Memorable Manitobans: Aleta Elizabeth Paisley Clement (1876-1950)
Born at Petrolia, Ontario on 18 January 1876, daughter of Melissa Elizabeth Bull (1848-1922) and James Paisley (1843-1908), at the age of ten she moved with her family to Brandon where she received her early education and later distinguished herself as a public speaker. In 1893, she graduated from the Alma College at St. Thomas, Ontario and later attended the Ottawa Normal School. From 1894 to her marriage, she taught elocution and grade three for the Brandon School District. On 30 August 1899, she married Stephen Emmett Clement and they eventually had four children: Harold Dixon Clement (1903-1979), Ethel Ruth Clement (1906-?, wife of Donald W. Coburn), Robert James Clement (1910-1982), and David William “Bill” Clement (1915-1992).
In the first three decades of the twentieth century, she emerged as a leading first-wave feminist, a committed social reformer, and an important political activist in Brandon and southwestern Manitoba. In her commitment to community social issues, she followed the path of her mother who, in 1892, was the first secretary of the newly-formed Brandon Hospital Aid Society. Her activism was also shaped by her involvement with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and progressive tendencies within the Methodist Church. Her commitment to social equality grew out of her own personal experiences including family financial hardships and working as an underpaid elementary school teacher.
She was an active member of the Brandon Art Club and the Little Theatre. She was a member of the first YWCA board, the provincial child welfare board, and the First Church United board. She was a member of the organizing committee of the 1908 Wheat City Carnival and president of the 1909 Carnival of Nations. In 1917, she succeeded president and founding member Jessie Turnbull McEwen as chair of the Brandon Local Council of Women. She was instrumental in the formation of a free Child Welfare Station in 1918 and, in 1920, she was selected to head a committee representing various Brandon women’s organizations to lead the fight against the Spanish flu pandemic. She played a prominent role in the 1922 Brandon School Controversy by advocating for equal pay for male and female teachers. She was also an active organizer for the Progressive Party in the Brandon constituency in the federal elections of 1925 and 1926. She was also involved in national social and political organizations as a convenor for the National Council of Women, and as an executive member of the League of Nations in Canada.
“A rising star in the elocutionary world,” Brandon Weekly Sun, 14 September 1893.
“Mrs. S. E. Clement, Brandon pioneer dies in 75th year,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 November 1950.
Burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
Page revised: 15 December 2017
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