Capital Lives: Profiles of 32 Leading Ottawa Personalities

Ottawans owe Valerie Knowles a debt of gratitude for searching and recording on paper for our enlightenment, the lives of 32 well-known citizens from the past. What riches she has uncovered about these remarkable men and women, and what they did to build the cornerstones and fabric of our community.

This informative book will leave a legacy for Ottawa of what these citizens have done to enrich and preserve, not only our city, but also the whole of humanity.

To Order: The print version of Capital Lives: Profiles of 32 Leading Ottawa Personalities is available from the author. Click here to order your copy online today.

Get to know these famous Ottawans in Volume 1:

Creative Artists

  • Duncan Campbell Scott (1862-1947)
  • Madge Macbeth (1878-1965)
  • Irene Spry (1907-1998)
  • Victor Tolgesy (1928-1980)


  • Thomas Coltrin Keefer (1821-1915)
  • Sir Sandford Fleming (1827-1915)
  • Sir Collingwood Schreiber (1831-1918)


  • Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey (1784-1857)
  • Henry Franklin Bronson (1817-1889)
  • Moss Kent Dickinson (1822-1897)
  • John Rudolphus Booth (1827-1925)
  • Alexander Smith Woodburn (1830-1940)
  • Thomas Ahearn (1855-1938)
  • William Washington Wylie (1860-1921)
  • G. Cecil Morrison (1890-1979)


  • Harold Fisher (1877-1928)
  • Charlotte Whitten (1896-1975)

MPs and Judges

  • Sir Richard William Scott (1825-1913)
  • Sir Lyman Duff (1865-1955)
  • Senator Cairine Wilson (1885-1962)
  • Senator Eugene Forsey (1904-1991)


  • Lady Adeline Foster (1844-1919)
  • Lillian Freiman (1885-1940)
  • Lotta Hitschmanova (1909-1990)
  • Trudi Le Caine (1911-1999)


  • Dr. Hamnett Hill (1811-1898)
  • Dr. Frederick Montizambert (1843-1929)

Public Servants

  • Sir John George Bourinot (1836-1902)
  • Arthur Percy Sherwood (1854-1940)
  • William Terrill Macoun (1869-1933)
  • Eric Brown (1877-1939)
  • Marius Barbeau (1883-1969)

Capital Lives Audiobook


These brief vignettes make compelling reading. Here are people who have played a part, large and small, in building the community and the nation. Taken together they provide a portrait of Ottawa that all of us who love this city will treasure.

– Barbara McInnes, President and CEO, Community Foundation of Ottawa

Valerie Knowles provides the reader with insightful portrayals of former Ottawa citizens from many walks of life whose activities in the 19th and 20th centuries have shaped our community and our nation.

– David Bullock, M.A., City Archivist, City of Ottawa Archives


Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey: Businessman, Blockade Runner, Author, and Politician

He had wealth, culture and a good education. Yet, despite all these assets Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey decided, in 1819, to exchange his comfortable home in cosmopolitan Georgian London for one in the wilderness of March Township, now part of the City of Ottawa. Why he opted for this exchange is on of those paradoxes of human nature that will probably never be fully explained.

The future landed gentleman and community leader was born on December 11, 1784 in Plymouth, England the son of William Pinhey and Mary Townley. Historian Roger Hall speculates that the name Pinhey is probably Portuguese and that possibly Pinhey was descended from merchants involved in the Anglo-Portuguese trade. In any event, by the time he was born, his family was well established in England and owned a sizeable estate in Devon.

Duncan Campbell Scott: Celebrated Poet and Government Administrator

Practically every summer before he rose to the top of Indian Affairs, Scott journeyed to isolated native settlements to inspect his charges. On one such trip, in 1906, he travelled by canoe as far north as James Bay to negotiate treaties with the Indians of northwestern Ontario.

As an administrator, Scott was committed to a ruthless policy of assimilation, which required that traditional native religious rites be banned, and that native children be separated from their families and placed in residential schools. As a sensitive poet, however, he came to display great sympathy for the plight of the Indian struggling to deal with forced “progression” into “civilization.”

Senator Cairine Wilson: First Lady of the Red Chamber

The shy, wealthy matron was thrust onto the national stage on February 15, 1930 when Prime Minister Mackenzie King, an old family friend, appointed her Canada’s first female senator. Her elevation to the upper chamber came almost four months after the judicial ruling that made her appointment possible: the landmark decision of the Judicial Committee of the Imperial Privy Council that women were “qualified persons” and therefore eligible to sit in the Canadian Senate. It was the direct outcome of a determined fight waged by Judge Emily Murphy and four other feminists from Alberta, who had petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada, and then the Privy Council of Great Britain, for a ruling on Section 24 of the British North America Act.

In an editorial published two days after Cairine Wilson’s elevation to the Senate, The Ottawa Journal pronounced the appointment an excellent one. “Mrs. Wilson,” claimed the paper, then one of Ottawa’s two English daily newspapers, “is the very antithesis of the short-haired female type which talks of Freud and complexes and the latest novel, and poses as being intellectual. She is of the more appealing and competent kind who make a success of their job of taking care of the home and rearing a family before meddling with and trying to make a success of everything else.”