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McKinney, Louise (1868–1931)

McKinney, Louise (1868–1931)

Canadian suffragist and legislator who was one of the first two women legislators in the British Empire . Name variations: often listed as one of the Alberta Five also known as the Famous Five; Mrs. James McKinney. Born Louise Crummy in Frankville, Ontario, Canada, on September 22, 1868 (one source cites 1863); died in Claresholm, Alberta, Canada, in 1931 (one source cites 1933); married James McKinney.

Louise McKinney was born in Frankville, Ontario, Canada, in 1868, and after attending normal school in Ottawa became a teacher. She subsequently moved to North Dakota, where she continued teaching, got married, and became active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). In 1903, she moved with her husband to Claresholm, Northwest Territories (later Alberta), where she founded a local chapter of the WCTU. She became a member of the Non-Partisan League (NPL), a political party in favor of agrarian reform and the criminalization of the sale and consumption of alcohol, in 1916. That same year, Canadian women obtained the right to vote and the right to stand for election to office. McKinney won election to the Alberta Legislative Assembly as an NPL candidate the following year, and holds the distinction of being one of the first two women elected to a legislature in the British Empire. (The other is Roberta MacAdams Price .) Although McKinney was defeated in her bid for reelection in 1921 and retired from politics, she remained an active orator and advocate of temperance and women's rights. She was also a dynamic member of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and of the Methodist Church, and was the only woman to sign the Church's Basis of Union of the United Church of Canada in 1925.

Although the Canadian constitution granted "persons" the right to hold public office, a historical prohibition against women serving as senators in the national Parliament had effectively negated that right. McKinney, with Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards , and Irene Parlby , challenged this prohibition in the 1920s with a court case now known as the "Persons Case." The Canadian Supreme Court upheld the prohibition in 1928, citing an 1876 British Common Law ruling that

"Women are persons in matters of pains and penalties, but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges." McKinney and the others, who became known as the Alberta Five or the Famous Five, appealed in 1929 to what was then Canada's highest court of appeal, the British Privy Council, and won a reversal of the Supreme Court's decision. The first woman in the Canadian Senate, Cairine Wilson , was appointed in 1930.

Louise McKinney served as the acting president of the Canadian WCTU in 1931 and died in Claresholm, Alberta, that same year. Canada's annual Governor-General's Award is given to distinguished Canadian women in honor of the achievements of the Alberta Five.

suggested reading:

Cochrane, Jean. "Reformers in the House," in Women in Canadian Politics. Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1977.

Innis, Mary Quayle. The Clear Spirit: Twenty Canadian Women and Their Times. Toronto: Published for the Canadian Federation of University Women by the University of Toronto Press, 1973.

MacEwan, Grant. Mighty Women: Stories of Western Canadian Pioneers. Vancouver: Greystone, 1995, pp. 138–145.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan

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