1. News & Issues

10 Firsts for Canadian Women in Government

Historical Firsts for Women in Government in Canada

By

Agnes Macphail, First Canadian Woman Member of Parliament

Agnes Macphail, First Canadian Woman Member of Parliament

Kelsey Studio / Library and Archives Canada / C-006908

It's hard to believe that it wasn't until 1918 that Canadian women first had the same voting rights as men in federal elections. A year later women gained the right to run for election to the House of Commons and the election of 1921 was the first federal election that included female candidates. Here are more historical firsts for Canadian women in government.

First Canadian Woman Member of Parliament - 1921

Agnes Macphail was the first Canadian woman to be a member of parliament. She was a strong activist for penal reform and founded the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada, a group working with and for women in the justice system.

First Canadian Woman Senator - 1930

Cairine Wilson was the first woman appointed to the Canadian Senate, just months after the Persons Case gave women the right to sit in the Senate. It wasn't until 1953 that another woman was appointed to the Senate in Canada

First Canadian Woman Federal Cabinet Minister - 1957

As Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the Diefenbaker government, Ellen Fairclough was responsible for introducing measures which went a long way towards the elimination of racial discrimination in Canadian immigration policy.

First Canadian Woman on the Supreme Court - 1982

Bertha Wilson, the first woman justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, had a strong influence on the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She is well remembered for concurring in the Supreme Court decision overturning Criminal Code of Canada restrictions on abortion in 1988.

First Canadian Woman Governor General - 1984

Jeanne Sauvé was not only Canada's first Canadian woman Governor General, she was also one of the three first women members of parliament to be elected from Quebec, the first woman federal cabinet minister from Quebec, and the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons.

First Canadian Woman Federal Party Leader - 1989

Audrey McLaughlin went north looking for adventure, and became the first NDP member of parliament for the Yukon. She went on to be elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party and the first woman leader of a federal Canadian political party.

First Canadian Woman Premier - 1991

Most of Rita Johnston's political career was as a municipal councillor in Surrey, British Columbia, but her foray into provincial politics landed her several cabinet minister posts and a short stint as Premier of British Columbia.

First Canadian Woman in Space - 1992

A neurology researcher, Roberta Bondar was one of the six original Canadian astronauts selected in 1984 to train at NASA. Eight years later she became the first Canadian woman and the second Canadian astronaut to go into space.

First Canadian Woman Prime Minister - 1993

Although popular at the start of her brief tenure as Prime Minister, Kim Campbell led the Progressive Conservative Party to the greatest defeat in Canadian political history.

First Canadian Woman Chief Justice - 2000

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the first woman to head the Supreme Court of Canada, has tried to improve public understanding of the role of the Supreme Court and the judiciary in Canada.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.