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Although not much has been written about her, and seemingly in her husband's shadow, Sophia Simms Dalton was a strong woman who became Toronto's first woman publisher after the death of her husband.
Born about 1785, Sophia Simms was one of 15 children of William and Mary Simms of Birmingham. She married Thomas Dalton in 1805, a widower, also from Birmingham, with one son named Henry. They later had two sons and four daughters: Thomas, Robert, Sophia, Emma, Harriett and Mary.
For about a decade the family lived in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador (formerly Newfoundland) where Thomas had his own mercantile business. After facing bankruptcy twice in ten years, Thomas and Sophia moved the family to Kingston, Upper Canada in 1817. There he established a very successful brewery and became a director of the private Bank of Upper Canada. After many hardships, including a fire which seriously damaged the brewery, Dalton started a new career as a newspaper publisher. On November 12, 1829, The Patriot and Farmer's Monitor published its first newspaper. Although well-received by Kingston residents, the Daltons decided to move the paper to York (later Toronto) in 1832. Here they could reach a larger market and be right in the thick of politics, a subject very close to Thomas's heart. In fact, he wrote such passionate editorials that Sophia was said to have edited them so the family could avoid any legal troubles that might have resulted from his fiery words.
With the name shortened to The Patriot, the newspaper began publishing in York on December 7, 1832. Within a year, it was published biweekly on Tuesdays and Fridays. Pro-British and conservative in nature, it became an influential paper.
When Thomas Dalton died on October 26, 1840 of a massive stroke, Sophia took control of the newspaper. However, the editorial duties were carried out by others. Sophia insisted on maintaining the same philosophy followed by her husband. "For the benefit of his widow and family, 'The Patriot' will be conducted on as strictly conservative principles as those which heretofore marked its course..." (The Patriot, October 27, 1840, p. 2) and "...but the one great object has, and, during our existence, ever will, guide our political course - the maintenance of the British connexion - the upholding of British supremacy - and the rendering of this fair country as integral and flourishing a portion of that great Empire, as the richest and brightest shire in the broad bounds of 'merry England'." (The Patriot, December 29, 1840, p. 2)
After managing The Patriot for eight years, Sophia sold it to Lieutenant-Colonel Edward George O'Brien on October 9, 1848.
Sophia Dalton died on June 14, 1859 at the age of 74 years. Dalton Road in Toronto is named in the family's honour.
Card, Raymond. — "The Daltons and The Patriot". — The Canadian historical review. — Vol. XVI, no. 2 (June 1935). — P. 176-178
Dalton, Ian R. — "Dalton, Thomas". — Dictionary of Canadian biography. — Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1988. — Vol. VII, P. 228-231
Dalton, Ian R. — "Simms, Sophia (Dalton)". — Dictionary of Canadian biography. — Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1985. — Vol. VIII, P. 804-805
Williams, Fred. — "Toronto's first woman editor". — Daily mail and empire. — (June 19, 1935). — P. 6