Manitoba

Bringing Nellie Home: Canadian suffragist's 2 early homes come back to Manitou

Two of Nellie McClung's former houses are being moved back to Manitou, the southern Manitoba community where the famous author and women's suffragist had lived in the early years of her career.

The houses, dating back to late 1800s, had been moved to the Archibald Museum

These two houses, where women's suffragist Nellie McClung had lived in Manitou, Man., have been moved back to the community from the former Archibald Museum. (Muriel McIntosh/Moving Nellie Home Committee)

Two of Nellie McClung's former houses are being moved back to Manitou, the southern Manitoba community where the famous author and women's suffragist lived in the early years of her career.

The houses, which both date back to the late 1800s, had been relocated decades ago to the Archibald Museum, about 14 kilometres northwest of Manitou near La Rivière.

After the museum closed last year, its owners offered the McClung homes back to the community.

The houses were transported by truck to the outskirts of Manitou last week. They will become part of a new heritage site in town, on Main Street near Highway 3, said Bette Mueller, co-chair of the Bringing Nellie Home organization.

"It's going to mean so many things," Mueller told CBC's Radio Noon program on Monday.

"They're going to be a tourist attraction, without a doubt. They're going to have a very important educational value as well and of course, as far as we see it, we're protecting and saving our heritage."

The McClung homes consist of a log house where she had lived while she taught at a local school, while the other is a large wooden frame house where she and her husband, Wesley McClung, lived until they moved to Winnipeg in 1911.

"They're really significant to us because Nellie McClung lived here for such a number of years and she began her writing career while she was here, her speaking career while she was in Manitou," Mueller said.

"And of course, she began working with the women of the Press Club in Winnipeg that eventually led to the Political Equality League."

McClung's participation in the Political Equality League, and her leadership in the women's suffrage movement overall, helped win the right to vote in Manitoba elections for some women in 1916, making it the first in the country. She wrote 16 books in addition to being an activist, politician and organizer. 

Nellie McClung helped win the right to vote for some women in Manitoba in 1916. (National Archives of Canada/C.Jessop)

Grand opening planned for this fall

As for how the McClung's early homes had been moved away from Manitou, Mueller said both buildings had been relocated at some point and cared for by William Wallcraft, founder of the Archibald Museum.

"One of them was on a rural farm, and that's where Nellie boarded when she taught in Hazel School, and it was moved a number of years ago by Mr. Wallcraft to the Archibald Museum, I think because it had been empty and was there on deed land. And the second one was moved from Manitou when again, it became empty, and that was many years ago," she said.

"I think at that time, there just was not a culture and heritage committee in town, so the houses were moved."

The Bringing Nellie Home organization has raised over $100,000 of its $150,000 goal with the help of donations, including a grant from Access Credit Union and donations from the Asper family.

Mueller said it plans to build permanent foundations for the homes on Main Street this summer, with the goal of having a grand opening in September. The houses themselves will also need a little bit of freshening up, she added.

"What they do need is painting because they had been empty for a couple of years and they also need, of course, a cleaning. But they're remarkable in the way they look," she said.

There are also plans to team up with the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden, Man., to offer educational tours for students.

Two of Nellie McClung's former houses are being moved back to Manitou, the southern Manitoba community where the famous author and women's suffragist lived in the early years of her career. 0:37

With files from Radio Noon