Friday, 31 May 2019

Nellie Letitia McClung (1873 – 1951) – Canadian writer, poet, suffragette and politician

With grateful thanks to Liz Tobin for suggesting I research Nellie McClung and for sending me the link to Nellie’s book

Helen Letitia Mooney was born on 20th October 1873 in Chatsworth, Ontario, Canada, the youngest daughter of John Mooney, an Irish immigrant farmer and his Scottish-born wife, Letitia, nee McCurdy. Nellie’s siblings were Will, George, Elizabeth, Jack and Hannah.

Her father's farm failed and the family moved to Manitoba in 1880. She received six years of formal education and did not learn to read until she was nine years old.  Nellie later moved with her family to a homestead in the Souris Valley of Manitoba.

Between 1904 and 1915, Nellie McClung, her husband Robert McClung, a pharmacist, and their five children - four sons and a daughter - lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba where, from 1911 until 1915, McClung fought for women's suffrage.

In both the 1914 and 1915 Manitoba provincial elections, Nellie campaigned for the Liberal party on the issue of the vote for women. She helped organize the Women's Political Equality League. A public speaker known for her sense of humour, Nellie played a leading role in the successful Liberal campaign in 1914.  However, when Manitoba became the first Province in Canada to grant women the vote on 28 January 1916, Nellie was living in Edmonton, Alberta.

Nellie founded the Winnipeg Political Equality League and the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada and the Women's Institute of Edmonton, of which she was the first President. She was active in the Canadian Authors' Association, the Canadian Women's Press Club, the Methodist Church of Canada, the Calgary Women's Literary Club.

Nellie was active in many organizations. She was one of ‘The Famous Five’ (also called The Valiant Five), with Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy and Louise McKinney. In 1927, the five put forward a petition to clarify the term "Persons" in Section 24 of the British North America Act 1867. This section had served to exclude women from political office. The petition was successful, clearing the way for women to enter politics in Canada.

Nellie died on 1st September 1951, but her legacy lives on.

Nellie wrote 16 books. Her first, “Sowing Seeds in Danny”, was published in 1908, and became the best seller of the year in Canada, eventually running into 17 editions.  Her other works include "The Second Chance,"
  "The Black Creek Stopping House," and "In Times like These"

Two of Nellie’s poems – from “The Next of Kin - Those who Wait and Wonder” by Nellie L. McClung, (Thomas Allen, Toronto, 1917), which is available as a download on Gutenberg: this …


  Sing a song of the Next of Kin,
    A weary, wishful, waiting rhyme,
  That has no tune and has no time,
    But just a way of wearing in!

  Sing a song of those who weep
    While slow the weary night hours go;
  Wondering if God willed it so,
    That human life should be so cheap!

  Sing a song of those who wait,
    Wondering what the post will bring;
  Saddened when he slights the gate,
    Trembling at his ring,--

  The day the British mail comes in
  Is a day of thrills for the Next of Kin.



  O Thou, who once Thine own Son gave
    To save the world from sin,
  Draw near in pity now we crave
    To all the Next of Kin.
  To Thee we make our humble prayer
  To save us from despair!

  Send sleep to all the hearts that wake;
    Send tears into the eyes that burn;
  Steady the trembling hands that shake;
    Comfort all hearts that mourn.
  But most of all, dear Lord, we pray
  For strength to see us through this day.

  As in the wilderness of old,
    When Thou Thy children safely led,
  They gathered, as we have been told,
    One day's supply of heavenly bread,
  And if they gathered more than that,
  At evening it was stale and flat,--

  So, Lord, may this our faith increase--
    To leave, untouched, to-morrow's load,
  To take of grace a one-day lease
    Upon life's winding road.
  Though round the bend we may not see,
  Still let us travel hopefully!

  Or, if our faith is still so small--
    Our hearts so void of heavenly grace,
  That we may still affrighted be
    In passing some dark place--
  Then in Thy mercy let us run
    Blindfolded in the race.

Source: Wikipedia