ExhibitsCelebrating Women's AchievementsWomen in Canadian Legislatures*

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Then & Now: Women in Canadian Legislatures


Women's right to vote: April 13, 1925
Women's right to stand for election: April 13, 1925

Lady Helena E. (Strong) Squires

Lady Helena E. (Strong) Squires

First woman elected to the Newfoundland House of Assembly.

Born in Little Bay Islands, Newfoundland in 1879.
Died in Toronto in 1959.

Political Affiliation:


Legislative Career:

First elected to the Newfoundland House of Assembly in 1930 by-election as member for the District of Lewisporte. Served until June 11, 1932.

Born in Little Bay Islands in 1879 to a family who operated a fishery supply business, Lady Helena E. Strong Squires was one of a set of twins. She was educated at a boarding school in St. John's, the Methodist College and at Mount Allison University where she trained as a teacher.

After her marriage in 1905 to Richard Squires, Lady Squires actively supported her husband's political career which began in 1909, frequently accompanying him on his travels in Newfoundland and abroad. As the mother of seven children, she was also busy on the home front and employed domestic help whom she would often train for positions elsewhere. Her interest in improving the situation of women led her to encourage the founding of both a teachers college and a maternity hospital. For many years, she served as President of the Grace Hospital Auxiliary and was active in church and charity work.

Despite Lady Squires' concern for bettering the position of women, she had initially been against granting women the right to vote and had opposed the efforts of the Women's Suffrage League in the early 1920s during her husband's first term as Prime Minister. So it was with a touch of irony that she became the first woman to stand for and win a seat in the Newfoundland House of Assembly, in the 1930 by-election as the Member for the District of Lewisporte. Also that year, her father, James Strong, was appointed by her husband to the Legislative Council. This meant that three members of the family were members of the Newfoundland legislature at the same time.

By 1932, her husband's government was in disfavour and a riot ensued when the House of Assembly reconvened on April 5th. Lady Squires was trapped with her husband in the House and only agreed to leave at his insistence. The election that followed on June 11, 1932 led to the loss of their seats and a return to private life. In 1949, after Newfoundland joined Canada, Lady Squires was elected the first president of the Liberal Association of Newfoundland.

Suggested Readings:

"First lady elected to Parliament in Newfoundland". - Newfoundland quarterly. - Vol. 30, no. 1 (July 1930). - P. 14-15.

Newfoundland. House of Assembly. - Journal of Proceedings: - 27th General Assembly, 2nd session (1930). - St. John's : House of Assembly of Newfoundland, 1930.

"Squires, Helena E.". - Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. - St. John's : Harry Cuff Publications, c1994. -ISBN 0-9693422-5-X

Canadian Legislators

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