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Some Women Candidates for the Manitoba Legislature

by Linda McDowell

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 32, 1975-76 Season

MHS Transactions were originally published by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make online versions available as a free, public service. As an historical document, Transactions may contain language that is no longer in common use and which may offend some readers. They should not be construed to represent the views of today’s Manitoba Historical Society.

This online version was prepared using Optical Character Recognition software so that spelling and punctuation errors may have occurred inadvertently. If you find any such errors, please inform us, indicating the document name and error.

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The reason for my being asked to present a paper to you tonight is probably obvious—I’m a Manitoba woman talking about Manitoba women and it’s 1975, International Women’s Year. I must admit, however, that I have an ulterior motive. 28 January 1976 will be the sixtieth anniversary of the date on which Manitoba women won the right to vote and to run in provincial elections. They were the first in Canada to win that right and it seems to me that we who are interested in Manitoba history should mark that anniversary in some special way.

Alberta has virtually claimed our Nellie McClung; Saskatchewan women actually had the chance to vote and to run provincially before we did; Alberta had the first elected women candidates; BC the first woman cabinet minister and the first woman Speaker in a Legislative Assembly; Saskatchewan the first woman head of a political party; Ontario the first woman federal MP and Quebec claims the distinction of the first woman senator, despite the fact that women of Quebec could not vote provincially at the time. [1] Surely we in Manitoba are entitled to celebrate that one, brief, shining moment when Manitoba women were the envy of their sisters in the rest of Canada, in most of the USA, and in England. For a short time at least, Manitoba was a recognized leader in the field of women’s rights. One wonders what happened. No woman represents Manitoba in the House of Commons today and we have only ever elected one woman to that position. Today no woman sits in our provincial legislature and only five have ever been there as members. What of Nellie McClung’s prediction that within fifty years of obtaining the right to vote women would comprise fifty per cent of the legislative assemblies of the nation?

What did Manitoba women of 1916 do with their newly-won rights? The answer is that they did very little immediately because they had no opportunity. The liquor referendum, a major reason for many women desiring the vote, was passed without their ballots and the first by-election to be called after they had the vote didn’t offer much challenge either. On 8 March 1916 a newspaper report announced that Churchill-Nelson and Grand Rapids were to be amalgamated into the constituency of Rupertsland and the headlines said that the coming by-election there would give women the first opportunity to use the ballot boxes. The effect of this statement was somewhat blunted by a later paragraph which quoted the returning officer as saying that he thought there was only one woman in the area eligible to vote. So much for influencing the affairs of the nation!

Selkirk Tories did elect a woman president and the Conservatives of Winnipeg South elected a woman vice-president and there are reports of the Grits arranging to admit women to their party counsels, but progress was rather slow and women faded from the headlines, to be superseded by news of the war, the Macdonald Act, and the Thomas Kelly scandal. This slow and undramatic entry of women into Manitoba politics was a portent of things to come.

From the first election in which women could run, that of 1920, through the most recent one in 1973, about fifty-five different women have run in fifteen general provincial elections and two by-elections. Four women have run three times each and six other women have run twice each. An interesting point to consider is that more than half of the total number of women candidates have run since 1962. In all, five women have been elected to the Manitoba Legislature and have served a total of thirty-nine years. One thing that is obvious is that the few women who have run in provincial elections have not found favor with the voters. For this reason my paper was originally titled “Women Who Have Run for the Provincial Legislature—and Usually Lost.”

Table 1.Women members of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly

Edith Rogers

Liberal

Winnipeg

1920-1932

Elfin Salome Halldorson

Social Credit

St. George

1938-1941

Thelma Bessie Forbes

Progressive-Conservative

Cypress

1959-1969

Carolyn Alexandra Morrison

Progressive-Conservative

Pembina

1960-1969

Inez Geneva Trueman

Progressive-Conservative

Fort Rouge

1969-1973

Fifty-five personalities seemed a large number to deal with in one evening -and an unnecessary test of your endurance, so I have chosen to discuss some of the earlier candidates, their programs and their press coverage. I find it interesting that many of the ideas expressed by women of the twenties and thirties would not be out of place in a modern election campaign; the problems are not solved yet, either.

To many of you, the names are those of neighbours and of old friends. If this is so, I hope that you will not hesitate to help me correct the errors and omissions which occur when one is dealing with people who are figures from the past. It goes without saying that the biographies of very few of these women ever found their way into The Parliamentary Guide and even obituaries often neglect to mention a woman’s involvement in politics. If we judge a society’s values by what it preserves, women’s involvement in politics has not been considered very important at all in Manitoba.

The election that took place on 29 June 1920 stirred much interest. Early that year the Telegram asked “Will Women Seek Seats in Manitoba?” and proceeded to predict that some city women, notably Mrs. R. F. McWilliams and Mrs. R. A. Rogers, would probably run. The same article noted, however. that Mrs. McWilliams had not been active in the campaign for women’s votes. This may have been the reason that Mrs. McWilliams’s name never did appear on a provincial ballot, although her preoccupation with other projects seems just as likely an explanation. The writer of that 1920 article went on to predict that one woman Labour candidate would run - probably from the North End or Elmwood. [2] None did, however, although the names of Florence Roe, Mrs. William Kirk (Alderman Jessie Kirk), and Mrs. George Armstrong were frequently mentioned in the papers as possible candidates. [3] Labour women had to wait for a candidate until the advent of Maude McCarthy in 1922.

