Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Thelma Bessie Brown Forbes (1910-2012)

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Thelma Bessie Brown Forbes
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Educator, MLA (1959-1962), MLA (1963-1966), Speaker (1963-1966), MLA (1966-1969).

Born on a farm near Manitou on 26 September 1910, daughter of Robert Alexander James Brown (1874-1930) and Annie Sheehan (?-?), she was educated at Manitou Collegiate and Manitou Normal School. She then taught at Manitou School, Pelican Lake School (1932), Glenora School, and Rathwell School. She and her husband operated a fuel station at Rathwell and also sold agricultural implements until 1950 when they bought farm land near Rathwell and grew grain there until 1969.

In November 1959, she was elected to the Manitoba Legislature at a by-election and was re-elected at the 1962 and 1966 general elections. She was elected the first female Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature, on 28 February 1963, and later held the ministerial portfolios of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs (1966-1968) and Government Services (1968-1969). She did not seek re-election at the 1969 general election. In 1978, she and her husband moved to Treherne.

On 23 May 1940, she married James Edgar Forbes (1910-1982). They had no children. She was a member of the Winnipeg Business and Professional Club, Rothwell Clubs, Jegion Women’s Institute and Curling Club. In recognition of her community service, she received a Manitoba Good Citizenship Award in 1971. On 28 January 1991, she was inducted into the Order of the Buffalo Hunt.

She retired to Port Coquitlam, British Columbia where she died on 5 January 2012. She was buried in the Treherne Woodlands Cemetery.


The Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1960.

Obituary [James Edgar Forbes], Winnipeg Free Press, 18 September 1982, page 46.

“Thelma Forbes Awarded Order of Buffalo Hunt,” News Briefs, 31 December 1991, page 3. [Manitoba Legislative Library]

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 14 January 2012.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

We thank Mary Krieger for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 4 November 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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