Edith Rogers (Alberta politician)

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Edith Blanche Rogers
Edith Rogers.jpg
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta
In office
August 22, 1935 – March 21, 1940
Preceded by John Edward Brownlee
Succeeded by Percy McKelvey
Constituency Ponoka
Personal details
Born Edith Blanche Cox
September 20, 1894
Eastville, Nova Scotia
Died July 17, 1985 (aged 90)
Political party Social Credit
Spouse(s) William Rogers
Occupation Teacher

Edith Blanche Rogers (née Edith Blanche Cox) (September 20, 1894 – July 17, 1985) was a Canadian politician who served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1935 until 1940. Born in Nova Scotia, she came west to Alberta to accept a job as a teacher. She later moved to Calgary where she encountered evangelist William Aberhart and became a convert to his social credit economic theories. After advocating these theories across the province, she was elected in the 1935 provincial election as a candidate of Aberhart's newly formed Social Credit League.

Left out of cabinet despite her loyalty to Aberhart, she sided with the insurgents during the 1937 Social Credit backbenchers' revolt, rejoining Aberhart's followers once a settlement was reached. She was defeated in the 1940 election. After her defeat, she abandoned Social Credit for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, moved to Edmonton, and served for fifteen years as a school trustee. Edith Rogers died in 1985.

Early life[edit]

Born in Eastville, Nova Scotia to Samuel G. and Mahala (née Graham) Cox, Rogers was raised on a farm and attended Eastville High School and Normal School. She worked as a teacher in Nova Scotia until 1913, when she visited her aunt, Margaret Redmond, in Edgerton, Alberta. While there, she accepted an offer to teach at Bloomington School. She attended Camrose Normal School in 1914, after which she taught in Edgerton and near Tofield until 1918.[1] Disillusioned with teaching in rural schoolhouses, she took a business course and began work as a bank teller for the Merchants Bank of Canada, which later merged with the Bank of Montreal, in Edgerton;[2][3] this was an unusual career choice for a woman at the time.[3] In 1922 she moved to Tofield, where she continued to work as a teller. The next year she moved to Killam, where she married William Rogers, the local high school principal, October 12, 1923.[1]

In 1929, the couple moved to Calgary, where they became friends with William Aberhart and his family. Rogers' first foray into politics took place during the 1930 federal election, when she assisted with R. B. Bennett's successful Calgary West campaign. Governments' inability to end or alleviate the effects of the Great Depression soon disillusioned her with conventional politics. Upon hearing that Aberhart was beginning to incorporate politics and economics into his weekly gospel radio addresses, she began to listen and soon became a convert to his version of social credit.[2]

Early involvement in social credit[edit]

In 1932 Rogers convinced Aberhart to hold public meetings on social credit in Calgary; she subsequently organized neighbourhood study groups on the theory. In 1933 the Central Council of Social Credit in Calgary, which coordinated the city's sixty social credit study groups, named her women's organizer, in which capacity she held mass meetings designed to recruit women to social credit. In 1934 she embarked on a sixteen month speaking tour of Alberta. At the same time, she organized social credit study groups around the province, including seventy-two in Edmonton.[2] She concluded her tour by organizing a mass meeting there in the spring of 1935, where Aberhart spoke before 9,000 people.[4]

When fissures appeared between Aberhart and people who supported the more orthodox version of social credit proposed by C. H. Douglas, the movement's British founder, Rogers remained steadfastedly loyal to Aberhart. In the assessment of T. C. Byrne, her loyalty to Aberhart was second only to that of Ernest Manning, Aberhart's young protégé.[5]

When Aberhart decided to run Social Credit candidates in the 1935 provincial election, he adopted an unusual system of candidate nomination: each constituency would nominate three or four candidates, with a committee headed by Aberhart deciding which one would actually run.[6] Six different constituencies nominated Rogers as one of their candidates, and Aberhart decided that she should run in Ponoka.[2] Her opponent from the governing United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) was former Premier John Edward Brownlee, who had resigned the previous year in the wake of a sex scandal in which he was sued for the seduction of a young woman. Brownlee biographer Franklin Foster speculates that the selection of a female candidate to run against the so-called "sober faced seducer" was a deliberate strategic decision by Aberhart, and noted further that "aside from Aberhart himself, [Social Credit] could not have fielded a stronger candidate" in Ponoka.[7]

