Ellen Fairclough

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The Right Honourable
Ellen Louks Fairclough
PC, CC, OOnt
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Hamilton West
In office
1950–1963
Preceded by Colin Gibson
Succeeded by Joseph Macaluso
Personal details
Born (1905-01-28)January 28, 1905
Hamilton, Ontario
Died November 13, 2004(2004-11-13) (aged 99)
Hamilton, Ontario
Political party Progressive Conservative
Spouse(s) Gordon Fairclough
Occupation accountant
Cabinet Postmaster General,
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration,
Secretary of State of Canada
Religion Anglican

Ellen Louks Fairclough, PC CC OOnt (January 28, 1905 – November 13, 2004) was the first female member of the Canadian Cabinet.

Born Ellen Louks Cook[1] in Hamilton, Ontario, Fairclough was a chartered accountant by training, and ran an accounting firm prior to entering politics. She was a member of Hamilton, Ontario City Council from 1945 to 1950.

Political career[edit]

She was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in a 1950 by-election after being defeated in the 1949 federal election. She then represented Hamilton West for the Progressive Conservatives until she lost her seat in the 1963 election. As a Member of Parliament, she advocated women's rights including equal pay for equal work.

When the PC Party took power as a result of the 1957 federal election, new Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, appointed her to the position of Secretary of State for Canada. In 1958, she became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and from 1962 until her defeat in 1963, she was Postmaster General. As Immigration Minister in 1962, Fairclough introduced new regulations that mostly eliminated racial discrimination in immigration policy. She also introduced a more liberal policy on refugees, and increased the number of immigrants allowed into Canada.

Fairclough was also Acting Prime Minister of Canada from February 19 to February 20, 1958; she was the first woman ever given the duty.

Life after politics[edit]

Fairclough was defeated in her bid for re-election in the 1963 election. She subsequently worked for the Hamilton Trust and Savings Corporation as a senior executive, as well as being chairperson of Hamilton Hydro.

In 1979, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was promoted to Companion in 1994.[2] In the fall of 1996, she received the Order of Ontario, the highest honor awarded by the province.

Fairclough was active in the Consumers Association of Canada, the Girl Guides, the I.O.D.E., the Y.W.C.A., the United Empire Loyalist Association, and the Zonta Club of Hamilton and Zonta International, before, during and after her stay in office. In 1982, the Ontario government office tower on the corner of MacNab and King Streets in Hamilton was officially named the Ellen Fairclough Building.

In recognition of her status as a pioneering woman in Canadian politics, she was granted the rare honour of having the title Right Honourable bestowed upon her in 1992 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, one of very few Canadians to have the title who had not been Prime Minister, Governor General, or Chief Justice.

In 1995, she published her memoirs, Saturday's Child: Memoirs of Canada's First Female Cabinet Minister.

She died in a Hamilton, Ontario nursing home on November 13, 2004. Her husband Gordon and son Howard both predeceased her. On June 21, 2005, Canada Post issued a postage stamp in honour of Fairclough.[3]

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