Nellie McClung (1873 - 1951)

Nellie McClung was born on October 20, 1873 in Chatsworth, Ontario. With the birth name Nellie Letitia Mooney, she was the sixth child of an Irish Methodist father and a Scottish Presbyterian mother. In 1880, McClung’s family moved from Ontario to Manitoba. Although Nellie McClung began her education on how to read at the age of nine, she officially attended school at the age of ten. Later in 1889, she became a graduate from a Winnipeg normal school where she received several teaching opportunities. Despite the young age, Nellie McClung became a teacher at age fifteen commonly known for her aspiring thoughts. In the year 1892, McClung moved to Manitou, Manitoba to further expand her career as a successful teacher. She eventually concluded her teaching career after becoming a novelist. In her novels, she often discussed the issues regarding women’s right to vote. Nellie McClung was a passionate activist for labour issues, workers’ rights, women’s suffrage, and married women’s property rights. In 1915, Nellie’s family moved to Edmonton and later shifted into the city of Calgary in 1923. On September 1, 1951, this heroic figure passed away.



Social activist, Politician, Teacher, Novelist ..

Prior to her works as a politician, Nellie McClung was a young influential teacher and novelist. In her novels, she would include her beliefs and perspectives for women to have rights. These experiences essentially became the fundamental base for her success in future elections. Nellie McClung was involved in several elections. She ran for a position in the Liberal parties of both Manitoba and Alberta because the Conservation party was known to be against the concerns of women rights. It was believed that McClung aided the Manitoba Liberals form the government with the success of her speeches on the campaign trails. In 1917, McClung campaigned for Alberta’s Liberal party election to focus on the areas of female suffrage and prohibition. Finally decided to run as a candidate for the Liberal party in 1921, she repeatedly emphasized on her top two priorities being women’s rights and effective enforcement of liquor laws if she is elected. Although McClung was successful in the election, the Liberals did not form the new government. Nellie McClung served as a member of the Legislative Assembly instead for five years. In Calgary 1925, she once again ran for a position with a platform focusing on women’s rights and prohibition.

Nellie McClung’s National Interests:

– travelling libraries

– travelling medical

– dental clinics

– Public Health Nurses

– to reconstruct the Dower Act (a provincial legislation stating that a married person wishing to dispose of the homestead must have the consent of the other spouse)

– training female prisoners

– giving male prisoners’ wages to their families

– preventing the reduction of allowances paid to widows and single mothers by governments

– equitable wages for both men and women

– against UFA’s Minimum Wage Act

The Famous Five

The Famous Five were five Canadian women, Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Nellie McClung, who dedicated their lives to fight for the recognition of women as persons under the British North America. In 1927, these five women asked the Supreme Court of Canada the following question: “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” The Supreme Court of Canada responded negatively and marked the beginning of the “Person’s Case”.

Timeline of the “Person’s Case”

– 1927: demanded a clarification on the word “persons” under the British North America Act of 1867 from the Canadian Supreme Court

– April 24, 1928: Canadian Supreme Court rejected the Famous Five’s dispute; Famous Five convinced the Canadian Government to appeal to the Judicial Commitee of the British Privy Council

– October 18, 1929: won “Person’s Case”, Canadian women to be legally announced as “persons” and are permitted/eligible to appoint for a position as a senate

To view the timeline of the Famous Five(including the other four members) in details, visit the link below:


Nellie McClung is a historical figure who resisted the previous Canadian national identity in which women were not classified as persons. McClung along with four other Canadian women whom shared common interests represented all Canadian women as they showed their objections toward the Canadian government. Nellie McClung participated in several elections in hopes of having her voice heard across the nation. Before 1929, British Common Law considered women as persons in the matter of pains and penalties, but not in the matter of rights and privileges”. Eventually, the famous five were able to improve the conditions of Canadian women through their success of the “Person’s Case”. In the recent Canadian national identity, we are publicly recognized for the equal rights of Canadian women which is ensured by the 1982 Constitution Act. If it wasn’t for Nellie McClung and the Famous Five’s contribution to Canada’s development, women would remain under the title “non-person”.

'The Famous Five' on the back of the Canadian fifty dollar bill in recognition of their success in the "Person's Case" on October 18, 1929.


“Loved & Remembered”

Nellie Mooney was the sixth child of mother Letitia McCurdy Mooney and father John Mooney who was born on October 20, 1873. She was given the nicknames of Windy Nellie and Calamitous Nell. She was then recognized as Nellie McClung after marrying to Robert McClung on August 25, 1893. The couple had a blissful marriage and gave birth to five children. Prior to her marriage, Nellie McClung was a very influential young teacher. She was then inspired by her mother-in-law to begin writing novels. In 1908, her “Sowing Seeds in Danny” became a national best seller. McClung soon set aside her novels and participated in the politics as she campaigned for Alberta’s Liberal party in 1917. In 1921, she was finally elected into the Liberal party and served in the Alberta Legislature for Edmonton for five years from 1921 to 1926. Nellie McClung became the first female member of the CBC Board of Governors in 1936 and was later appointed to the Canadian delegation of the League of Nations in 1939. Nellie McClung’s greatest accomplishment is none other than the success of the “Person’s Case” in 1929 with the Famous Five. On September 1, 1951 in Victoria B.C, Nellie McClung passed away.

A heroic figure who dedicated her life seeking for rights and recognition for Canadian women, Nellie McClung, will be loved & remembered.

The grave stone of Nellie McClung.


Nellie McClung. (2011). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from

Jones, D. (2011). “Ordinary” Heros: Nellie McClung Biography. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from

Heritage Community Foundation. (2004). The Famous Five: Career as Politician. Retrieved May 31, 2011, from

Fotiou, M. (2011). Calgary Real Estate Review: What is the Dower Act. Retrieved May 31, 2011, from

Government of Alberta. (2002). Alberta Centennial: Women are persons — the Famous Five and the Persons Case. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from

Heritage Community Foundation. (2004). The Famous Five: Nellie McClung. Retrieved June 2, 2011, from