Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Mary Barrett Speechly (1873-1968)

Social reformer.

Born at London, England in March 1873, she attended a boys’ school as the only girl student. She received a BA from University College (Liverpool) in 1892 and subsequently studied at Cambridge. She married Henry Speechly in 1895 and joined him in Manitoba in 1902, where he had established a general medical practice at Pilot Mound. Having studied photography, she worked as a professional photographer. She became President of the Pilot Mound Home Economics Society in 1912 and was active in the home economics societies of the time, a major advocate of home economics and domestic science. She was also a member of the Agricultural Women’s Association and the Women’s Institute.

She moved to Winnipeg in 1916, became a prominent proponent of the birth control movement and became the first President of the Winnipeg Birth Control Society in 1934. She also helped found the Family Planning Association of Manitoba. She was appointed to the council of the Manitoba Agricultural College in 1924 and was the first woman appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba in 1933, serving to her retirement in 1946. She was given an honorary doctorate in 1947.

She died at the Winnipeg General Hospital on 7 November 1968 and was buried in the Brookside Cemetery. She is commemorated by the Mary Speechly student residence at the University of Manitoba.

See also:

“Mary Speechly: A Life of Service” by Angela Davis, The Beaver, 74, no. 5 (October/November 1994): 35-39.


1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Obituary [Mary Speechly], Winnipeg Free Press, 9 November 1968, page 32.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 13 March 2022

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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