The Telegram’s prediction that “the farm women are extremely well organized and are bound to be heard from” was also somewhat premature. [4] Mrs. A. G. Hample of Winnipeg would run as a VFM candidate in 1922 but no rural constituency had a female candidate until 1936 when Salome Halldorson won in St. George, and some felt that even Miss Halldorson, who was a Winnipeg schoolteacher at the time, could not be said to represent rural interests.

By March of 1920, the Telegram was alarming the male population by proclaiming “Women May Contest Every Seat in City.” [5]

Eventually the newspapers told Winnipeg readers that two women, Mrs. James Munro and Mrs. Luther Holling, had been nominated by the Political Education League (formerly the Political Equality League and often still referred to by that name). At the same meeting where these two women were nominated, there was some difference of opinion about the future of the League and especially about the advisability of the League’s nominating candidates when it had not yet decided on a platform. The paper also reported that a man had raised a question and had been firmly told that this was a ladies’ meeting; this, despite the fact that the League had originally been an endeavour of both men and women. Further evidence of the lack of common cause is indicated by the fact that Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. John Dick both withdrew their names from the list of possible candidates and Mrs. Dick stated that Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner wished hers to be withdrawn also. [6] None wished to run under the Political Education League label.

Mrs. Munro appears to have remained a candidate for several months although her name does not finally appear on the 1920 ballot. An article entitled “Progressive Policy adopted by Manitoba Conservative Party” includes mention of Mrs. Munroe (sic) who asked for a resolution calling for “a reduction in the high cost of living,” which was defeated. Mrs. Munro also wanted assurance that the bars will not be reopened. [7] Mrs. Munro’s name is next mentioned in an account of a Tory meeting on April 26 when she is described as a platform guest in her capacity as Vice President of Winnipeg South. [8]

In a later article she seems to be drawing away from the Conservative Party when she says that she is sympathetic with them but has additional planks in her platform.

If the Conservative party sees fit to endorse me, I will run as a Conservative candidate, otherwise I will run as a women’s candidate. I have clear-cut ideas of women’s rights and I will do anything in my power to advance them. [9]

The Conservative party did not see fit to endorse her and she did not finally run in the 1920 election. The recent death of her husband and the financial needs of her family may have made it necessary for her to defer her running. She does reappear - very actively - on the election scene in 1922.

Mrs. Genevieve Lipsett-Skinner was the only woman Conservative candidate chosen that year but the influence of Conservative women is evident in a resolution adopted by the Conservatives that year.

“5. The establishment of sex equality in electoral, divorce, civil and dower laws, and the appointment of women juvenile court judges and women crown prosecutors as officers of the attorney general’s department, to handle women’s cases, and that the jury act be amended to permit the sitting of women on juries.” [10]

Fortunately for them, the Conservatives were not called upon to carry out these ideas. The one woman candidate for the Conservatives, Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner, was a very forceful and vocal member of the party. At the April Conservative policy meeting she had introduced an education resolution advocating that female teachers should be promoted to administrative positions in the Department of Education and also that the faculty should have something to say about the management of the university. [11]

At a later meeting she commented further on university matters and attacked the administration of the Temperance Act “which she claimed was a farce.” She also attacked the Norris claim that the Liberals had legislated for women, stating that the government had not given a single appointment to women. [12] In June she spoke at Hamiota for William Ferguson, a supposedly Independent candidate. In her Hamiota speech she attacked the administration of the Mothers’ Allowance Act. [13]

Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner’s attacks on the Mothers’ Allowances Act administration must have interested one of her fellow candidates, Mrs. Harriet Dick. Mrs. Dick is the person given the most credit for having the Act passed, and in 1920 Henderson’s Directory lists her as a commissioner for the Mothers’ Allowance Act.

Mrs. Dick had been nominated in 1920 as an Independent at a meeting chaired by Mrs. Oakes where nomination papers were presented, signed by eight hundred citizens! Mrs. Dick stated that she would like to be known as “the champion of the children” and felt that working for better housing conditions, better and cheaper food, and better education was working for children. Her nomination group formed into committees and opened a downtown office to give women voters information on the balloting procedure, on the proportional representation system and, of course, about Mrs. Dick herself. [14]

Mrs. Dick opened her campaign in a joint meeting with Leo Warde at the Good Templars’ Hall early in June. She “stated her platform in a manner which won much approval” says the newspaper account. Mrs. Dick explained that she was the children’s candidate because the future depended upon the children, and that she was an Independent because, while she supported Norris, she wished to reserve her own opinion in order “to escape caucus policy which is not democratic.” She felt that the time had come when party politics had to bow to the will of the public and the government could not merely be decided by party. Every party must stand together “as the boys had in France.” Her ideal was “co-operation not caucus.”

Harriet Dick summed up her platform by saying that she stood for giving children a chance because a child deserves the best. She would also coordinate all welfare services under a welfare portfolio. She concluded by saying “A nation’s health is a nation’s wealth.” [15]

At a later meeting, in St. Alban’s, Riverview, Mrs. Dick re-emphasized her dislike of partisan politics, stating that “I stand for the great human interest injected into a business form of government, irrespective of party.” She continued her plea for better facilities for child care and declared that state care for mothers was a fundamental necessity. Interestingly enough, she also advocated a free hospital system and governmental or municipal control of cold storage as a means of cutting the cost of food. [16]

Mrs. Edith Rogers, the Liberal woman candidate, was not so obvious in the 1920 election as she was to be in the 1922 one, but a later look at her background will give some idea of the activities in which she had been involved.

