Manitoba News Release

Province Celebrates Role of Women School Trustees

  • January 12, 2016
  • News

January 12, 2016

PROVINCE CELEBRATES ROLE OF
WOMEN SCHOOL TRUSTEES

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Premier ‎Signs Proclamation as Part of Celebrations of
100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote

With the 100th anniversary of some women’s right to vote occurring on Jan. 28, a proclamation commemorating 2016 as the Year of Women Trustees was signed ‎that describes the important role played by women school trustees since 1890 in Manitoba, Premier Greg Selinger said today.

“Women trustees in Manitoba have been real pioneers in the ongoing quest for universal democracy and suffrage,” said Premier Selinger.  “As a province, stopping to celebrate these trustees’ life stories is important.  They truly help to shine a light on the larger history of women’s right to vote.”

In Manitoba, women were eligible to serve as school trustees starting in 1890, more than two decades before the legal right to vote was ‎first granted to select women in 1916.  During the quarter century between 1890 and 1916, the only public office that could be held by women was that of school trustee. From a historical perspective, many women in Manitoba have broken significant barriers as school trustees by confronting and overcoming pervasive social, cultural and political obstacles, the premier said.

“Jan. 28, 1916, was not an end but was rather the beginning of Manitoba’s journey toward universal suffrage for all women,” said Ken Cameron, president, Manitoba School Boards Association.  “On this important occasion, we celebrate the many women, past and present, who serve as school trustees.  Throughout Manitoba’s history, women trustees have broken many important barriers, laying the foundations for a more just and equal society.”

A reception was held today at the Legislative Building to celebrate the achievements of five particular women who became the first members of their community to serve as school trustees in Manitoba:
• Marie-Antoinette Lamoureux Lemaire, who was the first elected francophone woman;
• Rose Cherniak Alcin, who was the first elected Jewish woman;
• Mary Dyma, who was the first elected Ukrainian woman; and
• Inez Stevenson, who was the first elected black woman‎.

The reception also honoured the contributions made by Linda Ballantyne, recognized as the first woman of Indigenous ancestry to serve as the chairperson of a school board in Manitoba.  The only living person recognized during the reception, Ballantyne serves as the current chairperson of Frontier School Division.  Frontier School Division’s boundaries include many communities across northern Manitoba, including Grand Rapids, Ballantyne’s home community.

Status First Nations women in Manitoba were not formally granted voting rights until the 1960s.

“The story of these women’s lives and accomplishments provides insight into the special place held by Manitoba as the epicentre of women’s suffrage in Canada,” said Linda McDowell, local historian and researcher.  “From the historical roots of the francophone community in Manitoba to the gradual establishment of our province as a plural society reflected through the first Jewish, Ukrainian and black women to serve as school trustees, we can chart our province’s enfranchisement of women through the progression of each woman’s story.  I believe that the reality behind our celebration of Linda Ballantyne’s important ‘first’ tells an important part of the story.  That she is the only living honouree at today’s reception indicates that we have come a long way since 1916 but that our women trustees continue to promote democracy and equality for all women in Manitoba.”

‎This July, the Manitoba School Boards Association will host the national trustee gathering on Aboriginal education as well as the annual congress of the Canadian School Boards Association in Winnipeg.

“We are delighted that the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in Manitoba will be showcased this July‎ at our national gathering and congress,” said Janet Foord, president, Canadian School Boards Association.  “The proclamation signed today will ensure that trustees from coast to coast have the opportunity to learn about the important firsts achieved by women trustees in Manitoba.”

More information on the history of women trustees in Manitoba, including access to the proclamation signed by Premier Selinger, is available on the Manitoba School Boards Association website at www.mbschoolboards.ca.