluctant pioneer. Or at least an inadvertent one. Corker is the first female mayor of the Town of Hudson, Que., a municipality of some 5,000 souls about 20 kilometres west of the Island of Montreal. She’s blazed trails for women without giving it much thought.
In 1962, when she was at Loyola College, Corker played defence on the school’s first women’s hockey team. “We had no equipment,” she remembers. “All but one of us had figure skates. We had to use the men’s pads and sweaters.” In 1967-68, Corker also became president of the Loyola Women’s Athletics Association.
Born Elizabeth Larkin in Toronto, she moved with her family to Montreal at the age of 6. Corker graduated from Loyola College with a BA in Psychology. She soon married and headed to New York City with her husband, John Goettisheim. Tragically, he died soon after, leaving behind his 23- year-old widow and their nine-month- old son. Corker returned to Montreal and enrolled in Concordia’s MBA program. “At the time, there were very few women there,” she says. “I think I was one of a handful. But given my situation, I didn’t think that my BA would provide many job opportunities.” It was the MBA that paid off.
After graduating, Corker became the first female manager hired by the Canadian Salt Company, better known as Windsor Salt. She soon married John Corker, and the two formed a family with their respective sons (both named John, as well). Corker left Canadian Salt to raise her children. After the birth of her daughter, Katie, she ran a successful catering company for a number of years.
At the time, Corker was hardly a political animal. But, as she eloquently puts it, “Fate is a strange creature.” When she decided to run for town council in 1993, she had never even attended a council meeting. “I was just annoyed by a few things that were going on in Hudson,” Corker says. “I used to sit back and criticize. So I decided to do something, and I won by a whopping 23 votes.”
Corker ran successfully for mayor in 2004, after the death of then mayor Stephen Shaar, to complete the remaining 18 months of the council’s four-year term. In 2005, she ran again and won by acclamation. Corker devotes much of her time to the office, although the position is not explicitly full time.
She says she has found being at the town’s helm rewarding. Hudson is now installing a long-awaited municipal sewer system that will lay the groundwork for other projects, such as a seniors residential complex. “Being mayor of a small town is the best place to be because you can actually get things done,” Corker says. “But being in a small town, you can’t hide, either. You have to read the paper every week to find out what you’re in trouble for. Every so often, though, somebody calls you up and thanks you. And that’s what I’ll remember.”
If you have any comments about this article, contact
Howard Bokser, 514-848-2424 ext. 3826, Howard.Bokser@concordia.ca