Heather Stefanson made history last month when she was elected leader of the governing Progressive Conservative party. She will becomes Manitoba’s first female premier.
The only other current female premier in Canada is Caroline Cochrane, government leader of
Northwest Territories since October 2019.
Rita Johnston was the first female premier in Canadian history. She served as Premier of British Columbia for seven months in 1991 after she won the leadership of the governing party. The second woman to become a premier was Nellie Cournoyea, government leader of the Northwest Territories 1991-1995.
Other female premiers have been:
- Catherine Callbeck, premier of P.E.I. 1993-1996
- Pat Duncan, premier of the Yukon 2000-2002
- Eva Aariak, premier of Nunavut 2008-2013
- Kathy Dunderdale, premier of Newfoundland & Labrador 2010-2014
- Christy Clark, premier of British Columbia 2011-2017
- Alison Redford, premier of Alberta 2011-2014
- Kathleen Wynne, premier of Ontario 2013-2018
- Rachel Notley, premier of Alberta 2015-2019 and now leader of the Opposition.
The Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell is the only woman to have been Prime Minister of Canada.
Locally, one of our first female politicians was Ella Muzzy who was a Prince Albert Alderman 1937-1942. Marion Sherman was Prince Albert Mayor July 15-Sept. 24, 1975.
Women have slowly been attaining seats in the various levels of government across Canada. But it appears to be an uphill battle.
Charlotte Whitton, first female mayor of Ottawa, is oft quoted: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”
The female politicians of the 21st Century have built upon the strength and courage of these political pioneers:
• Hannah Gale was elected to Calgary City Council in 1917, becoming the first woman ever elected to any municipal office in Canada. However, women had previously served as school trustees since 1890.
• Louise McKinney was the first woman elected to a provincial legislature. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 1917.
• Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons. First elected in 1921, Macphail was reelected in every subsequent election until 1940. She was the only woman in the House of Commons until 1935, when she was joined by Martha Black.
• Mary Ellen Smith was sworn in as Minister without Portfolio in the British Columbia government on March 24, 1921. She was the first female cabinet minister in the British Empire.
• In 1936, Barbara Hanley in Webbwood, Ont. became the first woman ever elected as a mayor in Canada.