Dec 07, 2021

By Andy Johnson

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100 years ago today, Canadian history was made when Dundalk, Ontario’s Agnes MacPhail became the first woman elected to the House of Commons.

She had earlier fought to be allowed to stay in school past the age of 14.  She went on to become a teacher, but it was her opinions and strong public speaking skills that propelled her to parliament.

In one memorable exchange with an MP from Quebec, who had heckled her during a speech, she was asked as the lone female in the Commons if she didn’t wish she were a man.

Hansard reports her response, “I have no wish to be a man but doesn’t the honourable member wish he were one.”

MacPhail served for 14 years; her work as an MP was focused almost entirely on helping those she saw as the underdog, particularly those in prison.  She was the founder of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Agnes MacPhail died in 1954 at the age of 63.

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