The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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560 Sargent Avenue    Location Map
  

'A Woman's Parliament'


Location: SE corner Sargent & Furby; North Face

Occupant: vacant

District: West End

Neighbourhood: Spence

Artist(s): Mandy van Leeuwen

Year: 2016

Sponsors: Crestview Pharmacy, Cindy Gliroy (City Councillor), Province of Manitoba Department of Sport\, Culture & Heritage, Winnipeg Building & Decorating, University of Winnipeg, North American Lumber, West End BIZ, Nellie McClung Foundation, Take Pride Winnipeg!, Winnipeg Foundation

 

Nellie McClung, the face of the women's suffrage movement in Manitoba, was born in Ontario in 1873 and moved to Manitoba as a child. She was involved in women's rights movements from a young age, and while living in Winnipeg (from 1904-1915) she did a lot of work for the movement, including heading up the Winnipeg Political Equality League.

Between 1890 and 1914, women across Canada had been holding "Women's Parliaments", where they held a mock parliament session with the gender roles reversed. This satirical parliament meeting had women meeting to debate on whether or not men should get the right to vote, using humour to point out the unfairness of the arguments used against women voting. The highlight of the play was when a delegation of men trooped in to as the members of the Women's Parliament for the right to vote- their slogan was "we have brains, why not let us vote". The second Winnipeg Women's Parliament, put on by the Winnipeg Political Equality League (Nellie McClung being the face of the League), was held on January 28, 1914, at Winnipeg's Walker Theatre (now the Burton Cummings Theatre). Nellie was very good at imitations, so her role within the Women's Parliament was to imitate Premier Roblin, and to give a speech (as he often did) telling the women of the "Parliament" why men shouldn't have the right to vote.

While speaking, she held a cigar and a pair of suspenders, as you can see in the Mural. Roblin was a heavy cigar smoker, and would often have a cigar in his hand. He also wore suspenders frequently, as did many men of the day, and would hook his thumbs under the straps of the suspenders as he would speak... as Nellie, imitating the Premier, is doing in the middle of the Mural. The night before the Women's Parliament was to take place, a session of regular Parliament was held and a delegation of men and women appeared to again present the case for women getting the right to vote. McClung, in her memoirs, remembers that night because she was worrying that Roblin would finally acquiesce and then they would have nothing to present about the next day! When he got up and began his speech against women's rights as per usual, she relaxed and began to intently study his mannerisms (while her husband and son copied down his speech) so she could imitate him the next day.

This scene in the Mural depicts the Women's Parliament. Nellie is featured in the middle, in the midst of her speech imitating Premier Roblin, hence the cigar and suspenders. The papers flying to the right of the mural feature several important dates and locations of the Manitoba women's suffrage movement. You can see Gimli, which was the location of the first women's suffrage movement in Manitoba. The Icelandic women in Gimli were particularly enthusiastic about the cause. You can also see Roaring River, a town in Manitoba that had the smallest suffrage movement but also one of the most reliable. The women featured between Nellie and the papers represent all of the many women who were involved in the suffrage movement.

The woman sitting to the left of Nellie was playing the Speaker of the House. The Women's Parliament was so detailed in their reproduction of a parliamentary sitting that they copied certain direct elements of traditional Parliament, but put their own spin on them. For instance, the Speaker of the House would have worn a three cornered hat, like the one the Speaker in the Mural is wearing. For the Women's Parliament, the Speaker wore the same hat, but added feathers. As well, the traditional Speaker of the House would have carried a mace as a symbol of authority, so in the Women's Parliament the mace had red and purple flowers.

Across the street at X-Cues Cafe, owner Sal Infantino who has watched the work on the Mural from the start adds, "It's been incredible to see the artist build the story with each day's painting. This piece is very special and will really add to the new vibrancy that is on Sargent Avenue".

West End BIZ Executive Director, Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner adds, "There is a great story to be told with every mural. Building our mural gallery helps us draw people in to sharing Winnipeg's history and the amazing contributions of its peoples".

Lila Goodspeed, Chair of the Nellie McClung Foundation says "How wonderful to have this mural illustrating the story of Nellie McClung and so many others who worked tirelessly to gain the rights for women to vote. It truly will keep her legacy alive!"

The location has great visibility for the finished art piece and has become part of the regular West End BIZ Mural Tour route. Property owner Nighat Tariq, who donated the wall space, is proud to host the Mural and states, "It is a beautiful representation of the journey for women's rights which is exactly why I wanted to sponsor it."

Source: West End BIZ Media Releases

Excerpts overheard at Mural unveiling:

Janice Filmon (Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba) "I am particularly delighted that the story of the first Manitoba women winning the vote in 1916 will be added to this rich visual history (of Murals in the West End). As a long time supporter of the Nellie McClung Foundation, I am thrilled that in this 100th anniversary year, that great milestone is being presented visually here as a reminder to all who pass this way. This Mural will serve as a reminder of a crucial early step in a long struggle to win rights for Canadian women. And it will inspire new generations to work for fairness and equality for all."

Rochelle Squires (Provincial Minister of Sports Culture & Heritage): "Marking Manitoba's role as the first province in Canada to give women the right to vote in provincial elections and hold provincial office is part of our shared heritage that we can all be proud of. We know that the trail blazing efforts of Nellie McClung and the famous five paved the way for the other provinces; and was a major step in the long fight for suffrage for all women in Canada. So protesting and picketing and holding mock parliaments, these women ignored the resistance of opponents. Their stories served as inspiration for us to all reach further in the face of challenge and affect meaningful social change."

Brian Bowman (Major of Winnipeg): "I think this is a time to look back with fondness as a community, a province and a city with fondness for the courage of those leaders who fought this battle 100 years ago on our behalf. Nellie McClung's contributions to women's rights cannot be understated and need to be celebrated each and every year going forward. Winnipeg today is home to an outstanding number of successful women who are role models and leaders in our community. We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to women's rights. I think it's important to acknowledge how far we've come and to pay tribute to exceptional women like Nellie McClung who have paved the way for our continued fight for equality. To be able to do this through art really is such a beautiful thing."