It is probably sufficient to say at this point that she was very well-known and was elected on her record of volunteer social service and her war work with the families of soldiers. [17] Three months after her election the newspapers reported that she was off to Ottawa as a delegate to the Child Welfare conference. Child welfare was to be an enduring interest for her. [18]

Late in April the arresting headline “Sex Party Will Not Enter Provincial Fight” appeared. Further reading, however, shows that it was simply an announcement that it was unlikely that a women’s party would run in the election. Mrs. Luther Rolling, a Political Equality nominee who ran as an Independent, was quoted as saying:

I intend to run as a progressive independent as I do not think a member of parliament should be tied to any party. A woman with good judgement and a level head can best serve her country in such a position if she feels free to exercise her own discretion. [19]

Mrs. Holling goes on to observe very sensibly that while she was nominated by a body of women she looks for support from men as well. As with most of the other women candidates, her major concerns are the interests of women and children but she generously adds “the city as a whole would be my field, and I would try to further the interests of men also.” [20]

An interesting sidelight is that the women of West Kildonan did organize a Women’s Independent Political Party “with the object of supporting a candidate for Kildonan-St. Andrews riding, who would be in opposition to the Norris government.” A tentative platform included “municipal autonomy in taxation, abolition of the provincial tax commission, abolition of the election depost (sic), extension of direct legislation to include the principle of recall, state education for all children and equality of pay with men and women in industry.” Officers of the group were Mrs. E. McCaskill, Mrs. F. Hogg, Mrs. J. McKenzie, Mrs. J. Carlson, and Mrs. G. S. Doyle. The fact that the party didn’t muster any candidates and seems to have dropped out of sight suggests that those other more seasoned campaigners of the Political Equality League were wise not to run as women’s party candidates alone. [21] Some of the women’s party ideas crop up again in Progressive and Labour platforms so perhaps the members became part of one of these groups.

It is interesting to look at the names of those women who did have some influence in the Manitoba political arena. The list of delegates named to select Norris candidates for the city include 250 names and the following women:

Miss V. T. Craven, Miss E. Emerson, Mrs. J. P. Smith, Mrs. W. J. Lindal, Mrs. W. A. Matheson, Mrs. R. F. McWilliams, Mrs. N. B. McLean, Mrs. C. Little, Mrs. Wm..Ross, Mrs. R. B. Armiston, Mrs. C. P. Anderson, Mrs. J. W. Ross, Mrs. W. A. McIntyre, Mrs. J. Dick, Mrs. R. Crawford, Mrs. Hart Green, Mrs. Perry (Anne?), Mrs. Van Vleet, Mrs. A. H. Oakes, Mrs. G. T. Nix, Mrs. H. W. Argue, Mrs. A. R. McDonald, and Mrs. Sadington. Several of these names reappear fairly frequently in accounts of women’s political activities. [22]

It is illuminating to examine the backgrounds and interests of the women candidates to see what similarities there are. Unfortunately, it is not possible to obtain complete information about all of them.

The first woman candidate listed on the 1920 ballot was Harriet Dick, “married woman,” 140 Harvard Avenue. She was nominated by Mrs. Anne Perry, C. H. Harris, D. McIver, and Mrs. George Richards. Her agent was A. B. Hunt. Mr. Dick signed the nomination for one of the other male candidates. [23]

The words “married woman” give little indication of the range of interests and the amount of community work done by this remarkable woman. Born Harriet Snetzinger in Colborne, Ontario, she was of United Empire Loyalist stock and would have been fifty-seven at the time of her first nomination. [24] After a brief career as a teacher she had married John Dick, a farmer in the Springfield area, and had raised six sons while doing a phenomenal amount of community work. [25] At the time of her nomination, four sons, John Jr., Robert, Selwyn, and Victor, were all at home. Robert and Victor were students and Selwyn was articled to Fisher, Wilson, and Co. During the First World War, five of her sons had been overseas.

Her community work in Winnipeg had begun while she helped organize the “Mothers’ Association” in 1907. This eventually led to playgrounds, free kindergartens, and the Day Nursery on Stella Avenue. During the course of her work with the day nursery, Mrs. Dick found that women in the north end were placing their children in the nursery during the day while they went to work and then had to do their housework in the evenings. She aroused public attention, arguing that it was cheaper to keep children at home than it was to keep them in an institution. In 1916 the Mothers’ Allowance Legislation was passed, and Mrs. Dick is given much of the credit for it.

She had also been president of the Home Welfare Association from its beginning until the 1940s. This group included among its tasks, the clothing bureau and Christmas dinners for the elderly. She also held office in the Women’s Civic League, the Local Council of Women, the LODE, and other organizations. [26]

During World War I she devoted her energies to the Manitoba Patriotic Fund and began Christmas Cheer parties for soldiers’ children. After her unsuccessful attempt to gain a seat in the Manitoba Legislature in 1920, she ran as an independent candidate in the federal election in Centre Winnipeg. Apparently, the Liberal party had promised support for her candidacy but the Liberal “nominating convention methods and behaviour had made it impossible for her to be a Liberal” so 450 people petitioned her to run as an Independent. She ran on a platform of need for lower tariffs, better legislation for women and children, prohibition, and the rights of returned men and their dependents. She lost.

In the Depression she organized picnics at City Park for the families of the unemployed and continued with the welfare work for the aged and infirm. During World War II she was active in many war and welfare emergency organizations, and helped in the clothing drives for Europe and Asia. She also found time to run for the Legislature again in 1941, and again was defeated. One cannot help but think it was a pity. If Mrs. Dick could display that kind of energy when she was in her mid-seventies, just think what she might have done in Ottawa. [27]

In January of 1940, eighteen organizations with which she had been associated honoured Mrs. Dick at a luncheon. She continued her welfare projects until just before she died, in 1957, at age 90.

