Nelly Mcclung Essay, Research Paper
“She was spirited, she was amazing, she was effective,” a few commonly used words to describe Nellie McClung. She was a petit, pretty westerner with strong Christian values and a heart of gold. Nellie spent most of her life as a wife, mother, midwife, teacher, lecturer, legislator and writer. Throughout her long, diverse career she was a potent influence on Canadian society. From a young age Nellie was advanced far beyond her years. She read every book she could get a hold of, knew women should be treated as equals, and that she was against liquor. Nellie knew women deserved more rights and that someday she would devote her life to enforce those rights through activism and literature. “Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.” While maintaining the role of a mother and writer Nellie was a strong and influential temperance worker and suffragist.
Nellie had a devotion to the significance of family life. As a teen Nellie was taught that a woman couldn’t be a mother and a wife and have a career, and she chose a career. “A woman had to decide early between ambition and family life: there was not so much as a hint that one might hope for both.” While teaching she boarded in with a Pastor and his Family and that is where she met Wes McClung. From the moment she met him she knew he would be her husband. After dating for a while the two got married in 1896. She said it was the best choice she had made. At that point she gave up teaching and learned how to cook and be a wife since a lady wasn’t allowed to be married and a teacher back then. By 1901 Nellie had three kids and motherhood suited her well. Nellie was the typical mother. She spent her days cleaning, baking, taking care of her children and entertaining her neighbours, but that wasn’t enough for Nellie.
I guess I felt like a lot of young mothers, that all children of the world were now my children…I wanted to do something about the inequalities of the world. I wanted to make other women feel their responsibility; organize their instinctive mother love to do away with evils that prey on childhood, like slums, undernourishment, child labour and drunkenness. I felt that women could abolish these if they wanted to. That’s why I started by joining the W.C.T.U. (Womens Christian Temperance Union) (Nellie McClung 1945)
While her children were in their early teens Nellie would tour around Canada and make speeches on temperance. While she was away she had to leave her children with their father and hired help. In those days a wife leaving her young children at home didn’t happen and the public made sure she knew their opinion on the matter with headlines like “Nellie’s Neglected Child.” Nellie never let it upset her, she even found it amusing. Once she caught a man trying to impress a few ladies with a story about how his sister has to watch Nellie’s children because she left them to roam the streets hungry. When the ladies had left Nellie’s reply to the man was “You know its only the truth that hurts, and your conversation didn’t show a trace of truth. It didn’t even impress the women you were talking to.” In her spare time Nellie always wrote. Writing was her first love. It was a way for her to express her self.
When Nellie’s literary education began and she really got into writing she decided she would be a novelist. She started with poems, then short stories, and then novels. Many times Nellie would only be able to fit an hour or two at the end of the day to write and during that time she would write short stories. In 1908 her first short story was published, “Sowing Seeds in Danny.” It became the best seller of the year in Canada, went into seventeen editions and eventually sold over 100, 000 copies. In 1910 she released the sequel, “The Second Chance.” Her success lead to her doing public readings as a money raiser for the W.C.T.U. With being so busy in Politics it took eleven years for her next book to be released. In her writing Nellie was able to voice her views and opinions on how life should be through the characters in her books. In the end she wrote sixteen books and in 1936 and 1937 she released two volumes of collected essays, Leaves from Lantern Lane and More Leaves from Lantern Lane. At least five of her books sold over 25, 000 copies each and it was estimated that her income from the books was close to
At the age of eight Nellie had a bad experience with an alcoholic and that was the start to her hate for the substance. “Back then ladies didn’t drink and their were two type of men the ones that never drank and those who were drunkards. Letitia Mooney, had always held that liquor was the devil’s device for confounding mankind.” Her husband’s mother, Mrs. McClung lead Nellie to the W.C.T.U as a place to conduct her temperance activities. “There we wore badges of membership, and we all took pledges of complete abstinence from alcohol and promised to crusade for prohibition.” Nellies work in the women’s Christian temperance union led her to the Political Equality League, which sought the vote for women in Manitoba.. Nellie felt that when women received the vote, prohibition would follow. Temperance, originally meaning “Moderation, ” by now had the meaning of “Total Abstinence.” The W.C.T.U. not only fought for temperance , but also operated as a place where women could air their views. At one point the liquor act had become law by the then-leader Hugh John Macdonald. “I remember we all stood up an sang, praise god.” Nellie’s fight for prohibition continued when she moved to Alberta. In 1914 under the provisions of the Direct Legislation Act they had been able to force the government to call a referendum on the liquor issue . During this time she spoke to the public and had demonstrations. When the votes came in her party had won.
During all this Nellie had also been fighting for women’s rights. One of the people she really had to battle was Sir Rodmond. During the war Nelly would go around to factories and she was disgusted by what she saw. Women were working in some of the worse conditions. The floors were never cleaned so the dirt and garbage was piled up the bathrooms were unsanitary and many were working injured. In an act to solve this problem she begged Sir Rodmond to go see this for his self. What he saw bothered him, and when he was asked to do something about it his response was “Most of the women in the factories were from foreign countries, where life was strenuous. They did not expect to be carried to the skies on a flowery bed of ease! It doesn’t do women any harm to learn how money comes…Extravagant women are the curse of this age.” On January 27th , 1914 a delegation led by Nellie presented its case for female suffrage to the Manitoba legislature but Sir Rodmond was very stubborn.
Let it be known that it is the opinion of the Roblin government that woman suffrage is illogical and absurd as fas as Manitoba is concerned. Placing women on a political equality would cause domestic strife……I believe that woman suffrage would be a retro grade movement, that it will break up the home, that it will throw the children into the arms of servant girls… (Sir Rodmond)
The day after this speech was made the Political Equality league led by Nellie staged a Mock Parliament- a vice-versa situation in which the entire membership of the legislature was female. Nellie of course was the star of the show and it caught a lot of people’s attention. An other election was coming and the liberal leader, Norris gave his support to female suffrage so Nellie and her girls threw themselves into the campaign. Nellie did a lot of public speaking where there was a charge to hear her talk and thousands of people showed up, she spoke in churches and toured across Canada. This also gave her enough money to cover expenses and some left over to send home to help out while she was away. To Nellie’s dismay on July 10th 1914, the conservatives won and again formed the government. Even though suffragettes were often criticized for neglecting their families Nellie had the support of her husband and five children. In recent years women have achieved such prominent political positions as Speaker of the House of Commons, Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Ontario, president of the Liberal Party of Canada, and Governor-General of Canada.
Nellie was an exceptional person all her life. She was a novelist, mother, friend to many and fought for women’s rights. She never let other’s opinion bother her and her children were always taken cared of. It wasn’t just her. She married the perfect man. Wes realized the passion Nellie had for what she did and the talent she had inside, and it was his support and his switching roles and watching the kids that helped Nellie accomplish what she had. Some believed that the term “suffragette” and “happy marriage didn’t go, but in 1946 the McClungs celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. She lead the way for women to come by helping us receive the right to vote and work just like men do. She was a role model in the sense that she showed women that if you want to accomplish any thing you can and that there was no such thing as men and women having separate places in society. She loved to entertain and was loved by everyone around her. Over the years on the 100th anniversary of Nellie’s birth in 1973 the Nellie McClung stamp was released in her honour. Nellie will always be remembered by her famous words “Never retreat, never explain, never apologize. Get the thing done and let them howl.”