Hellen Nellie Mcclung: A Canadian Feminist Essay

This essay has a total of 1469 words and 7 pages.

Hellen Nellie Mcclung: A Canadian Feminist

Hellen Nellie McClung: A Canadian Feminist


Helen "Nellie" Laetitia Mooney was born October 20, 1873 in a log cabin
on Garafraxa Road, two kilometers from Chatsworth, Ontario. She and her family
moved to Manitoba when she was six years old.
One of Nellie's best influences was her mother. Her family's influence
was no doubt the reason she became an activist. Her mother thought that every
child had the right to an education, and her whole family encouraged her to
learn all she could. (9, Wright) Nellie at age ten, went to school at
Northfield School. This is where her education started.
Nellie's dream was to be a teacher like her sister Hannah. Teaching was
one of the few jobs open to women. She started her 'voyage' at age fifteen by
passing the Second Class Teachers' Examination. She went on to earn a higher
teaching certificate at Winnipeg Collegiate in 1893. She went on to teach at
Hazel Public School near Manitou, Manitoba.
We study Nellie McClung because she was an internationally celebrated
feminist and social activist. Her success as a platform speaker was legendary.
Her earliest success was achieved as a writer, and during her lengthy career she
authored four novels, two novellas, three collections of short stories, a two-
volume autobiography and various collections of speeches, articles and wartime
writing, to a total of sixteen volumes. Two of her most famous books are:
Clearing In The West and The Stream Runs Fast. All this served as a "pulpit"
from which McClung could preach her gospel of feminist activism and social
transformation. She was convinced that God's intention for creation was a "Fair
Deal" for everyone; and that Canada, particularly the prairie West, was a
perfect place to begin to bring that about. Women's suffrage, temperance and
the ordination of women were keystones in the battle - engaged. In contrast to
contemporary stereotypes, with a wit and compelling humor that won over enemies
as it delighted her allies.
Nellie was a curious girl, she was always asking questions. This was
not commonly seen among girls in her time. As a small child she would want to
participate in sports with the boys, although she was always told she wasn't
allowed. "I was hoping there would be a race for girls under ten, or that girls
might enter with the boys. But the whole question of girls competing in races
was frowned on. Skirts would fly upward and legs would show! And it was not
nice for little girls, or big ones either, to show their legs."(2, Wright)
As many great philosophers do, Nellie would always ask: Why? It seemed
as though she always had to get an answer. She loved to think, dream about one
day seeing men and women as equals. Nellie was always trying to make everybody
equal. During her teaching days, she would organize football (as well as other
sports) and let the girls participate along side with the boys.
Nellie was first introduced to the feminist movement by a woman named
Annie McClung. It was Annie who first inspired Nellie to take a stand for
women's rights. (16, Wright) Annie's son (Wesley) was also the man who Nellie
married. She married at the age of 23 in a Presbyterian Church in Wawanesa,
Manitoba.
Nellie shortly after her marriage, devoted her life to helping women
fight for a better world. She saw too many women being mistreated by their
drunken husbands. She saw alcohol as a major problem, husbands would get drunk
and then assault the women. Nellie though that if women obtained the right to
vote, they could succeed in changing the liquor laws. Nellie was not alone in
this view. In Britain and the United States, as well as in Canada, the demand
for women's suffrage was closely linked with the demand for prohibition. (24,
Benham) One of the reasons why prohibition was linked to the struggle for
women's rights in the early 1900s was that a wife had almost no legal control
then over how a husband spent his pay. Tragically, some husbands spent it on
liquor rather than on food and clothing for their family. Nellie later joined
the W.C.T.U. (Women's Christian Temperance Union). The purpose of the W.C.T.U.
was to fight the abuse of alcohol.
Nellie's intelligence and wit helped her greatly throughout her long
political career. Her favorite reading was a set of books by the great English
novelist, Charles Dickens. Nellie's brother Will had given her Dickens' novels.
She admired Dickens as a writer and she dreamed of doing for the people around
her what Dickens had done for his people. She wanted to open the eyes of
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