Member of the Legislative Assembly[edit]

Rogers won the riding with 2,295 votes, more than 1,400 ahead of Brownlee.[8] In fact, the UFA lost every seat it contested, and Social Credit candidates won 56 of Alberta's 63 seats. Aberhart became premier. He did not appoint Rogers (or any other woman) to his cabinet, and Athabasca University historian Alvin Finkel has suggested that her gender cost her such an appointment.[2] Female cabinet ministers were not unprecedented in Alberta (Irene Parlby was a cabinet minister throughout the UFA's time in office) and Finkel argues, given that Rogers was "recognized as sharp, articulate, and hard-working", that she could reasonably have expected a cabinet portfolio.[9]

Despite her loyalty to Aberhart, Rogers became frustrated with his delay in implementing the social credit economic reforms he had promised. During the 1937 Social Credit backbenchers' revolt she sided with the insurgents who threatened to bring down the government unless it took concrete steps to implement social credit. Once the insurgents reached a settlement with Aberhart, she returned to her former position of loyalty, and sought re-election as a Social Crediter in the 1940 election. Prior to this election, Social Credit's opponents, including Liberals, Conservatives, and those elements of the UFA that had not moved to Social Credit, formed the People's League, which ran nominally independent candidates.[2] One of these candidates, Percy McKelvey, led Rogers by 13 votes on the first count. The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF)'s C. A. Johnson was in a distant third. When Johnson's votes were redistributed, in accordance with Alberta's electoral laws at the time, McKelvey's margin increased to nearly two hundred votes, and he was declared the victor.[10]

Later life[edit]

After her defeat, Rogers and her husband moved to Edmonton.[2] She disapproved of the Social Credit government's move to the right under new premier Ernest Manning, and joined the socialist CCF. Finkel considers this surprising, in light of her long-time devotion to the ideals of social credit, the role the CCF played in her 1940 election defeat, and his assessment that she "seemed more interested in monetary reform than in the general social critique put forward by the CCF." She served as a member of the CCF's Edmonton membership and organization committee.[11]

Rogers was elected to the board of Edmonton Public Schools in the 1959 Edmonton election as a candidate of the left-leaning Civic Reform Association (CRA). She was re-elected in 1961, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1968, and 1971. When the CRA dissolved in advance of the 1961 election, she joined the newly formed Quality Education Council; when that too dissolved, she ran as an independent in the 1971 election. She did not seek re-election in the 1974 election.[1] The next year, Edith Rogers Junior High School in Edmonton was named in her honour.[12]

William Rogers died November 7, 1968. Edith Rogers died July 17, 1985.[1]

Electoral record[edit]

1940 Alberta general election results (Ponoka)[10] Turnout 74.7%
Affiliation Candidate Votes %
Second count
     Independent Percy McKelvey 2,234 52.21%
     Social Credit Edith Rogers 2,045 47.79%
First count
     Independent Percy McKelvey 1,920 43.62%
     Social Credit Edith Rogers 1,907 43.32%
     Cooperative Commonwealth C. A. Johnson 575 13.06%
1935 Alberta general election results (Ponoka)[8] Turnout 84.8%
Affiliation Candidate Votes %
     Social Credit Edith Rogers 2,295 59.3%
     United Farmers of Alberta John Edward Brownlee 879 22.7%
     Liberal Robert McLaren 696 18.0%

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Edith and William Rogers fonds (CAIN #201703)". Canadian Archival Information Network (CAIN). Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cavanaugh 506
  3. ^ a b Byrne 93
  4. ^ Byrne 94
  5. ^ Byrne 94–95
  6. ^ Elliott 174
  7. ^ Foster 270
  8. ^ a b "Election results for Ponoka, 1935". Alberta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  9. ^ Finkel 97
  10. ^ a b "Election results for Ponoka, 1940". Alberta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  11. ^ Finkel 79
  12. ^ "About Our School". Edith Rogers Junior High School. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 

References[edit]