In the early 20th century, certain rights were not recognized for Canadian women, such as the right to vote. Women would have to fight to change this situation. Nellie Letitia McClung was one of these pioneers.

In 1905, Nellie was 32 years old, married and the mother of young children. She was also about become well known to Canadians through her writings, lectures and ideas. She was a “suffragist”, which means she fought to secure for women the right to vote in elections (the “suffrage”).

Nellie was born in 1873 in Ontario. She moved to Manitoba with her family at the age of seven. She only started attending school when she was ten years old, but this did not prevent her from becoming a teacher at the age of 16. When she married Robert Wesley McClung in 1896, she had to put an end to her teaching career.

She remained very active, however. She published her first novel in 1908 – and would go on to publish 16 in total. What’s more, wherever she lived – in Manitoba, Alberta and Vancouver Island – she continued to be involvement in a cause that was dear to her heart: women’s right to vote. For example, she founded several organizations: a political equality league in Winnipeg, the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada and the Women’s Institute of Edmonton. When women became eligible for appointment to the Senate in 1929, it was partly thanks to her and four other women.

Right up to her death in 1951, Nellie remained active as a writer, lecturer (in Canada, the United States and Britain) and politician (she was member of the legislative assembly for Edmonton from 1921 to 1926).

Did you know?

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were the first provinces to grant women the right to vote in 1916. Québec would not grant women this right until 1940.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

French if available (si disponible)