Celebrate Women's History Month! A Feature on Nellie McClung
Nellie McClung is remembered as a suffragist,
politician, temperance leader and writer; but did you know that she
was also quite the traveller? Starting out in Ontario, Nellie made
her way through Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia, leaving a
trail of historic sites throughout the western provinces.
Born in Chatham, Ontario in 1873, Nellie Mooney moved with her
family to Manitoba as a child. She was a pupil at the rural Northfield School, a
municipal heritage site located in South Cypress, Manitoba, where
she returned in 1896 to briefly teach at the age of sixteen. After
starting her own family with husband Robert Wesley McClung in
Manitou, Nellie moved to Winnipeg where she quickly became a
prominent leader in women's suffrage and temperance movements.
Notably, on January 28, 1914 at the Walker Theatre NHS,
Nellie and her fellow suffragists staged a mock play, ridiculing
Premier R.P. Roblin's opposition to women receiving the vote.
Acting as members of parliament, with Nellie playing the role of
Premier, the women discussed a number of their own issues as if
pertaining to men - whether to give men the vote, and whether to
allow them equal guardianship over children. Ultimately, the play
was a success and helped advance the cause of women's suffrage. In
January 1916, Manitoba became the first Canadian province to give
women the right to vote.
In 1914, the McClungs moved to Edmonton, Alberta where Nellie
began her political campaign. In 1921 she was elected as a
member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly, a term which lasted
until her defeat in 1926.
Nellie again moved to Calgary, Alberta in 1923 to what is
now referred to as the Nellie McClung
House, a provincial historic site. She resided in this elegant
20th-century home until the mid-1930s during which time she wrote
many popular novels as well as newspaper articles and essays.
In 1927, Nellie united with Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Louise
McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards in pressing for the right of
women to be recognized as persons and eligible to join the Canadian
an initial defeat by the Supreme Court of Canada, on October 18,
1929 the British Privy Council reversed the decision and ruled in
favour of the "Famous Five" - a landmark ruling in the history of
women's rights in Canada. A monument recognizing this famous case
and the contributions of Nellie and the Famous Five can be found on
the Public Grounds of the Parliament Buildings NHS in Ottawa,
Ontario. There is also an identical monument located in downtown
Nellie and her husband retired in 1934 to a wooden,
one-and-one-half storey country home in Saanich, British Columbia
named the Fullerton/McClung
her declining years, Nellie continued to actively write, penning
numerous books including her autobiography and Leaves from Lantern
Lane (the name inspired by the hanging ship lantern above the
garage door of the house). In addition to her writing, Nellie
remained a public figure, becoming the first woman member of the
Canadian Broadcasting Company Board from 1936 to 1942 and the sole
Canadian female delegate to the League of Nations in 1938. Nellie
resided in this home until her death in 1951.
Interested to learn more? Visit these other registered sites
associated with Nellie McClung:
Emily Murphy Residence