Though modern accounts have tended to deny it, in her own time Macphail was recognized as a feminist. Rural issues such as a protective tariff were always primary for her, but she gave major attention to so-called "women's issues" such as prison reform. She was the founder of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada and was largely responsible for the establishment in 1935 of the Archambault Commission to investigate Canada's prisons. Her feminist antimilitarism included active participation in the WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM (but she reluctantly voted for Canada's entry into WWII). She supported women's acquisition of civil rights, although she was not an active suffragist. She was a friend of Nellie MCCLUNG and admired Thérèse CASGRAIN's suffragist efforts in Québec, and she welcomed the decision in the PERSONS CASE. She was responsible for Ontario's first equal pay legislation (1951). After her electoral defeat, she supported herself by journalism, public speaking and organizing for the Ontario CCF, but she suffered from lack of money and poor health. She died just before a Senate appointment was to be announced.
Author NAOMI BLACK
Links to Other Sites
This Library and Archives Canada website highlights the remarkable political career of Agnes Macphail. Part of the "Celebrating Women's Achievements" series.
Watch the Agnes Macphail Heritage Minute from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
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