From the information available about Genevieve Lipsett-Skinner we know that she was listed as a journalist with The Telegram in 1920. Further research shows that she had been with them at least as early as 1914, [28] and a newspaper article of 1915 speaks of her as “for many years editress of the Sunshine department of The Telegram” and again later as “a traveller of experience in this country and Europe.” [29] Her pictures suggest that she would be at least in her forties or early fifties. She must have had a reasonably good education since she is featured in a Telegram article of 1915 as one of the lady students at the law school, although it doesn’t state what she was taking. [30] At the time of her nomination the news articles list her address as 598 Corydon, the address of her husband, Robert C. Skinner, of Prockter, Skinner and Neil at 73 Albert. However, the Henderson’s Directory of 1920 lists Genevieve Lipsett-Skinner’s residence as “Royal Alexandra Hotel.” [31] Was it a domestic difference? There is no indication of children in the Skinner household and Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner does not seem to be involved in much volunteer work in the community.

Her nomination papers were signed by L. B. Montgomery, R. F. Bingham, W. G. Bower, and Jean Fyfe. Her agent was P. C. Locke. [32]

Not a great deal of information is available about Mrs. Alice A. Holling, “married woman,” either. Like Mrs. Dick, Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner, and Mrs. Rogers, she was a Political Equality League member and she was still active in politics in 1922 because she stepped down in order to strengthen Mrs. Rogers’s candidacy. She lived at 64 Riverton in 1920 with her husband, Luther, who was superintendent at Central Tools and Forgings; and her two daughters, Barbara, a student, and Clara L., a stenographer at the Royal Bank. [33] By 1922 the Hollings - Luther and Alice - are listed as living at 6-356 Qu’Appelle. [34]

Her nomination papers were signed by Mrs. A. J. Coulter, Mrs. Isabella Smith, J. McCann, and Gladys Lockwood. Her agent was M. L. Moorcroft, presumably Mrs. Moorcroft of the Political Equality League since the only other Moorcroft in the Directory is Alex Moorcroft who would seem to be Mrs. Moorcroft’s husband. [35]

Because Mrs. Rogers, the first woman to be elected, was elected in 1920, 1922, and 1927 there is much more information available about her.

Born Edith McTavish at Norway House in 1877, she was the daughter of Donald McTavish, a Hudson’s Bay Company factor, and the great-granddaughter of Sir George Simpson. She was educated in eastern Canada and came to Winnipeg in 1898 as the bride of Robert Arthur Rogers. She was a member of All Saints’ Anglican Church, and, in 1920, lived at 64 Nassau with her husband, the president of Crescent Creamery. They had three daughters and one son-all past childhood when Mrs. Rogers became a politician. Her oldest daughter, Margaret Konantz, eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an MP—the only woman MP ever elected from Manitoba.

Until World War I, Mrs. Rogers was notable primarily as a society leader. During the war she became President of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Great War Veterans’ Association, secretary of the Central Council of the Battalion Auxiliary and had an office in conjunction with the Patriotic Fund in the Board of Trade Building from 1915. For her services during the War she received the Gold Medal of the Canadian Legion. She was also first woman member of the Winnipeg General Hospital Board and President of the Convalescent Home and Hospital Aid Society. A member of the Political Equality League, she had worked for woman suffrage but her only previous experience in politics had been working in the campaign of Mr. Justice A. B. Hudson when he ran for Parliament. [36]

In 1920 the forty-three-year-old Mrs. Rogers was nominated by Ed. Parnell, W. A. Matheson, P. G. Riemer, and Mrs. Charles Hobbs. [37] Despite the fact that Winnipeg had 35,859 male voters to 26,396 female voters, Mrs. Rogers was elected. [38] No doubt many war veterans supported her because of her war work and her continuing concern for the problems of veterans and their families.

During her time in the Legislature she maintained her contacts with the welfare activities, as well as being a faithful member in attending sessions. Mrs. Rogers served on four important committees-Law Amendments, Standing Orders, Municipal Affairs, and Private Bills.

Her maiden speech was the reply to the Throne Speech at the opening of the Legislature and she soon had a reputation as a good speaker but one who only spoke when she had something to say. The major achievement of Mrs. Rogers’s career was the Child Welfare Act, although she used to enjoy telling people about the one bill that was always defeated. The Bill? One to get lights on horse-drawn vehicles. The objection? Farmers couldn’t afford twenty-five cents for a red disk. [39]

In addition to her work as an MLA, Mrs. Rogers constantly travelled. Newspaper accounts tell us that she was a Winnipeg delegate to the International Congress of Social Welfare Workers in Milwaukee in July of 1921 where she spoke of the Winnipeg Foundation. [40] In April of 1922 she was Manitoba’s representative at the PanAmerican Conference of Women Voters at Boston where she addressed the group, mentioning Manitoba’s advanced social legislation in the area of welfare. [41] In 1921 the papers were also suggesting that Mrs. Rogers might be chosen Director of Child Welfare and she was a frequent speaker as the 1922 election drew near. [42]

After she was elected she received quite a lot of publicity because she was the first woman. For this reason also she was often asked to represent the province and travelled, on several occasions, to the United States and Britain as a speaker. Her major concerns, like those of the other early women legislators, were traditional concerns of women-health, education, child welfare and the mothers’ allowances. Some of her legislative achievements were the Mothers’ Allowance Act and the introduction of a bill to give widows increased power over estates left by their husbands. She was a faithful member of the Legislature in matters of attendance and seems to have worked hard enough to justify re-election.

