Nellie McClung's legacy still at work in Canadian politics 100 years later

Marcia McClung is in Winnipeg to celebrate the centennial of some women getting the right to vote — a turning point her grandmother, Nellie McClung, brought about in Manitoba.

On Thursday, it's the centennial of women's suffrage in Manitoba — a turning point McClung brought about

Marcia McClung is in Winnipeg to celebrate the centennial of some women getting the right to vote — a turning point her grandmother, Nellie McClung, brought about in Manitoba. 2:12

Marcia McClung is in Winnipeg to celebrate the centennial of some women getting the right to vote — a turning point her grandmother, Nellie McClung, brought about in Manitoba.

"It's historically very significant for all Canadians," Marcia said on Wednesday.

"But, for me of course there's an extra sense of pride because my grandmother played such an important role, as did other women here in Winnipeg."

Nellie McClung's granddaughter, Marcia McClung, remembers her grandmother as "fun to be with." 0:49

Standing beside a snow-covered statue of The Famous Five at the Manitoba legislative grounds, Marcia said that her grandmother saw women's suffrage as a "lever" for all women to participate fully in the political process.

Of course, that did not happen for a number of years.

In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created a gender-balanced federal cabinet — a sign of hope, if not an indication that there is still work to be done to create equality for women in politics.

Canada's Indigenous Peoples did not get the right to vote provincially until the 1950s and federally, until 1960. 

Certain women

While women's suffrage is celebrated in the city, Jacqueline Romanow, chair of Indigenous Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said it's important to remember that many women were excluded from the initial victory.

Jacqueline Romanow said a number of factors, including indigenous women being excluded from federal voting rights until 1960, have contributed to First Nations mistrust in the government. (CBC)

"People question why is there mistrust between First Nations and the Canadian government, without understanding that there are a lot of reasons throughout history for this mistrust," she said.

"It didn't just happen because of one factor in particular. This is part of something bigger."

Still, Jodi Giesbrecht, manager of research and curation at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, said the anniversary is a meaningful one.

"I mean, at that point women weren't persons under the law," she said, referring to time that preceded women's suffrage.

"So, not only could they not vote, they couldn't hold office. A lot of their rights were tied to husbands or fathers."

Back at the legislative grounds, Marcia spoke of her grandmother and the rest of The Famous Five as women who got together to talk about ideas, writing lengthy letters to each other in the time in between.

On Thursday, she said she hopes others will think about the importance behind the right to vote.

"That's how people can really affect change and Nellie McClung herself would say that," she said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.