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Monday, February 7, 2011

First Woman In House Of Commons – Agnes MacPhail

David Murray

Columns: First Woman In House Of Commons – Agnes MacPhail

By David Murray. Agnes Campbell Macphail was born on March 24, 1890 in Proton Township, Grey County Ontario. She was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons . Active throughout her political career as a progressive politician, Agnes Macphail worked and promoted her ideas through column-writing, activist organizing, and legislation.
At the early age of 14 (1904), Agnes Macphail realized that it was difficult for a women of that time to be more than a housewife . World Affairs were dominated by men at that time.

Agnes MacPhail
Agnes pursued a teaching degree . She never did marry and all her life she encouraged other women to consider their options, rather than submit to marriage and child rearing as their only focus in life. Agnes Macphail became involved in women’s organizations, believing that women had a place and a right to express their opinions because their lives were shaped by the same social and political forces that shaped men’s lives. .
As the first women elected to Parliament, Agnes Macphail did not ask for special treatment, but wanted to be treated as an equal . Even though she faced resistance from men and women alike, Agnes Macphail followed the resolve of other woman leaders like Nellie McClung and Flora MacDonald Denison to catapult women’s issues into the political realm.
Agnes Macphail grew up surrounded by groups of farmers talking over the issues of the day, but during her time in Sharon, Ontario. It wasn’t long before Agnes became involved in local farmer’s organizations and soon joined the United Farmers of Ontario (UFO).
In the early 1900s, the war effort meant Canadian farmers were urged to produce crops as well as give up their young men to conscription. By 1917 farmer’s revolted bringing 5,000 of them to Ottawa demanding reform. In 1919 the UFO won with a landslide vote. Agnes Macphail’s represented her County by representing farmers honestly , demanding that their hard work and productivity be recognized and valued accordingly. As in her home life, Agnes Macphail maintained strong ties with farmers and cooperative organizations..
When Agnes Macphail entered politics in 1921, Canadian women in Ontario had only recently won the right to vote at every level of government, the repercussions of the first World War were being felt at home and abroad, and farmers were organizing themselves to battle for financial recognition and rights. Coming from a farm family, Agnes Macphail had always taken an interest in farming politics.
Agnes Macphail’s nomination to represent South-East Grey County was met with some protest. The early limelight on Agnes Macphail as the first woman in Canadian politics was rarely flattering. She was a woman and an exceptional person who demanded equal rights and fair treatment for the farmers who had voted her in, but also championed for miners in eastern Canada, child labour in China, prisoners, women, immigrants, and other marginalized groups.
Her unorthodox behaviour and beliefs, her independence and marital status, and her relentless pursuit of justice followed Agnes Macphail throughout her political career. She was a supporter of the Progressive Party that later led to the formation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). She became the first president of the Ontario CCF in 1932 .She died February 13, 1954, aged 63, in Toronto.
Today she is a role model for all women in Canada!
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 My name is David Murray and I am currently on City Council in the City of Pitt Meadows British Columbia.
I ran Federally for the New Democratic Party in 2011 in Abbotsford and with the great team we had in place had the distinction of being the only riding in Western Canada that doubled our NDP vote!
I am the Editor of the Pitt Meadows Today Community Online Newspaper which together with its sister papers the Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Langley Today are receiving 250,000 hits a month!

My family goes back to the CCF-NDP party circa October 1935 as my father "Bud" Murray worked on Tommy Douglas's first campaign!

I am a union activist for CUPE and sit as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Fraser Valley District Council and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Fraser Valley Labour Council (CLC)

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