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Agnes Macphail

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Title: Agnes Macphail  
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Subject: Women in Canadian politics, Electoral firsts in Canada, Progressive Party of Canada, Requests for adminship/Neutrality 2, Flesherton
Collection: 1890 Births, 1954 Deaths, Canadian Activists, Canadian Christian Pacifists, Canadian Feminists, Canadian Members of the Community of Christ, Canadian People of Scottish Descent, Canadian Socialists, Canadian Women Members of Parliament, Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation Founding Mps, Ginger Group Mps, Labour Mps in Canada, Members of the United Church of Canada, Ontario Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation Mpps, People from Grey County, Persons of National Historic Significance (Canada), Progressive Party of Canada Mps, United Farmers of Ontario Mps, Women Mpps in Ontario
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Agnes Macphail

Agnes Campbell Macphail
Portrait by Yousuf Karsh, 1934
Member of Provincial Parliament
In office
Preceded by John A. Leslie
Succeeded by Hollis Edward Beckett
Constituency York East
Member of Provincial Parliament
In office
Preceded by George Stewart Henry
Succeeded by John A. Leslie
Constituency York East
Member of Parliament
In office
Preceded by New riding
Succeeded by Walter Harris
Constituency Grey—Bruce
Member of Parliament
In office
Preceded by Robert James Ball
Succeeded by Riding abolished
Constituency Grey Southeast
Personal details
Born (1890-03-24)March 24, 1890
Proton Township, Grey County, Ontario
Died February 13, 1954(1954-02-13) (aged 63)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political party Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
Domestic partner Single
Residence Toronto
Occupation Schoolteacher
Religion Community of Christ (RLDS)

Agnes Campbell Macphail (March 24, 1890 – February 13, 1954) was the first woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons, and one of the first two women elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Active throughout her life in progressive Canadian politics, Macphail worked for two separate parties and promoted her ideas through column-writing, activist organizing, and legislation.


  • Background 1
  • Federal politics 2
  • Journalist 3
  • Provincial politics 4
    • Electoral record 4.1
      • Federal: Saskatoon City 4.1.1
      • Federal: Grey—Bruce 4.1.2
      • Federal: Grey Southeast 4.1.3
  • Legacy 5
  • References and notes 6
    • Notes 6.1
    • References 6.2
  • External links 7


"Agnes Macphail Country" sign at eastern approach to Ceylon, Ontario
Agnes Macphail was born to Dougald McPhail and Henrietta Campbell in
  • CBC Digital Archives - CCF's Agnes Macphail and the 1948 Ontario election, radio address by Macphail.
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia, Agnes Macphail
  • Agnes Macphail Website and Digital Collection
  • Celebrating Women's Achievements - Agnes Campbell Macphail
  • Agnes Macphail – Parliament of Canada biography
  • Heritage Foundation History Minute film about Macphail's efforts at penal reform
  • Ontario Legislative Assembly Parliamentarian History

External links


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ R. Preston 'Canada's RMC: A History of the Royal Military College' (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1969)
  4. ^ Stewart & Shackelton (1959), pp. 171–172
  5. ^ Stewart & Shackelton (1959), p. 178
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Agnes Macphail Award. City of Toronto. Accessed April 2, 2009
  11. ^
  12. ^


References and notes

  • A 2015 episode of Murdoch Mysteries (season 8, episode 17, "Election Day") sees a young Agnes Macphail showing an interest in the suffragette movement.
  • An apartment building at 860 Mercer Street in Windsor, Ontario, is named "Agnes Macphail Manor".
  • On June 24, 2006, a cairn and bronze bust commemorating Agnes Macphail's life was unveiled in Hopeville, Ontario. The same year, highway signs labelled "You are now entering Agnes Macphail Country" were placed at the eastern approach to the hamlet of Ceylon, at the intersection of Grey Roads 4 and 14 (known locally as "Six Corners"), and on Grey Road 9, east of Hopeville. Grey County Road 9 between Highway 6 and highway 10 was named Agnes MacPhail Road.[12]
  • In 2005, in a contest run by former Ontario MPP Marilyn Churley, Agnes Macphail was voted as the Greatest Ontario Woman.
  • In 1999, a new townhome development was built by Brownstone Homes and named a street after her, Macphail Ave, also at Pape & Mortimer.[11]
  • In 1997, East York inaugurated the annual Agnes Macphail public speaking contest for students. In addition, there are a number of sites and endeavours named for her in East York, including the Agnes Macphail Parkette, located at the corner of Mortimer Street and Pape Avenue; the Agnes Macphail Playground, Agnes MacPhail Youth Resource Centre and the Agnes MacPhail Food Bank (all located at 444 Lumsden Avenue).
  • In 1994, East York council established the Agnes Macphail Award. The award is given out annually to "a resident of East York who has made outstanding contributions in the area of equality rights and social justice and who has exemplified and continued Macphail's tradition of leadership."[10]
  • In 1993, honouring the 50th anniversary of Macphail's election to the Ontario legislature, Michael Prue, the mayor of East York, declared March 24 would annually be known as Agnes Macphail Day.
  • In 1968, when Flesherton High School was replaced by Grey Highlands Secondary School, the old high school was converted to an elementary school and named Macphail Memorial Elementary School. This building was replaced with a new school of the same name in 2006.
Historical plaque honouring Macphail outside Owen Sound Collegiate & Vocational Institute (OSCVI)
Macphail Memorial Elementary School in Flesherton, Ontario was named for Agnes Macphail


