Agnes Macphail, born in 1890 in Grey County, Ontario, was the first woman elected to the House of Commons in 1921. A founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and a champion of Ontario’s first equal pay legislation in 1951, Macphail made formidable contributions to social democracy and women’s rights in Canada.
Prior to becoming the first female Member of Parliament in Canada, Macphail was a teacher at several schools in Ontario and Alberta. The daughter of a rural farming family, she became actively involved in the Ontario agricultural co-operative movement. MacPhail would eventually be elected to the House of Commons in 1921 as a member of the Progressive Party. Notably, the 1921 election was also the first election that women could vote in.
Macphail would serve as a Member of Parliament for the riding of Grey South East until 1940. During her time as a Member of Parliament, she was an advocate for farmers, miners, immigrants, prisoners, women, and other marginalized groups.
Macphail was also a founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. She was elected once again, this time to the Ontario Legislature and as as a member of the CCF. Not only was Macphail a champion for the rural working class, she was also a pacifist, and an advocate for prison reform and women’s rights.
Agnes Macphail. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/agnes-macphail