Ellen Fairclough: Educational Activity

This activity covers broad areas of learning, including Canadian history, government, and human rights. Students will have the opportunity to discuss Fairclough's plans, goals, and intentions throughout her political career. This activity also encourages students to examine the struggle for women's rights in Canada and the role of women in Canadian government today. Consult the online primary documents and website text as resources.

Introduction

  • Begin by examining Fairclough's early life and education. Consider the challenges she faced in politics, her time in the House of Commons, and her work in John Diefenbaker’s Cabinet, first as Secretary of State and later as Postmaster General.
  • Give students the opportunity to study the primary documents and familiarize themselves with Fairclough's role in the Canadian government.
  • Encourage students to conduct background research to enhance this activity.

Refer to the following links:

  • Canadian Women in Government: Ellen Fairclough
  • Parliament of Canada: Ellen Fairclough
  • Forging Our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, 1900-1977

Activity

  • In small groups, have students research the developments and advances made by women in the Canadian political sphere. Here, historical events in Canadian women’s rights can be highlighted, including the suffrage movement and the ‘Persons’ case. It is also important to look at the many important figures who have advanced women’s rights in Canada, including Agnes Macphail, the Famous Five, and Bertha Wilson. Students could also be broken up into groups to create a historical timeline of events. 
  • The development of language could also be examined in this section, focusing in the importance of gender diversity in policy making, as well as gender neutral language, official government documents and relevant vocabulary.
  • Guide students in identifying and exploring women in historic and contemporary politics. Additional research could also be done on women in international government and leadership roles.
  • Students can explore what it might mean for women in Canada to not have basic rights, and  consider what their lives would have been like prior to the suffrage, equal rights, and first wave feminist movements.
  • In concluding the activity, students will have become familiar with Ellen Fairclough, her political career, and the history of women in Canadian government.  They will have had the opportunity to learn about how gender equality in the Canadian government has changed over time, and will have an understanding of the importance of gender neutral language, as well as be able to define important terms.

Optional Activities

  • Students can discuss any challenges women currently face in their advancement in the political sphere. What might these challenges be?
  • Additional resources available upon request from the Diefenbaker Canada Centre for extended learning opportunities.

Download

John Diefenbaker standing in [Prime Minister’s Office, Centre Block] with Ellen Fairclough standing behind table [once belonging to Sir John A. Macdonald] talking
John Diefenbaker and Ellen Fairclough in Prime Minister’s Office
Media and Document Gallery

Images

John Diefenbaker, Vincent Massey and the Cabinet with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Creator: National Film Board of Canada

Subject: Canada – Head of State | Canada – Head of Government

Description: John Diefenbaker and his 1957 Cabinet posing with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and Vincent Massey at Government House

Date Created: October 1957

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD438

John Diefenbaker with Ellen Fairclough, William Hamilton, Gordon Churchill, Michael Starr and others in Centre Block Office
Creator: Rapid Grip and Batten Ltd.

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Cabinet Ministers – Ellen Fairclough, William Hamilton, Gordon Churchill and Michael Starr

Description: John Diefenbaker, Ellen Fairclough, William Hamilton, Gordon Churchill, Michael Starr, two unidentified clergy and three other unidentified men posing for a photograph in the Centre Block Office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, circa Prime Ministerial years. Diefenbaker and Ellen Fairclough are seated at a desk as the others stand behind them.

Date Created: 1957

Date Ended: Day Month 1963

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD4423

John Diefenbaker holding a plaque in Prime Minister’s Office
Creator: Rapid Grip and Batten Ltd.

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Cabinet Ministers – Ellen Fairclough

Description: John Diefenbaker holding Sir John A. Macdonald plaque, standing by sideboard with Macdonald statue in East Block office. Ellen Fairclough watching on as unidentified man films plaque

Date Created: 1957

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD2100

John Diefenbaker and Ellen Fairclough in Prime Minister’s Office
Creator: Rapid Grip and Batten Ltd.

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Cabinet Ministers – Ellen Fairclough

Description: John Diefenbaker standing in [Prime Minister’s Office, Centre Block] with Ellen Fairclough standing behind table [once belonging to Sir John A. Macdonald] talking

Date Created: 1960

Identifier: MG01/XVII/JGD3431


Audio

Speeches delivered at the Progressive Conservative Party’s Second Century Dinner, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Creator:Unknown

Subject:Canada – Political Parties | Canada – Parliamentarians

Description:An unidentified speaker introduces Ellen Fairclough, Hamilton West MP, to the assembled guests.

Date Created:[1961]

Identifier:MG01/XVII/T133cd-PAC4

Speeches delivered at the Progressive Conservative Party’s Second Century Dinner, London, Ontario

Creator:Unknown

Subject:Canada – Political Parties | Canada – Parliamentarians

Description:Ellen Fairclough, Hamilton West MP, introduces Ontario Premier Leslie Frost to the assembled guests

Date Created:1955

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T133c-PAC3a

Speeches delivered at the Progressive Conservative Party’s Second Century Dinner, London, Ontario

Creator:Unknown

Subject:– Political Parties | Canada – Parliamentarians

Description:The event MC calls upon Ellen Fairclough, Hamilton West MP, to introduce Ontario Premier Leslie Frost

Date Created:1955

Identifier:MG01/XVIII/T131-132b-PAC2b


Documents

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