ExhibitsCelebrating Women's Achievements*

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Then & Now: Women in Canadian Legislatures

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In recognition of Women's History Month in Canada (October), the National Library is focusing on the achievements of 20 Canadian women who have made significant contributions to Canada's history and development by holding elected public office at the federal or provincial level.

Long before they had the right to vote or to stand in federal and provincial elections, Canadian women were participating in organizations devoted to developing education, particularly in rural areas, promoting stricter liquor laws, supporting their churches and fighting for women's rights, among other worthy causes. They were dedicated to improving social conditions and the quality of life for their fellow Canadians. So, when they became eligible to participate in the electoral process, it did not take long for them to have an impact.

On March 14, 1916, most women in Manitoba became eligible to vote in provincial elections, with women in other provinces soon following suit. Federally, women became able to vote on May 24, 1918, and in 1929 Canadian women were legally declared "persons" and were granted the right to become members of the Senate. Since then, hundreds of Canadian women have moved forward with perseverance and conviction to participate in affairs of state.

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In order to select representatives from this growing group, we chose to focus on "First Women" such as the First Woman Governor General, the First Woman member of Parliament and the First Women elected to the Provincial Legislature of each province, among others.

A brief biographical sketch and photo highlights the life and achievements of each of these 20 remarkable women. This is followed by a list of suggested readings and/or their publications. A list of key reference sources on the topic of "Canadian Women in Politics" is also included.

We hope you will be encouraged to learn more about the accomplishments of these 20 Canadian legislators.

Her Excellency, the Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauvé First woman Governor General
First woman Speaker of the House of Commons
First woman Member of Parliament from Quebec to be a Cabinet Minister
The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell First woman Prime Minister
First woman Minister of Justice and Attorney General
First woman Minister of National Defence
First woman elected leader of Progressive Conservative Party
Hon. Muriel McQueen Fergusson First woman Speaker of the Senate
The Rt. Hon. Ellen Fairclough First woman Cabinet Minister
Cairine Wilson First woman Senator
First woman appointed Chair of a Senate Standing Committee
Agnes Macphail First woman Member of Parliament
One of the first two women elected to Ontario Legislature
Hon. Sheila Copps First woman Deputy Prime Minister
Hon. Andrée Champagne First woman Deputy Speaker of the House
Hon. Audrey McLaughlin First woman to serve as head of a federal political party in Canada and North America
Hon. Senator Joyce Fairbairn First woman Leader of the Government in the Senate

First Women Elected to Provincial Legislatures

Louise McKinney Alberta
Mary Ellen Smith British Columbia
Edith Rogers Manitoba
Hon. Senator Brenda May Robertson New Brunswick
Lady Helena Squires née Strong Newfoundland
Gladys M. Porter Nova Scotia
Margarette Rae Morrison Luckock Ontario
Ella Jean Canfield Prince Edward Island
Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain Quebec
Sarah K. Ramsland Saskatchewan

Canada Copyright. The National Library of Canada. (Revised: 1997-10-01).