Women's rights activist and suffragist, 1873-1950
Nellie McClung is one of the five women responsible for the ruling that allowed Canadian women to be appointed to the Senate and for Canadian women obtaining the right to vote.
Nellie Letitia McClung (née Mooney) was born near Parry Sound, Ontario in 1873 but she moved with her family to Manitoba when she was seven years old. She would live in various parts of western Canada for the rest of her life.
McClung was involved with various women's groups while a teacher and writer in Manitoba. It was her writing career that lead to her career as a lecturer as her readings gave way to opinionated speeches and lectures.
McClung supported the Liberal Party of Canada and many of her lectures and speeches were in support of the party. She was a Liberal Member of Parliament in Manitoba from 1921 to 1926.
The Persons Case
McClung and four other female suffragists submitted their petition asking for the federal government for clarification of the term 'persons' as used in the British North America Act to the federal government in 1927. The government ruled that 'persons' was inclusive of females, thus allowing Canadian women to be appointed to the Senate.
The Suffrage Movement
McClung also sought to earn Canadian women the right to participate in elections. She drew attention to the issue (and attempted to discredit those opposed to the idea) by delivering a mock speech outlining the 'reasons' why men should not be allowed to vote. Women were first allowed to vote in most areas of Canada in 1918 and in Québec in 1940.
Nellie McClung died in 1951 at the age of 78.
McClung's work and persistence lead to the consideration of Canadian women as persons and enabled them to vote. As a result, women were finally seen as being equal to their male counterparts in the eyes of the government.
Chivalry is a poor substitute for justice, if one cannot have both.
- Nellie McClung