Why the Nellie McClung Foundation erected a monument featuring the ‘Famous Five’
Although the Foundation promotes Nellie McClung’s achievements, we believe that our goals are two-fold: the first was to erect a monument commemorating the work of Nellie McClung; the second is to educate the public about her passion and achievements in the pursuit of women’s and human rights.
Nellie McClung lived in Manitoba from 1880 – 1914 (34 years), and this was where the seeds of her ideas and the foundation of her ideals took shape. To achieve our goals, we believe that our monument and our educational efforts must emphasize not only the Manitoba sphere of her life, but also her national significance and influence. It must act as a springboard for further dialogue about the rights, achievements, and status of women.
The scene we have chosen with Nellie among the Famous Five accomplishes all of this: it depicts her at the very pinnacle—the most symbolic moment—of her political career, alongside a handful of women whose shared ideas and beliefs she had passionately championed around the world. In this scene, Nellie McClung is putting her own name to the petition that supported the idea that the time had come for women to be recognized as persons. She was a pivotal figure in these efforts; framed by these important women, she is the pivotal figure in this scene.
However, no monument or foundation dedicated to Nellie McClung or her legacy could focus on her alone. Below, you will find but one reason why:
The Business and Professional Women of Canada had placed a plaque in the lobby of the Senate commemorating the Persons Case … Before 300 senators, MPs and representatives of women’s groups, Nellie stood proudly at the Prime Minister’s left as he unveiled the plaque.
King’s speech was predictable, stuffy and laboured. Then Nellie herself stepped forward and from the first word she uttered had her listeners entranced. She talked about the long campaign to, “convince the world (women) had souls, and then that they had minds,” and then that they deserved the right to political office.
She paid a loyal tribute to her fellow members of the Famous Five, but with characteristic impatience added: “We would all be able to accomplish a great deal more if none of us cared who got the credit.” *
* Source: Pgs. 158 – 159 Nellie McClung by Charlotte Gray – Penguin Canada 2008 (Referring to 1938)