Canada's Most Famous Suffragist

A key player in the labour movement and winning the vote for Western Canadian women.

Nellie McClung (1873 – 1951)

Nellie McClung was born Nellie Letitia Mooney in Ontario on October 20, 1873. At seven years old, she moved to Manitoba where she would grow up and begin to sow the seeds of many incredible political contributions later in life. At the age of just sixteen, she began teaching at a school near Manitou, Manitoba and through her connections there, became involved in several emerging social reform groups.

When Nellie was 23 years old, she married Wesley McClung, with whom she would raise five children. In 1911, the family moved out of rural Manitoba and into Winnipeg, where Nellie continued to fight for social change.

Nelllie joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) to help stop the problems associated with alcohol abuse, and this led to a passionate interest in the women’s suffrage movement as well. In addition to the WCTU, Nellie joined several other reform groups focused on the advancing women’s suffrage movement, and became a founding member of the Political Equality League.

Nellie is most remembered for her fight to get women the vote. In 1914, she and other members of the Political Equality League staged a mock parliament which turned the tables, satirizing the dangers of allowing men the right to vote. The play was entertaining and effective; it began a turn of the tide for the government of the day in the province. In 1916, Manitoba was the first province to grant women the right to vote, and the province of Saskatchewan quickly followed.

Even after that victory, and throughout her life, Nellie kept fighting for human rights and social reform. She campaigned for the rights of Aboriginal and Asian women. She pleaded with the Canadian government to accept European immigrants during the World War II. Nellie remained a driving force in Canadian politics until her death on September 1, 1951.

Career Highlights

Nellie McClung had many jobs over the course of her career, including teacher, writer, speaker, politician, and activist. Nellie was passionate about human rights.

As with most women of her time, she began working at a very young age. At only 16 she was already teaching in a rural school. It was around this time that Nellie started learning about the emerging social reform efforts in Manitoba and she quickly got involved.

Through her efforts with the Christian Women’s Temperance Union (CWTU), she started her career as