Newspaper articles of the day are rather gushing about her femininity and her fashion sense. She always wore smart hats to the Legislature, and a guest at a London reception was quoted as saying “I wish all women in public life dressed as charmingly as Mrs. Rogers.”

All of this should not obscure the fact that Edith Rogers was a tough, practical politician who mastered parliamentary procedure well enough to make it work for her. On one particular occasion she moved for the establishment of old age pensions in the closing hours of a session of the House. She was told that money bills could not be introduced at that time, so she apologized sweetly, but accomplished her purpose-to get the matter before the members. Next session it became law.

In addition to “women’s concerns” she introduced a bill to censor motion pictures and the bill to establish the Winnipeg Foundation, a charitable foundation to which money could be bequeathed for use by public institutions. She sat on a number of important committees, including Law Amendments, Standing Orders, Municipal Affairs and Private Bills. While doing this, she also ran a home and saw to the needs of her four children, although she did have servants to help in the house and her children were past childhood at the time. She had a most realistic approach to the question of women in politics. Unlike some of the other women who foresaw women members being concerned only with questions of health, education and child rearing she said

“Of course, women can bring to the work of law-making, as their special share, their experience and knowledge of domestic and social questions. But do not understand me as saying, or for one moment suggesting, that women legislators should confine themselves to doing only social service work. Not at all. They must take their part in every phase of legislative work. And it is real work - much of it is drudgery.” [43]

She was also much more realistic than many other women about the issue of a Women’s Party.

... I cannot doubt that they (women) will line up, like the men elected, with the groups whose political thinking and convictions are in accord with their own political convictions. That is what government of the people, by the people, and for the people means, and women are people equally with men.” [44]

As the only woman member, Mrs. Rogers had the added burden of representing the government at many social functions regarded as reflecting women’s interests. So hectic was her schedule that a local wit wrote the following poem:

On Monday she lunched with a housing committee:
With statistics and stew she was filled,
Then she dashed to a tea on “Crime in Our City,”
And dined with a church ladies’ guild.

On Tuesday she went to a “Babies’ Week” lunch,
And a tea on “good citizenship;”
At dinner she talked to the trade union “bunch,”
There wasn’t a date she dared skip.

On Wednesday she managed two annual dinners,
One at noon and the other at night;
On Thursday a luncheon on “Bootlegging Sinners,”
And a dinner on “War, Is It Right?”

“World Troubles We Face,” was the Friday noon date,
(A luncheon address, as you’ve guessed),
And she wielded a fork, while a man from New York,
Spoke that evening on “Social Unrest.”

On Saturday noon she fell in a swoon,
Missed a talk on “The Youth of Our Land.”
Poor thing, she was through; she never came to,
But she died with a spoon in her hand. [45]

Mrs. Rogers successfully contested the 1922 and 1927 elections before eventually moving to Colborne, Ontario where she died in 1947.

A look at the statistics of eligible voters in 1920 makes one realize that women candidates in rural Manitoba probably would have had a difficult time to win any seats-male voters outnumbered female voters in every constituency and in some, such as Fisher and Ethelbert, male voters were twice as many as females. If one also considers that the woman suffrage movement in Manitoba, unlike that in Saskatchewan, was primarily a Winnipeg group, the lack of rural women candidates is not too surprising.

An examination of information about the women from Winnipeg who did run shows certain similarities. All were married, all were in their forties or fifties, and all seem to have been well-educated and articulate. All of the women had been members of the Political Equality League and all seem to have been fairly well known. Those women who had children would not have had to contend with complaints about child neglect since the children were all in their teens or older. At least two women, Mrs. Dick and Mrs. Rogers, had full time help in their homes, and one suspects that Mrs. Lipsett Skinner, as a working woman, probably did, too. [46] The three women mentioned above all lived in the same general area of south Winnipeg. Mrs. Holling lived in a different area but probably was financially secure as well. All of the women were of British background. A look at the homes of these women (although perhaps somewhat altered by the years) suggests that none of these women could be considered poor. The nominations of the women were also supported by some of the city’s solid citizens, as the list indicates.

Table 2. Signers of Nomination Papers for the Women Candidates of 1920
Source: Henderson’s Directory, 1920.

Mrs. Dick

Mrs. Anne Perry

106 St. Cross - no occupation listed Prominent in the Norris Liberal group

C. H. Harris

Secretary-Treasurer of Burton McLean, Men’s Clothiers

D. Mclver

Sales Manager, Stephens Paint Co. - 250 Langside

Mrs. George Richards

Richards and Sons or George Richards, confectioners

Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner

L. B. Montgomery

clerk street railway, 1185 Wolseley

R. F. Bingham (Major)

501 Raglan, Bingham and Bingham Investments and Real Estate

W. G. Bower

accountant, W. J. Christie

Jean Fyfe

stenographer, W. J. Christie

Agent

P. C. Locke of Sproule and Locke, barristers

Mrs. Holling

Mrs. A. J. Coulter

wife of post office clerk, 230 Salter

Isabella Smith

stenographer, 34-326 Broadway

(Mrs.) J. McCann

superintendent City Light, 24 Maple

Gladys Lockwood

secretary of Grace Church, 15-330 Donald

Mrs. Rogers

Ed. Parnell

managing director, Speirs-Parnell, Bakers, 368 College, St. James

W. A. Matheson

managing director, Lake of the Woods Milling Co., 41 Donald

P. G. Riemer-(Gustav)

549 Mountain ???

Mrs. Charles Hobbs

wife of adjuster for Paterson and Waugh Fire Insurance, 353 Kennedy

In the 1922 election five women ran. Mrs. Lily Brown of 565 Lipton Street was a Conservative candidate. She was an active campaigner, often exhorting women “not to ’obey’ their husbands on polling day, but rather to use their independence and help elect women candidates.”

