Nellie McClung


61 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88902-219-4




Reviewed by Darlene Money

Darlene Money was a writer in Mississauga, Ontario.


Forgotten for a while after her death, Nellie McClung has attracted renewed attention since the rise of the women’s movement in the sixties. This brief biography aimed at a student audience outlines the achievements of a remarkable Canadian woman.

The young schoolteacher from Manitoba entered public life as a speaker for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She was a tireless campaigner for women’s suffrage and other rights, a member of the Alberta legislature, an acclaimed speaker in the United States and Canada, the first woman member of the CBC Board of Governors, and a delegate to the League of Nations. She was one of the “Valiant Five” whose petition to the British Privy Council resulted in the declaration that women are persons and eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate. Her five children and happy marriage for more than fifty years refuted antisuffragist claims that women’s rights would destroy the family. From 1908 to 1945, when the second volume of her autobiography was published, she wrote sixteen books.

Mary Lile Benham’s light touch and spirited style are appropriate to her subject; most of the humour is in direct quotations from McClung. Background information is briefly provided where needed, and illustrations are well chosen. Some of the marginal questions and suggestions for reading, a feature of this series, are challenging for adults as well as younger students: “Do you believe that the WCTU views on problems caused by alcohol are valid today?” (p. 19); “Is there a limit to women’s rights?” (p.60). The index is scanty, and, although Candace Savage’s definitive biography, Our Nell, is referred to in the “Epilogue,” it would be more usefully listed along with McClung’s books and three others under “Further Reading.”


Benham, Mary Lile, “Nellie McClung,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,