Birthday: March 24, 1890
Died At Age: 63
Sun Sign: Aries
Born in: Proton Township, Grey County, Ontario
Famous as: Canadian Politician
political ideology: Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, UFO-Labour, Progressive
father: Dougald McPhail
mother: Henrietta Campbell
Died on: February 13, 1954
place of death: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
education: Owen Sound Collegiate, Vocational Institute
Who was Agnes Macphail?
Agnes Campbell Macphail was the first woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. She was also was one of the first two women elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. All through her life, Agnes was active in progressive Canadian politics and endorsed her ideas as an activist, column writing and legislation. She used to write columns for the Farmer’s Sun while working as a school teacher in Ontario. At the same time, she also started her active political career. She was always interested in problems related to agricultural sector. To fulfill her desire to represent the farmers of her region, she joined the United Farmers of Ontario. She even used to write agricultural columns for the Globe and Mail, a newspaper in Toronto. Apart from that, she openly expressed her displeasure regarding low standard of education provided at the Royal College of Canada. Regarded as a feminist, she also supported issues including international cooperation, old age pensions, prison reforms and disarmament. Due to her initiative, Archambault Commission was formed to investigate the condition of prisons in Canada. She played a significant role in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was the first woman member of a Canadian delegation to the League of Nations.
Childhood & Early Life
Born in Proton Township, Ontario, Agnes was the daughter of Dougald McPhail and Henrietta Campbell. She did her schooling at Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute and later attended the teachers college in Stratford.
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After completing her education, she taught at various schools in southwest Ontario. Besides teaching, she also joined the United Farmers of Ontario and its organization for women namely the United Farm Women of Ontario.
She was elected to the House of Commons as a member of the Progressive Party of Canada for the Grey Southeast electoral district in the 1921 federal election. She is remembered as the first woman Member of Parliament in Canada.
In 1924, she expressed her discontent about the teaching methods and standard at the Royal Military College of Canada. According to her opinion, this organization imparted low standard of education for the sons of rich people.
In 1925, 1926 and 1930, she was re-elected in the federal elections of Canada. In 1931, for the second time, she expressed her dissatisfaction towards the Royal Military College of Canada as a pacifist.
As a member of the Progressive Party, she became a part of the socialist Ginger Group. This group was actively involved for the formation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).
In 1932, she became the first president of the Ontario CCF. In 1934, when the United Farmers of Ontario stopped functioning politically due to its fear of Communist influence in the Ontario CCF, she left the CCF.
She stayed in touch with several CCF MPs and used to take part in political meetings of the CCF occasionally, even after leaving the CCF. After getting elected in the 1935 federal election as a United Farmers of Ontario-Labour MP, she got the permission to use the party’s name.
She was also the first Canadian woman delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. There she worked with the World Disarmament Committee.
In the 1940 election, she was defeated by Progressive Conservative candidate Alfred Henry Bence. It was her last federal campaign as a contestant.
In 1942, she joined the Ontario CCF as its farm organizer. In 1943 provincial election, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario elected her as a member of the Ontario CCF.
She became the first woman to be sworn in as an Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament. Agnes lost the 1945 provincial election. In the 1948 election, she was elected again. Due to her effort Ontario’s fist equal pay legislation was passed in 1951.
Personal Life & Legacy
Her political activity mirrored her strong support towards rural issues. Apart from that, she worked for the reformation of penal law. As a result of this, Archambault Commission was formed in 1936.
In 1939, she took the initiative to set up the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada to improve the condition of the criminal justice system for women. She also campaigned for the pensions for seniors and rights of workers.
Shortly before her appointment to the Canadian Senate, she passed away at the age of 63. She was buried in Priceville, Ontario. Agnes Macphail remained bachelor all through her life.
In 1993, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Macphail's election to the Ontario legislature, it was decided that March 24 would be considered as Agnes Macphail Day.
In 1994, East York council decided to honor Agnes Macphail by establishing Agnes Macphail Award to the resident of East York with amazing contributions in the arena of equality rights and social justice.
A number of places/organisations are named after her, including Agnes Macphail Parkette, Agnes Macphail Playground, Agnes MacPhail Youth Resource Centre and Agnes MacPhail Food Bank.