Henry Wise Wood
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|Henry Wise Wood|
Portrait of Henry Wise Wood
May 31, 1860|
Ralls County, Missouri
|Died||June 10, 1941
|Known for||Agrarian theorist|
|Political movement||United Farmers of Alberta|
Henry Wise Wood (May 31, 1860 – June 10, 1941) was an American-born Canadian agrarian thinker and activist. He became director in 1914 and was elected president of the United Farmers of Alberta in 1916. Under his leadership the UFA became the most powerful political lobby group in the province. In 1919, Wood oversaw the transition of the UFA into a political party and in 1921 they formed the government of Alberta, winning 38 of 61 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Wood refused to enter electoral politics himself but led the UFA's extra-parliamentary organization throughout, and influenced the elected government from the sidelines.
Background and early career
Wood was born on a farm near Monroe City, Missouri to a prosperous farming family with land holding in Missouri and Texas. He became an accomplished stockman while still a teenager. At the age of 44 he visited Alberta and the following year (1905) purchased a wheat farm and moved his family to Carstairs, Alberta.
Leadership of United Farmers of Alberta
An earnest student of agrarian reform, he had observed the Alliance and Populist movements in Missouri during the 1890s and after relocating to Canada soon joined the Society for Equity, an early farm association. In 1909 the Society for Equity merged with the Alberta Farmers' Association to form the United Farmers of Alberta. In 1914 Wood became a director of the UFA; in 1915 he was elected vice-president and was president from 1916 to 1931.
Class conflict ideology
Wood became well known as the main theorist and head of the radical Albertan branch of the wave of agrarian discontent that was sweeping Canada at the time. He consistently refused to run for office, but backed the United Farmers when they ran for office in the province and also supported the Progressive Party of Canada federally. Wood's basic ideology was one of class conflict.
Accused of Bolshevik tendencies
He was often accused of being a Bolshevik and borrowed from their vocabulary. Wood believed the two main parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, were dominated by the industrial interests of central Canada, but he did not see this as a problem. He acknowledged that every class should do its utmost to curry favour from the government. However, Wood did find it problematic that the rural interests were not represented and thus could not get their share of the spoils. This position was unpopular in most of Canada and the capture of the Progressive Party by followers of Wood helped reduce the party in popularity outside Alberta.
Wood continued to play an important role in the UFA until 1937 when he retired to his farm in Carstairs, Alberta.