Shelley Harding-Smith, Canada's first black female master electrician, dead at 64

Canada’s first black female master electrician is described as “remarkable” by her sister.

Shelley Harding-Smith, born and raised in Windsor, died unexpectedly Friday at age 64.

Described as “no-nonsense” by her sister Elise Harding-Davis, Harding-Smith was a St. Clair College graduate, Greater Essex County School Board trustee and community activist.

“The electrical trade was a man’s domain — and largely still is,” said Harding-Davis. “As a black woman and as a woman she suffered a lot of prejudice. She never let it stop her.”

In 1978, Harding-Smith received her master electrician papers after finishing an apprenticeship at a family-owned business.

“She was dedicated to the craft,” said Harding-Davis. “Adament about women working in trades.”

She was a very tenacious individual. People will remember her as a fighter. – Elise Harding-Davis, sister

Harding-Smith went on to own and operating Harding-Smith Electic, as well as was employed by Chrysler Canada, the City of Windsor and on Boblo Island.

“We have a great deal of pride in what she accomplished,” said Harding-Davis.

Harding-Davis said her sister inspired their family, and Harding-Smith’s own children, to go on to great things.

“Our great grandfather was a slave … each one of us, individually have progressed in a world where it has been challenging,” said Harding-Davis. “We don’t let things like that stand in our way.”

Harding-Smith died surrounded by her family, including one child who works at the university and one who works for Canadian Border Services Agency. Her sister joked there “aren’t any duds” in the family.

As a GECDSB trustee, Harding-Smith implemented a Black Studies guide for teachers. She served on several boards including the Amhersburg Freedom Museum and the Friends of Mackenzie Hall. Harding-Smith also received a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal.

“She was a true changemaker,” said Harding-Davis. “She won’t be forgotten.”

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