Emmie Ducie Oddie, C.M., S.O.M., is considered a prairie icon for her years of service to the rural community. For nearly five decades she used her home economics training to answer questions from readers of her column in The Western Producer. Emmie died July 6, 2013, in Saskatchewan at the age of 97 (obituary).
This commitment to farm families was appropriate, as she was born to prairie life. The Ducie family farmed in Saskatchewan through the drought and depression of the 1930s. After elementary education at Coates, a one-room rural school, Emmie completed her high school through government correspondence courses. During the same period she obtained an A.T.C.M. in piano and became involved in the Girls’ Homecraft Clubs established by Edith Rowles.
Times improved, and in 1941 Emmie graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Household Science. In 1943, she earned a Master of Science degree from Washington State College with a major in nutrition and minors in household management and rural sociology.
Putting Home Economics Into Action
After completing a summer of employment giving canning demonstrations arranged by the Canada Department of Agriculture, Emmie left for Toronto where she worked as nutritionist for the local branch of the Red Cross. In 1945, she returned to Saskatchewan to become Supervisor of Girls’ Work for the Extension Division of the University of Saskatchewan. She left the position in 1946 to marry Langford Oddie, who was the Agricultural Representative at Assiniboia.
The birth of two children, coupled with a move to the farm, permitted Emmie to use her discretionary time to begin a weekly question and answer column in The Western Producer. First known as “Emmie Oddie’s Column”, it was later changed to “I’d Like to Know”. A deep empathy developed over the years between writer and readers.
Emmie also used her home economics background as a 4-H leader and as a judge at 4-H Achievement Days and fairs. The organization of a local Homemakers’ Club, later known as Women’s Institute, led to years of involvement at district, provincial and national levels, eventually leading to the national presidency of Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada from 1979 to 1982.
In addition, Emmie served on several boards and commissions, including 10 years as a member of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, 16 years as a member of the Saskatchewan Milk Control Board, and two years of intensive work on a task force on item pricing. She also continued her membership in professional organizations, serving one term as president of the Saskatchewan Home Economics Association and later representing that body on the University of Regina Senate.
Back to University as a Lecturer
In 1969, when her children reached university age, Emmie accepted a teaching position as a special lecturer with a joint appointment to the College of Home Economics and the Extension Division, University of Saskatchewan. Her husband, an agrologist by training, found employment on campus with the Farm Economics Branch, College of Agriculture, during the winters of 1970 and ’71.
During her university assignment, Emmie updated some of her own classes through Perdue University. She resigned in 1973 to return to farm life and to devote more time to her newspaper column, which she maintained despite her teaching responsibilities. She retired as Western Producer columnist in 1995. Her husband, Langford, died in 1996.
Emmie Oddie’s remarkable contributions to the profession and rural women’s organizations have been recognized by numerous life memberships and several prestigious awards. She is a life member of the Association of Saskatchewan Home Economists Association and Canadian Home Economics Association, the Saskatchewan Women’s Institutes and the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada. In 1997, the Saskatchewan Home Economics Teachers Association also made her a life member, a gesture she particularly appreciated because many members of the granting body were students when she taught at the University of Saskatchewan.
Her dedication to the profession and community was recognized in 1982 when she received the Honour Award from the Canadian Home Economics Association. In 1983, she was inducted into the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame and the same year received the Consumer Award of Merit from the Saskatchewan Department of Consumer and Commercial Affairs. In 1984, she was named a member of the Order of Canada, and in 1986 received the Women Helping Women award from Soroptimist International of Regina. She received appreciation awards from both the Saskatchewan 4-H Council and the University of Regina Senate.
In 1991 she received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in recognition of her contribution to the well-being of the province through the field of home economics. The citation accompanying it captures the essence of her lifetime of service, stating in part, “Your membership on boards, commissions, task forces on agriculture, home economics, education and women’s issues has added immeasurably to the quality of life of Saskatchewan people.”