The Biography of Activist Irene Parlby

The Biography of Activist Irene Parlby

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Born in England to a well-off family, Irene Parlby never planned to be a politician. She immigrated to Alberta and with her husband became a homesteader. Her efforts to help improve the lives of rural Alberta women and children led her into the United Farm Women of Alberta, where she became president. From there she was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and became the first woman cabinet minister in Alberta. Irene Parlby was also one of the "Famous Five" Alberta women, along with Nellie McClung, who fought and won the political and legal battle in the Persons Case to have women recognized as persons under the BNA Act.

  • Birth: January 9, 1868, in London, England
  • Death: July 12, 1965, in Red Deer, Alberta
  • Professions: Women's rights activist, Alberta MLA, and cabinet minister
  • Political Affiliation: United Farmers of Alberta
  • Riding (Electoral District): Lacombe

Causes of Irene Parlby

For most of her career, Irene Parlby worked to improve the rights and welfare of rural women and children, including improving their health and education.

The Career of Irene Parlby

  • Irene Parlby was president of the United Farm Women of Alberta from 1916 to 1919.
  • She was a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta and helped form policies for the faculty of extension, which provided educational materials for rural communities.
  • Irene Parlby was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 1921.
  • In 1921 Irene Parlby was appointed Minister without portfolio, the first woman to become a cabinet minister in Alberta. She was the second woman to become a provincial cabinet minister in Canada.
  • As a cabinet minister, Irene Parlby established traveling medical clinics and was a proponent of distance education.
  • Irene Parlby introduced the Minimum Wage for Women Act in 1925.
  • Irene Parlby was one of the "Famous Five" in the Persons Case which established the status of women as persons under the BNA Act in 1929.
  • She was Canadian delegate to the League of Nations in 1930.
  • Irene Parlby retired from the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 1935.
  • In 1935 Irene Parlby became the first woman to be awarded an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Alberta.

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