Nellie McClung

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The following article was researched and written by Lindsey McFedries. More contributors.

Significance of Nellie McClung

Women in history have accomplished several achievements, which have encouraged women to evolve to what we are today.

Nellie McClung is one of the five Canadian women we have to thank for that. The famous five played a very large role in Canada's society, which helped build the nation we live in now. Women are as equally significant as men, yet were treated inferior compared to them. Women being a tremendous part of society should be allowed to make the same political decisions as men do. Women should be encouraged to stand up for themselves and what they believe in, like Nellie did. She fought for her rights and freedoms and helped open up a new wave for women of the future.

Nellie McClung accomplished several achievements throughout her lifetime. She was a proponent of the Canadian Authors Association; for her "pioneer" writing after publishing 16 books, she was the first female member of the CBC Board of Governors (1936), she belonged to Canadian Women Press Club, was a part of the Canadian delegate to the League of Nations (1938), a member of the Political Equality League (1912), and a public lecturer, which helped influence many women to fight for what was equally theirs.

Background for Nellie McClung

Helen Letitia Mooney was born in 1873 near Owen Sound in Ontario. 7 years later she and her family moved to a farm southwest of Brandon near Millford in Tiger Hills. At the age of 16 years old, she moved again to Winnipeg, where she went to school and was made qualified to become a teacher, with only 5 years experience in education.

In 1890, she moved to where she would teach at Manitou Normal School in Manitoba. While staying there she boarded with Rev. James and Annie McClung. Annie McClung was a suffragist, the president of the Manitou Chapter of Women's Christian Temperance Union, and a champion of women's rights. Nellie became extremely impressed with Annie's points, which encouraged her to also fight for women's rights. Soon after boarding with the McClung family, Nellie fell in love with their son, Wesley. Nellie and Wes wed in 1896, which is how she received to well known name, Nellie McClung, and was proud to hold it. In 1897 their first son Jack was born, then again in 1911 after moving to Winnipeg, their last child, Mark, was brought into the world.

"Politics are degrading to women, also that if women ever get the vote that homes will be neglected and poor little deficient children will be bereft of their mothers care" (Nellie McClung newspaper report, Jan. 13, 1914)

This is a direct quote made for Nellie in a newspaper report. This statement verifies the struggle she, and four other Canadian women went through the receive justice. Emily Murphy, Louise Mckinney, Irene Parlby, Henriettta Muir Edwards and Nellie McClung were what was known as the Famous 5. These women were determined and dedicated in getting what they wanted.

The word "persons" is now defined as all individuals but that all relates back to the famous 5 where back then the term only referred to men, under the British North America Act of 1867. These five women fought battles through the Canadian Supreme Court right up to the Judicial Committee of Privy Council in Britain.

On October 18th, 1929, women were legally declared as "persons"

"Nellie McClung and her equally determined colleagues set in motion an astonishing revolution that shook the nation, but they did it with gracious good manners, intelligence, and iron wills. It was an unstoppable combination." (Callwood, 1996:5)

Nellie proved to herself and to the world what she was made of, women everywhere will forever appreciate that.

Bibliography for Nellie McClung

  • Hancock, Carol L., Nellie McClung, No Small Legacy. Canada; Northstone Publishing Inc., 1996.
  • Sagan, Miriam, Women's Suffrage. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, Inc., 1995.
  • Merritt, Susan E. "History: Women from the Past". St. Catharines, On. 1993, 1994.