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Ellen Fairclough


Ellen Fairclough - First Canadian Woman to be a Federal Cabinet Minister

Ellen Fairclough - First Canadian Woman to be a Federal Cabinet Minister

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About Ellen Fairclough:

Ellen Fairclough became the first Canadian woman federal cabinet minister when she was appointed Secretary of State by Prime Minister Diefenbaker in 1957. Vivacious, intelligent and competent, Ellen Fairclough had a mixed record in cabinet. Her attempt to restrict family immigration sponsorships to immediate family members caused an uproar in the Italian community, but she was successful in introducing regulations that largely removed racial discrimination from Canadian immigration policy.


January 28, 1905 in Hamilton, Ontario


November 13, 2004 in Hamilton, Ontario


  • Before entering politics, Ellen Fairclough was a Chartered Accountant and owner of a Hamilton accounting firm.

  • Ellen Fairclough was active in the Consumers Association of Canada, the Girl Guides, the I.O.D.E., the United Empire Loyalist Association, and the Zonta Club of Hamilton and Zonta International.

  • After leaving politics, Ellen Fairclough worked in a trust company and was then chairman of Ontario Hydro.

  • Ellen Fairclough published her memoirs "Saturday's Child" in 1995.

Political Party:

Progressive Conservative

Federal Riding:

Hamilton West

Political Career of Ellen Fairclough:

  • Ellen Fairclough was elected to Hamilton City Council in 1946. She served on the Hamilton City Council for five years until 1949.

  • Ellen Fairclough was first elected to the House of Commons in a by-election in 1950. She was the only woman in the House of Commons until three others were elected in the 1953 general election.

  • As Progressive Conservative labour critic, Ellen Fairclough introduced a private member's bill requiring equal pay for equal work and advocated the creation of a Department of Labour Women's Bureau.

  • With the election of a Conservative minority government in 1957, John Diefenbaker grudgingly appointed Ellen Fairclough to cabinet as Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Ellen Fairclough initiated Dominion Day celebrations on Parliament Hill.

  • The Conservatives won a majority government in 1958, and Ellen Fairclough was appointed Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. At the beginning of her time at Citizenship and Immigration, Ellen Fairclough ran into political problems, especially from the Italian community, when she tried to limit immigration family sponsorships to immediate family members, and was forced to back down. In 1962 however, Ellen Fairclough successfully brought in regulations which went a long way towards the elimination of racial discrimination in Canadian immigration policy.

  • She was moved to the Postmaster General portfolio in 1962.

  • Ellen Fairclough was defeated in the 1963 election.

See also: 10 Firsts for Canadian Women in Government

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