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The Rt. Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough

Photograph of The Rt. Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough

P.C., C.C., F.C.A., L.L.D., F.R.C.G.S., D.H., U.E.

First woman appointed Federal Cabinet Minister.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario on January 28, 1905.
Died in Hamilton, Ontario on November 13, 2004.


Political Affiliation: Progressive Conservative

Legislative Career: First elected to the House of Commons in May 15, 1950 by-election as member for Hamilton West. Served until 1963.

Appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State, June 21, 1957 to May 11, 1958; Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, May 12, 1958 to August 8, 1962; Postmaster General, August 9, 1962 to April 22, 1963.

Honours and Awards: Sworn to the Privy Council, June 21, 1957. Coronation Medal, 1953. Centennial Medal, 1967. Jubilee Medal, 1977. Officer of the Order of Canada, 1978. 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal, 1992. Title ‘The Right Honourable' bestowed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, July 1, 1992. Companion of the Order of Canada, 1995.

Prior to her election as an M.P., Ellen Fairclough held executive positions in various organizations: Consumers' Association of Canada, Girl Guides, I.O.D.E., United Empire Loyalist (U.E.L.) Association, Zonta Club of Hamilton and Zonta International.

During her parliamentary career, she represented the country on several occasions at official events abroad, acting as an advisor to the Canadian delegation to the United Nations, October, 1950 and representing Canada at the 1955 Conference of Parliamentarians from NATO countries in Paris. As well, Mrs. Fairclough was a delegate to the inauguration of the Federation of British West Indies Parliamentarians, April, 1958, and an Ambassador Extraordinary to the inauguration of President Frondizi of Argentina, May, 1958.

In the House of Commons she averaged 150 speeches a year, demonstrating a particular interest in housing, income tax, unemployment insurance, the post office and the status of women. She introduced private bills for equal pay for work of equal value. She was a Member of Parliament for 13 years, winning one by-election and four general elections before being defeated in the general election of 1963.

On Monday, February 20, 1978, the House of Commons unanimously passed the following resolution: ‘That the House extend its sincere congratulations to the Hon. Ellen Fairclough for the significant contribution she made to Canadian political life, for being, 20 years ago today, the only woman in Canadian political history to serve as Acting Prime Minister, and requests that the Speaker write a letter of congratulations to the Hon. Ellen Fairclough on this very significant anniversary.'

Ellen Fairclough has been honoured on several occasions. She was chosen "Woman of the Year" by journalists, 1957, 1958. In 1975, she was named "Outstanding Woman", Province of Ontario. An Ontario government building was named for her, 1982. She was honoured by the Churchill Society with an award for the advancement of parliamentary democracy, 1993.


Conrad, Margaret. — "‘Not a feminist, but...' : the political career of Ellen Louks Fairclough, Canada's first feminine federal cabinet minister; bibliog.". — Journal of Canadian studies. — Vol. 31, no. 2 (Summer 1996). — ISSN 00219495. — P. 5-28.

Cross, Austin F. — "Parliamentary personalities". — Canadian business. — Vol. 23, no. 9 (September 1950). — ISSN 08209510. — P. 94, 106+.

Fairclough, Ellen Louks. — Saturday's child: memoirs of Canada's first female cabinet minister. — Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1995. — xxii, 179 p. — ISBN 0802007368

"The Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough". — World affairs. — Vol. 24, no. 3 (November 1958). — ISSN 03176800. — P. 13.

Ross, Mary L. — "Ellen Fairclough: first woman in the cabinet". — Saturday Night. — Vol. 72, no. 18 (August 31, 1957). — ISSN 0380867X. — P. 14-15, 34.

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