Memorable Manitobans: Seymour James Farmer (1878-1951)
Businessman, Mayor of Winnipeg (1923-1924), MLA (1923-1927), MLA (1927-1932), MLA (1933-1936), MLA (1937-1940), MLA (1941-1945), MLA (1946-1949).
Born at Cardiff, Wales on 20 June 1878, son of Seymour Farmer and Bessie Alexander Sander, he was educated at Cardiff. He came to Canada in 1900. For ten years, he worked as a clerk for the Canadian Pacific Railway in rural Manitoba. He quit the job to operate a bookstore at Brandon. He was employed at the Winnipeg Grain Exchange from 1913 to 1927 and clerked at the International Elevator Corporation in 1919.
Active in labour politics, he supported direct legislation, a single tax, and was an ardent pacifist. Active in the founding of the Labour Church in 1918, he was chairman of the Dominion Labour Party in Manitoba that same year. In 1917, he ran unsuccessfully for election to the House of Commons against George William Allan.
In 1921, he was one of the founders of the Independent Labour Party and, four years later, he founded the Weekly News, a pro-labour newspaper that became the official organ of the ILP. He was elected Mayor of Winnipeg (1922-1923) and later a member of the Winnipeg City Council. He was subsequently a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation MLA and was leader of the Manitoba CCF from 1936 to 1947. He was Minister of Labour in the coalition government during the Second World War, resigning in 1942 when John Bracken became national leader of the Conservative Party. He won six elections as an ILP and CCF candidate, including 1922, 1927, 1932, 1936, 1941, and 1945.
On 9 May 1901, he married Lydia Gwendoline Ashton (?-1976) at Winnipeg, with whom he had four children: Brenda Gwendoline Farmer (1902-1990, wife of William David Dodds), John Seymour Farmer (1905-1977), Eric Phillip Farmer (1907-1972), and Lloyd Ashton Fisher (1909-1993). The family lived at 317 Victor Street (c1911).
He died at his Winnipeg home, 683 Fisher Avenue, on 16 January 1951 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Ex-CCF leader dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 January 1951. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B10]
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 17 January 1951, page 23.
Obituary [Eric Phillip Farmer], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 February 1972, page 23.
Obituary [L. Gwendoline Farmer], Winnipeg Free Press, 20 December 1976, page 42.
Obituary [John Seymour Farmer], Winnipeg Free Press, 17 June 1977, page 38.
Times of Trouble: Labour Quiescence in Winnipeg 1920-1929 by David Edward Hall, MA thesis, University of Manitoba, 1983, page 72.
Obituary [Brenda G. Dodds], Winnipeg Free Press, 14 March 1990, page 41.
Obituary [Lloyd Ashton Farmer], Winnipeg Free Press, 19 December 1993, page 31.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 7 April 2022