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Celebrate Women's History Month! A Feature on Nellie McClung

Nellie McCLung (LAC/BAC)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.

Northfield School

Born in Chatsworth, 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.

Walker Theatre NHSNotably, 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 McClung House

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 Senate.

Famous FiveDespite 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 Calgary, Alberta.

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 Residence.

Fullerton McClung HouseHere, in 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:

Millford Cemetery
Manitou Town Hall
Emily Murphy Residence
Radio Canada Building

See also, Parks Canada's This Week in History on Nellie McCLung

Joan Mattie, "Walker Theatre," Historic Sites and Monuments Board Agenda Paper, 1991;

C.E. Mills and Janet Wright, "Nellie McClung Residence," Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Screening Paper, 1976;

A.B. McCullough, "Women and Power-Commemorative Opportunities," Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Agenda Paper, 1997;

MacLeod, Carol, "The Persons Case", Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Agenda Paper, 1997;

"Fullerton/McClung Residence", Statement of Significance;

"Northfield School", Statement of Significance