Mrs. Agnes Munro also ran in the 1922 election. A Conservative candidate, she was now widowed and living at 99 Norquay. Later she moved to 183 Harrow, then to live with her son at 194 Montrose, and finally moving to Toronto where she died on 1 April 1961. [47]

Mrs. Maude McCarthy, the Labor candidate, is listed in one newspaper account as a former teacher. At the time of the 1922 election she is a school trustee, living at 261 Patrick with her husband, George, a C.P.R. engineer. There is no record of children. In 1941 she is listed, living by herself at 753 Ingersoll and there the record seems to end.

Mrs. Martha Jane Hample is listed as Mrs. A. G. Hample but the husband is something of a mystery. He is not listed in the 1920s directories at their residence at 808 Wolseley nor is he listed in her obituary. She was born Martha Jane Richards in England but came to Canada at a young age. She was soon identified with business in Winnipeg as a pioneer caterer and confectioner. The Hample Building at 273½ Portage is, in 1927, “a testimony to her business ability.”

In the community she is credited with playing a major part in the Knowles School. She was the first woman appointed to the city school board where ,he served from 1916-20. She was also the treasurer of the Political Equality League. She moved to 641 Pine Avenue, Long Beach, California in 1923 and died there December 27. She had a son, Carl, and a daughter, Betty. [48]

Mrs. Rogers’ background has already been discussed.

In summary, the women candidates in the 1922 election appear to have keen active in business and community affairs for some time before the election. Where there are children they are grown up. The Munro and Hample houses suggest that domestic help would have been required to keep such places and Brown, Hample, and Rogers appear to be financially secure. While finances may have been a problem for Mrs. Munro all four of these candidates lived in comfortable circumstances in South or Central Winnipeg. As might be expected, Mrs. McCarthy lived in the northern part of the city.

This is the first election where women candidates really become involved in controversy, and there was the first woman Labor candidate. Mrs. Rogers was the only one elected.

Mrs. Rogers ran in 1927 and was re-elected for another term. No woman ran in the election of 1932, the only election since 1920 that had no women candidates. The Depression seems to have been the reason for this.

The 1936 election had four women candidates. Miss Beatrice Brigden ran for the CCF-ILP, Mrs. Mary Dyma was a Liberal-Progressive, and two Social Credit candidates were in the race-Miss Salome Halldorson in St. George and Mrs. Asta Oddson in Gimli.

Newspaper reports were not nearly so detailed as they were in the 1920s and women candidates were no longer a novelty. There were scattered references to meetings but they were not written up in detail. The Winnipeg candidates, however, were given space to write their policies.

Miss Beatrice Brigden wrote the CCF article. In summary she said that the CCF was against the economic system based on profit. The present system had caused chaos and was morally wrong. Evidence of its failure was the fact that the government had to save businesses such as the CPR. The answer was a challenge to the existing order, but no extremes were necessary. The CCF proposed the co-operative way-volunteer co-operatives, consumer co-operatives and educating children to understand co-operation. [49]

Mrs. Mary Dyma explained the Liberal-Progressive policy. She pointed out that all parties wanted to ease the situation for children, the aged, etc. but the Liberal-Progressives were the only ones who could offer more than “pious hopes and wishes” - because of their experience. She pointed to its record of help in the form of allowance to mothers, widows and children, as well as its continued support of the Public Health Nursing service-work that had been maintained despite the cutbacks in government spending. She also pointed out that the government had made sure that no school would close. [50]

The personal backgrounds of the 1936 women candidates are somewhat different from previous women who ran.

Miss Beatrice Alice Brigden, educationist, of 180 Balmoral was nominated by George Davidson, Lucy L. Woodsworth, A. A. Heaps, and Elizabeth J. Willows. [51] Miss Brigden was born in the early 1900s at a farm between Lauder and Napinka, of British immigrant parents who had both been active in politics, especially in the Patrons of Industry in the 1890s. She had been trained as a speaker and “elocutionist” early in her life and obtained a diploma in speech from the Toronto Conservatory. She was educated in Manitoba, attending Brandon College where she made the acquaintance of Stanley Knowles and later worked on his early campaigns. She became involved in politics when quite young and worked with A. E. Smith after the 1919 Strike. Miss Brigden ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons in Brandon in the 1930s before her 1936 attempt in Winnipeg.

She says that she knew she could not win but she ran in the 1936 provincial election because no men would run and she thought someone should try to gain the United Farmers of Manitoba votes. She comments that “men won’t run where there is no chance, while women are willing to run for principle.” During the 1930s she went on a voluntary three month relief budget to better understand the problems of the people on relief. Her comment was that she lost eight pounds, not because she didn’t eat, but because of anxiety.

Miss Brigden’s occupations are inseparable from her participation in community affairs. She has been a speech teacher, an employee of the Unemployment Insurance Commission, and a girls’ worker for the United Church for eight years. She is presently a member of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission and has been with the Commission since its beginning. Her community work has included the following:

  • citizenship committee with Mrs. McWilliams
  • organizer of the CCF
  • Past-President Winnipeg Council of Women
  • organizer of Provincial Council of Women
  • member University Women’s Club
  • Arts and Letters Chairman, National Council of Women
  • Canadian delegate to Council of Women and University Women’s Club international meetings, including trips to Britain and U. S. S. R.
  • attendance at meetings of Women’s International League on Peace and Freedom in Guatemala and Mexico
  • organizer of SHARE and Open-Door Club for Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Indian-Métis Friendship centres
  • organizer of Women’s Model Parliaments
  • organizer of public speaking classes during the Depression

At present she has been working on personal centennial projects - a reading group for those elderly people who cannot easily read for themselves, and a project having elderly people write or dictate their memories. [52]

Mrs. Mary Dyma, housewife, of 785 Pritchard Avenue was nominated by Taras Hubicki, Yaroslow W. M. Stechisun, and S. Tchowecki. Mrs. Dyma was a relative newcomer to Canada having arrived from the Ukraine about 1920. She was the wife of Dr. Bronislaw Dyma, and was active in Ukrainian groups from her arrival in Winnipeg. [53] Mrs. Dyma is still living.

Icelandic women have been early suffrage organizers. Miss Elin Salome Halldorson was born in Lundar, Manitoba on December 29, 1887. Her parents, Halldor Halldorson and Kristin Palsdottir, were of Icelandic origin. She attended Wesley College, where she was Lady Stick, and the University of Manitoba. She taught languages (Latin, German) from the age of seventeen until retirement, teaching at Jon Bjarnason Academy from 1918 to 1938. Later she taught in Morden, Transcona and at Balmoral Hall.

She ran in St. George in the 1936 and 1941 election. She was elected in 1936, the second woman MLA and the first of Icelandic origin. [54]

During the thirties and early forties, Miss Halldorson was Vice-President and President of the Social Credit League while Mrs. Asta Oddson was also an active member of the executive.

Miss Halldorson refused to join the other Social Credit members in endorsing the Bracken government in 1936 and was the only one not read out of the Social Credit League. [55] Aberhart thought highly of her.

“I am happy to commend her on the splendid and fearless stand in connection with this coalition,” he said as he stepped on his train for Ottawa. “I was also most pleased to see that she decided to stand by the principles of true democracy. This will strike a responsive chord in the hearts of all Britishers.” [56]

In 1941 she charged that the election was not democratic:

“Before going to the polls,” she continued, “the people knew that the coalition government was in, irrespective of how they voted.” ...

“The way the election was put over, at a time when roads were impassable and at very short notice, made a free and democratic expression of opinion impossible.” [57]

Miss Halldorson went back to school teaching, was nominated in 1945, but declined to run. She died June 3, 1970.

Mrs. Asta Oddson was the Social Credit nominee in Gimli in 1936. Mrs. Oddson had been born in Winnipeg in 1893, the daughter of Icelandic parents named Austman. Her father had been a cattle farmer in Glenboro and Gladstone who took a great interest in politics. Mrs. Oddson was a teacher before her marriage to Leifur Odd son, whose business was real estate. She had five children, four born in the 1920s and one in 1933. She ran again in Winnipeg in 1941 as a Social Credit candidate and in 1958 as an independent.

During World War II she worked as a gun inspector in a war supply factory in Hamilton. In the 1950s she was a social worker for the Department of Indian Affairs. For the last five or six years she has lived in Edmonton with her son, Leif Oddson, who was a Social Credit candidate in the 1974 federal election for Edmonton-Strathcona. He ran fourth out of seven candidates with 1,149 votes. Mrs. Oddson was ill for several years before her death last spring and was not able to be interviewed.”

There are a number of things to note about the women candidates of 1936. Two are unmarried, and the economic level is not as high as that of earlier candidates. Three of the four are non-British in background. Miss Halldorson and Mrs. Oddson were the first Icelandic women to run provincially although Icelandic women had been active in women’s activities for some time. Mrs. Dyma was the first woman of Ukrainian background to run.

The 1936 election also had the first women candidates of the new parties, CCF and Social Credit. The women running were also younger, in their thirties or forties.

The 1940s elections were not very lively. Three women ran in the 1941 election; two in the 1945 and one in 1949. None was elected. A few women ran in the 1950s but only Thelma Forbes and Carolyn Morrison were elected. Their electoral successes continued into the 1960s but since their retirements Inez Trueman has been the only successful woman candidate. At present there are no women members in the legislature.

I won’t bore you with a long analysis of the problems of Manitoba women in politics. Other more capable historians and political scientists will no doubt get around to that in time. There are, however, some observations I would like to make.

Table 3. Provincial Elections in the Twenties and Thirties

29 June 1920

No. Votes

Mrs. Harriet Dick

Independent

Winnipeg

1307

Mrs. Alice A. Holling

Independent

Winnipeg

105

Mrs. Genevieve Lipsett-Skinner

Conservative

Winnipeg

359

E

Mrs. Edith Rogers

Liberal

Winnipeg

1541

18 July 1922

Mrs. Lily Brown

Conservative

Winnipeg

413

Mrs. Martha Jane Hample

United Farmers

Winnipeg

336

Mrs. Agnes Munro(e)

Conservative

Winnipeg

97

Mrs. Maud McCarthy

Labour

Winnipeg

72

E

Mrs. Edith Rogers

Liberal

Winnipeg

1689

28 June 1927

E

Mrs. Edith Rogers

Liberal

Winnipeg

1582

16 June 1932

No women candidates

27 July 1936

Miss Beatrice Brigden

CCF-ILP

Winnipeg

607

Mrs. Mary Dyma

Liberal-Progressive

Winnipeg

3849

E

Miss Salome Halldorson

Social Credit

St. George

1402

Mrs. Asta Oddson

Social Credit

Gimli

1033

From 1920 to 1960 women who have run in Manitoba elections have generally conformed to a pattern. With some minor changes the pattern continues to the present. The women candidates have usually been white, Protestant, Canadian-born of British background; members of established political parties; aged 40 to 50; married with no childrearing responsibilities; have lived in Winnipeg, usually in the south half of the city; financial position has been average or better. The women have had some professional training before marriage (usually teaching) and have been active community workers. Few spouses of candidates have been active politically and no Manitoba woman has attempted to take her husband’s seat after his death, as have several women in the federal house.

Why have there been relatively few women involved in Manitoba elections? It seems that the momentum which achieved suffrage was lost after 1916. Manitoba women had no immediate opportunity to use their votes. The liquor referendum, a major issue, was voted on before they could vote. Then, also, the war absorbed their energies and by the time that was over the Political Equality League had disintegrated and most of the well-known women had gone elsewhere. Most women candidates mention the same problems: lack of money for campaigns, time spent away from family, accusations of child neglect, and general lack of party enthusiasm. Many of the women who did run ran in seats where they had little chance, solely for the sake of providing their parties with candidates.

As we approach the sixtieth anniversary of woman suffrage in Manitoba it is to be hoped that the pattern of the past will change and that more women will participate in government, justifying the faith that their grandmothers showed.

Notes

1. Cleverdon, Catherine L., The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada, 2nd ed. Toronto, 1974, page 2.

2. The Telegram, 26 February 1920.

3. The Winnipeg Free Press, 1 April 1920.

4. The Telegram, 26 February 1920.

5. The Telegram, 17 March 1920.

6. The Winnipeg Free Press, 1 April 1920.

7. Unidentified press clipping in Political Scrapbook for 1920. Clipping is dated 15 April 1920.

8. Political Scrapbook clipping, 27 April 1920.

9. Political Scrapbook clipping, 28 April 1920.

10. The Telegram, 15 April 1920.

11. Ibid.

12. Political Scrapbook clipping, 5 May 1920.

13. The Telegram, 16 June 1920.

14. Political Scrapbook clipping, 18 June 1920.

15. The Free Press, 21 June 1920.

16. Political Scrapbook, 23 June 1920.

17. Political Scrapbook, 3 July 1920.

18. Political Scrapbook, 9 October 1920.

19. Political Scrapbook, 28 April 1920.

20. Ibid.

21. Political Scrapbook, 13 May 1920.

22. Political Scrapbook, 2 June 1920.

23. The Telegram, 22 June 1920.

24. Obituaries in The Free Press and Tribune, 25 June 1957.

25. Interview with A. Dick.

26. Free Press and Tribune, 25 June 1957.

27. Political Scrapbook, 18 November 1921.

28. Henderson’s Directory, 1914.

29. The Telegram, 15 April 1915.

30. The Telegram, 22 March 1915.

31. Henderson’s Directory, 1920.

32. The Telegram, 22 June 1920.

33. Henderson’s Directory, 1920.

34. Henderson’s Directory, 1922.

35. Henderson’s Directory, 1920.

36. Biographical File, Legislative Library, Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1921, page 432 Obituaries in Tribune and Free Press, 19 April 1947.

37. The Telegram, 22 June 1920.

38. Political Scrapbook, 21 June 1920.

39. Bowles, Mrs. F., speech read before the Caledonian Women’s Club.

40. Political Scrapbook, 8 July 1921.

41. Free Press, 27 April 1922.

42. Tribune, 24 February 1921.

43. Biographical File on Edith Rogers, Legislative Library.

44. Ibid.

45. Bowles, Mrs. F.

46. Dick, R. L. Free Press, 16 October 1942.

47. Family interviews.

48. Obituary, Biographical Scrapbook, B-8, page 117.

49. Tribune, 15 July 1936.

50. Tribune, 18 July 1936.

51. Undated Tribune clipping, Political Scrapbook, June-July 1936.

52. Free Press, 21 May 1958, 13 March 1960.

53. Gibbons, Miss Lillian, interview.

54. Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1937. Free Press, 5 June 1970.

55. Free Press, 30 November 1940.

56. Tribune and Free Press, 13 November 1940.

57. Free Press, 26 April 1941.

58. Interview with Mr. John Austman.

Sources

1. Biographical Scrapbooks, 1920-1960. Legislative Library.

2. The Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1920-1974.

3. Political Scrapbooks, 1920-1960. Legislative Library.

4. Manitoba newspapers, 1915-1960.

Interviews

1. John J. Austman

2. Mrs. Frances Bowles

3. Dr. Beatrice Brigden

4. R. L. Dick

5. A. Dick

6. Magnus Eliason

7. Miss Lillian Gibbons

8. Mrs. H. Gyles

9. Mrs. R. G. Fogg

10. Mrs. Thelma Forbes, Rathwell

11. Miss M. Hryniewiecki

12. Mrs. M. Mann, Brandon

13. Mrs. N. Murphy

14. Mrs. M. McCreery

15. Mrs. C. Morrison, Manitou

16. Mrs. E. Ringstrom, Clear Lake

17. Miss V. Walsh

Page revised: 25 September 2015

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