October 20th marks Nellie McClung’s birthday, which is why I chose to write about her today. She was born in 1873 at Chatsworth, Ontario. Nellie was the daughter of an Irish immigrant father and a Scottish immigrant mother. When her father’s farm failed, the family moved to Manitoba.
Nellie McClung became a writer, teacher, wife and mother of five, McClung always fought for women’s rights.
She published her first novel in 1908: Sowing Seeds in Danny. It became a national bestseller.
She was one of the 5 suffragettes known as “The Famous Five” who won Manitoban women the right to vote on January 28th, 1916, under the new Liberal government, making it the first province in the country to allow it.
A public speaker known for her sense of humour, Nellie hosted a “mock parliament” in 1914 in which men were asking a female government for the right to vote. As the mock premier, she first complimented the men on their appearance before telling them that politics would unsettle them. The theatrical effort was designed to expose the absurdity of the arguments used to oppose women’s right to vote. That mock parliament contributed to the fall of the then-Conservative government and led to the right to vote for women.
She also championed dental and medical care for school children, property rights for married women, mother’s allowances, factory safety legislation and many other reforms.
Nellie McClung was eventually elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly.