C-006908 | Agnes Campbell MacPhail
Agnes Campbell MacPhail
About 1921, 20th century
This artefact belongs to : © National Archives of Canada
Keys to History
Agnes Campbell Macphail (1890-1954) was the first woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons. Running for the United Farmers of Ontario (UFO) in Grey South-East, she entered Parliament in 1921.
In 1932-33 Macphail took an interest in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the new Farmer-Labour-Socialist party led by J.S. Woodsworth (1874-1942). She failed to forge a lasting tie between the UFO and the CCF, but remained personally close to Woodsworth and his party.
Among Macphail's concerns during the 1930s were women's rights, prison reform and foreign policy. She served on the Canadian delegation to the League of Nations (predecessor of the United Nations), the international organization headquartered in Geneva. She was also a strong supporter of disarmament.
The Elizabeth Fry Society, which defends the rights of women prisoners, was co-founded by Macphail.
Macphail was born in Proton Township, Grey County, Ontario. In Parliament she first represented Grey South-East and later Grey-Bruce.
After losing her federal seat in 1940, Macphail ran provincially in 1943 for the CCF in East York and became one of the first women elected to the Ontario Legislature.
In 1935, a second woman was elected to the House of Commons, Martha Louise Black (1866-1957). She represented Yukon Territory as an independent Conservative for one term.