Women’s Firsts – Canada

Credit: About Women, Vol. 9, No. 1, Jan./Feb. 1984, Women’s Directorate
For more information about the Status of Women in Manitoba, visitĀ www.gov.mb.ca/msw

Period Timeline Event
1883 First three suffrage bills to be introduced by Sir John A. Macdonald, and defeated three times.
1887 In Manitoba, all women property owners could vote in Municipal elections.
1890 Women taxpayers could vote for school boards and were eligible to be trustees in Manitoba.
1906 Manitoba Legislation barred married women from municipal voting. Restored these privileges in 1907.
1915 Elma Kennedy Brown was elected the first woman school trustee in Winnipeg – she served until 1916.
1916 Women in Alberta are given the provincial vote.Women in Saskatchewan are given the provincial vote.Women in Manitoba are given the provincial vote due to the efforts of Nellie McClung and the Political Equality League.
1917 Women with property are permitted to hold office in Saskatchewan.Nurses, under the Military Voters Act, are given the federal vote.Women in British Columbia are given the provincial vote.

Women who are British subjects and have close relatives in the armed forces can vote, on behalf of their male relatives, in federal elections.

First women to be elected to Provincial Legislatures were Miss Robert McAdams and Mrs. Louise McKinney in Alberta.

1918 Women given full federal franchise except native women.Women given the vote in Nova Scotia.
1919 Women given the vote in New Brunswick.
1920 Edith Rogers was the first woman MLA in Manitoba, she retired in 1932.In the Dominion Elections Act, uniform franchise was established and the right of women to be elected to parliament was made permanent.
1921 Mary Ellen Smith was appointed first woman Cabinet Minister in Britsh Columbia, and first in the British empire.Agnes McPhail is the first woman elected to the House of Commons.
1922 Women in Prince Edward Island are given the right to vote in provincial elections and to hold elected office.
1925 Women over 25 are given the vote in Newfoundland.
1928 After a petition from Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Henrietta Muir Edward the Supreme Court of Canada that under the terms of the BNA Act women are not “persons” and therefore cannot be appointed to the Senate of Canada (known as the Persons case).
1929 The Persons Case goes to the British Privy Council which overturns the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada: women are deemed to be “persons” and can therefore be appointed to the Senate.
1931 Cairine Wilson became the first woman appointed to the Senate of Canada.
1934 Women are permitted to hold elected office in New Brunswick.
1940 Women given the vote in Quebec provincial elections.
1947 Married women are restricted from holding federal public service jobs.
1949 Nancy Hodges becomes first woman Speaker in the British Columbia legislature, and in the Commonwealth.
1955 Restrictions on married women in the federal public service are removed.
1957 Ellen Fairclough is sworn in as the first woman federal Cabinet Minister.
1958 Margaret Meagher is appointed Ambassador to Israel and is the first female Canadian head of a diplomatic mission.
1960 First woman from Manitoba to be appointed from the Senate.
1961 Canadian Bill of Rights is passed.
1963 First woman in Canada to be appointed to be Speaker of the House and the second in the British Commonwealth – appointed in Manitoba.
1967 Royal Commission on the Status of Women is set up with Senator Florence Bird as Chairperson.
1971 For the first time, a member of the Federal Cabinet, the Honourable Robert Andras, is given responsibility for Status of Women concerns.Amendments to the Canadian Labour Code to include prohibition on the grounds of sex and marital status strongly reinforce the principle of equal pay for equal work and provide for maternity leave provisions for 17 weeks.
1972 Establishment of Office of Equal Opportunities for Women within the Public Service Commission.Muriel Fergusson is appointed first woman Speaker of the Senate in Canada.Amendments to the Income Tax Act to allow, as a deduction, the cost of child care from the income of a working mother.
1973 Canadian Advisory on the Status of Women is set up.Jean Folster of Norway House became the first female treaty Indian in the Province of Manitoba to become a magistrate. Earlier she became the first Indian woman in Manitoba to be chief band councellor and welfare administrator in the sam community.
1975 International Women’s Year.Federal Omnibus Bill on the Status of Women passes and amends 11 statuses to provide equality of status of women.
1976 Amendments to the Citizenship Act to allow applicants for immigration to be treated alike regardless of sex and removes clauses which discriminate against women.
1977 Legislature passes which allows for the splitting of Canada/Quebec pension credits upon dissolution of marriage.Canadian Human Rights Act passes and forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, and ensures equal pay for work of equal value for women.Norma Price is the first woman in Manitoba to be appointed Labour Minister.
1978 Norma Price is the first woman in Manitoba to hold the portfolio of Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
1981 Pearl McGonigal became the first woman Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.