Canadian Aviatrix #60 – Auree Sinkins (born 1911)

Audrey Lucille Sinkins was born on 22 February 1911 in Toronto, Ontario, to Cecil Noral Sinkins (a salesman) and Nellie Victoria Johnston.


1921 census

1925 census

1931 census


Toronto ON

Buffalo NY

Toronto ON














(I haven’t found the family in 1911 yet.)

In 1922, Cecil was part of a group of salesmen charged with conspiracy to defraud the shareholders of the Chemical Products Co and the public. I don’t know if he was found guilty, but Nellie filled for divorce soon after. However, in a strange twist, the family are listed in the 1925 census in Buffalo, New York. It’s unclear why they had gone just over the border at that time, but they soon moved back to Canada.

Nellie received a share of her father’s estate in 1928, worth the equivalent of around $140,000 in 2023 and including property in Toronto and Orchard Beach in North Gwillimbury. Later that year, Nellie was one of 23 people arrested at a party in North Gwillimbury, charged with consuming alcohol in breach of the Liquor Control Act. The court held that she had come up to the property after the weekend of drinking, so she was found not guilty.

Sadly, the Orchard Beach cottage was where Nellie died in 1931. There was a house fire and her body was burned beyond recognition. Her sister, Alice, said that Nellie told her she was nervous about living in the cottage. Six months before, a mattress in her own home was burned and she was worried that someone was trying to burn down the cottage. Nellie had been living with a man named Carl Peters, who was also killed in the fire, as well as their two dogs. There was a very judgemental newspaper article bemoaning the decline in Nellie’s situation, as she had “broken away from the moorings which once held her to the ways of life”. Although the fire may have been caused by a small oil stove being kept on during a cold night, the writer made sure to emphasize that the couple were smokers and had bought alcohol not long before they died.

In the late 1920s, Auree began her art career and was considered to be “among the more brilliant of the younger group of Canadian sculptors”. Later articles said that she studied at the Ontario College of Art.

In 1930, she married Kenneth Ivan McNeill Wells (a poet whose first book had just been published). He was 26, she was only 19.

In the 1931 census, the couple were living in Orillia with his parents. Auree continued to work as a sculptor, with her portrait busts, including one of Lieutenant-Governor Bruce, being particularly admired and exhibited in Toronto and Ottawa.

Auree joined the Toronto Flying Club and took her first solo flight in December 1935. She said, “flying is the most glorious thing I have ever discovered” and planned to get her commercial licence and become an instructor.

Auree and Kenneth got divorced and, in June 1937, she married Edward Story Fee (a salesman).

On 3 August 1938, Auree passed her flying test and received her PPL, making her the 60th female pilot in Canada. She was 27 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #60 – Auree Sinkins (born 1911)

Photo: Star Weekly (December 7, 1935)

Auree’s art style moved to pencil and pastel drawings and she had an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1948. She appears to have been living in the area, as she wrote a few articles about art for the Vancouver Sun. She was using her maiden name, but it’s not clear if that was just her professional name or if she was divorced from Edward.

Edward was definitely alive in 1976, but I haven’t found Auree after 1949.

Note: Auree was listed with an asterisk in No Place for a Lady – meaning the author hadn’t been able to find her. I just had “A. Sinkins” and the date of her PPL.

Canadian Aviatrix Project

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