Rittenhouse, Eleanore Jane

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Rittenhouse, Eleanore Jane

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Eleanore Jane Rittenhouse (generally called Jane) was born November 28, 1912, in East Orange, New Jersey. Her mother, Florence Susan (Spragg), had been a schoolteacher and her father, Thomas Earl, was an accountant. She also had a younger brother, Richard, who died in 1916 at the age of fifteen months. (His intended Christmas present that year, a stuffed dog, is now at the Vancouver Museum.) The family relocated briefly to California, but while travelling back to New Jersey in October 1918, Thomas Rittenhouse died of Spanish influenza. After his death, mother and daughter first lived upstairs in Florence's half-sister Jean's house. They later moved into their own apartment, but never again lived in the family home.

From her early teen years, Jane and her mother (whom Jane later called Fahnie or Susie ) spent large parts of each summer in the Toronto area, where Florence's younger sister Gertrude lived. When Jane graduated from high school, she moved to Canada and enrolled in the Ontario Ladies College in Whitby for a one-year program in dietetics. In 1932 her mother moved to Toronto and both remained in Canada thereafter. Throughout the Depression years Jane struggled both to earn a living for herself and to help her mother. She sold children's books door-to-door across eastern Canada, opened and ran (with a partner) a dining room in Toronto, and used her dietetics background to secure a job with Heinz, in Toronto.

After the dependants allowance was instituted for servicewomen and she had become a Canadian in 1944, Jane joined the WRENS. Most of her service time was spent as a supply clerk in Halifax. She was discharged in February 1946, at which time she returned to Heinz. In 1952, she stayed at home for some months to care for her mother, who had breast cancer. After her mother's death, she lived alone. Three years later, she left Heinz and went on to a variety of jobs: supervisor of volunteers at the Metropolitan Toronto Children's Aid Society, chair of the Canadian Mental Health Society in Ottawa, and Assistance Director of Education for the Alcohol Research Foundation in Toronto.

Jane moved to Vancouver in 1968, but in 1972 was forced to return to Toronto for economic reasons. She was back in Vancouver within a year. In 1974 she began an active volunteer career and for many years thereafter she was engaged in community work in the Kitsilano area. She worked on volunteer activities with organizations such as the Kitsilano Neighbourhood Association. She served on the Local Area Planning Committee, the Community Resources Board, and the Parents Book Committee, among others, bringing her expertise to numerous projects such as the development of local day care centres, seniors activities, and the production of a Rogers Cable documentary. Poor health in her later years curtailed these activities.


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