Canadian federal election, 1921
Party Candidate Votes
Progressive Agnes Campbell MacPhail 6,958
Conservative Robert James Ball 4,360
Liberal Walter Hastie 2,638
Canadian federal election, 1925
Party Candidate Votes
Progressive Agnes C. MacPhail 6,652
Conservative Lewis G. Campbell 5,245
Canadian federal election, 1926
Party Candidate Votes
Progressive Agnes Campbell MacPhail 7,939
Conservative Robert Thomas Edwards 6,211
Canadian federal election, 1930
Party Candidate Votes
Progressive Agnes Campbell MacPhail 6,619
Liberal Lewis G. Campbell 6,376

Federal: Grey Southeast

Canadian federal election, 1935: Grey—Bruce
Party Candidate Votes
  United Farmers of Ontario–Labour MACPHAIL, Agnes C. 7,210
Liberal HALL, Walter Allan 5,727
Conservative CAMPBELL, Lewis G. 5,100
Canadian federal election, 1940: Grey—Bruce
Party Candidate Votes
Liberal HARRIS, Walter Edward 6,389
National Government KNECHTEL, Karl Daniel 4,944
  United Farmers of Ontario–Labour MACPHAIL, Agnes Campbell 4,761

Federal: Grey—Bruce

By-election on 19 August 1940
Party Candidate Votes

Conservative Alfred Henry Bence 4,798
     United Reform Agnes MacPhail 4,057
Liberal Michael Patrick Hayes 2,421
Independent Liberal Sidney Walter Johns 2,250
Independent Social Credit George Howard Bradbrooke 1,200
Independent Agnes Wilna Moore 491

Federal: Saskatoon City

Ontario general election, 1943
Party Candidate Votes % ∆%
Co-operative Commonwealth Agnes Macphail 12,016 46.4
Progressive Conservative John A. Leslie 10,440 40.3
Liberal H.J. McConnell 3,459 13.3
Total valid votes 25,915 100.0
Montreal Gazette (Google News)[8]

Electoral record

Macphail never married. She died February 13, 1954, aged 63, in Toronto, just before she was to have been offered an appointment to the Canadian Senate. She is buried in Priceville, Ontario, with her parents and Gertha Macphail, one of her two sisters. Her tombstone is incorrectly spelled "McPhail".

In the 1943 provincial election, Macphail was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member of the Ontario CCF representing the suburban Toronto riding of York East.[8] She and Rae Luckock were the first women elected to the Ontario Legislature. She was the first woman sworn in as an Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP). Although defeated in the 1945 provincial election, she was elected again in the 1948 election. Macphail was responsible for Ontario's first equal-pay legislation, passed in 1951, but was unable to continue her efforts when she was defeated in elections later that year. At that time, Macphail was barely able to support herself through journalism, public speaking and organizing for the Ontario CCF.

Provincial politics

Out of office, she wrote agricultural columns for the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto. Following a family tragedy in her home town, Macphail moved to the Toronto suburb of East York, Ontario and rejoined the Ontario CCF in 1942 becoming its farm organizer.


In the Progressive Conservative candidate Alfred Henry Bence. He received 4,798 votes, while Macphail placed second with 4,057 votes.[7] It was her last federal campaign as a candidate.

Causes she championed included pensions for seniors and workers' rights. Macphail was also the first Canadian woman delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where she worked with the World Disarmament Committee. Although a pacifist, she voted for Canada to enter World War II.

In the Archambault Commission in 1936. Macphail's concern for women in the criminal justice system led her, in 1939, to found the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada, named after British reformer Elizabeth Fry.

As a radical member of the Progressive Party, Macphail joined the socialist Ginger Group, faction of the Progressive Party that later led to the formation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). She became the first president of the Ontario CCF in 1932.[4] However, she left the CCF in 1934 when the United Farmers of Ontario pulled out, over fears of Communist influence in the Ontario CCF.[5] While Macphail was no longer formally a CCF member, she remained close to the CCF MPs and often participated in caucus meetings. The CCF did not run candidates against Macphail in her three subsequent federal campaigns.

Macphail objected to the Royal Military College of Canada in 1924 on the grounds that it taught snobbishness and provided a cheap education for the sons of the rich and again in 1931 on pacific grounds.[3]

After amendments to the Elections Act by the Conservative Party government in 1919, Macphail was elected to the House of Commons as a member of the Progressive Party of Canada for the Grey Southeast electoral district (riding) in the 1921 federal election. She was the first woman Member of Parliament (MP) in Canada. Macphail was re-elected in the 1925, 1926, and 1930 federal elections.

Federal politics

While working in Farmer's Sun around this time.

She attended Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute for one year. Even though she did well she transferred to Stratford Normal School so she could board with a relative. She graduated in 1910 with a second class teacher's certificate. She applied for five positions and was accepted at all five. She claimed that this was not due to her competence but due to a scarcity of teachers at the time.[2] She taught in several rural schools in such communities as Port Elgin, Honeywood and Newmarket.

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