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Memorable Manitobans: Asta Austmann Oddson (1893-1974)

Educator, social worker

Born Asta Jonsdottir at Winnipeg on 18 January 1893, daughter of Icelandic parents Thora Thorvardardottir (1864-1925) and Jon Olafsson, she attended the Central Normal School and Wesley College (BA). Her parents separated and her mother married John Austmann (?-?) whose surname she took. Her early teaching in rural Manitoba included service at Lakeside School (1912), Markland School (1914, 1915-1917), Gimli School (1918-1919, Principal), and Jon Bjarnason Academy (1919-1920). She is also believed to have taught in a school at Norway House.

On 2 October 1920, she married widower Leifur Oddson (1887-1945, son of Thorsteinn Oddson) at Winnipeg and had at least six children and step-children: Jakobina Rakel “Jackie” Oddson (1915-1997, wife of ? Brant and ? Bonnevie), Olga Clara Oddson (1917-1997, wife of Paul Skaftfeld), Thora Margret Oddson (1922-1997, wife of John Winchester Low), Leifur Thorsteinn Oddson (1923-1998), Kristjan Magnus “Kris” Oddson (?-?), and Olof Rosemary Oddson (?-?, wife of ? Moon). The family resided initially near Elm Creek (1921). By the mid-1930s, she attended Success Business College and became a social worker for the federal government’s Department of Indian Affairs. During the Second World War, she was a gun inspector at a munitions factory in Hamilton, Ontario. She left social work in the 1950s and returned to teaching at Fisher Branch Collegiate (1960-1962).

In 1939, she wrote a report “Employment of women in Manitoba” for the Manitoba Economic Survey Board. She also published a collection of poems entitled Poems for Pleasure (1963). Politically active, she stood for election four times, with the Social Credit Party in the 1936 provincial general election (Gimli), 1941 provincial general election (Winnipeg), and 1962 federal general election (Winnipeg South Centre), and as an Independent in the 1958 provincial general election (Rupertsland).

She retired to Edmonton, Alberta and died there on 24 December 1974. She was buried in Edmonton’s Mount Pleasant Municipal Cemetery.

Sources:

Marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1916 Canada census, Ancestry.

1921 Canada census, Library and Archives Canada.

“Results of recent Manitoba University examinations [Scholarships - Icelandic],” Manitoba Free Press, 14 May 1915, page 7.

“University notes,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 March 1917, page 6.

“Deaths and funerals [Thora Austmann],” Manitoba Free Press, 30 June 1925, page 9.

University of Manitoba Yearbooks, Brown and Gold - 1937, page 14.

“Woman candidate in Rupertsland,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 May 1958, page 34.

“Woman social worker candidate in election,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 May 1958, page 44.

“Mrs. Oddson conducts unique campaign,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 June 1962, page 14.

Obituary [Leifur Oddson], Winnipeg Tribune, 4 april 1945, page 31.

“Socreds pick four candidates,” Winnipeg Tribune, 19 May 1962, page 39.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 21 January 1975, page 35.

Obituary [Thora Margret Low], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 April 1997, page 27.

Obituary [Olga Clara Skaftfeld], Winnipeg Free Press, 24 October 1997, page 44.

Obituary [Leifur Thorsteinn Oddson], Winnipeg Free Press, 15 October 1998, page 17.

Mount Pleasant Municipal Cemetery burial transcriptions [Edmonton, Alberta], FindAGrave.

We thank Gordon Goldsborough and Jodine Chase for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 22 July 2020

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