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.

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
John Diefenbaker with Ellen Fairclough, William Hamilton, Gordon Churchill, Michael Starr and others in Centre Block Office
John Diefenbaker holding a plaque in Prime Minister’s Office
John Diefenbaker and Ellen Fairclough in Prime Minister’s Office

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

Letter from Ellen Fairclough to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Ellen Fairclough

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Postmaster General | Canada – 1963 Federal Election

Description: Ellen Fairclough apologizes to John Diefenbaker for losing her seat in Hamilton West and thanks Diefenbaker for the opportunity to serve in his cabinet

Date Created: 9 April1963

Identifier:MG01/XII/C/171 Volume 60 (041935 – 041938)

Memorandum Re: Discussion with Hon. Ellen Fairclough

Creator: John Diefenbaker

Subject: : Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Minister of Citizenship and Immigration | Canada – 1962 Federal Election

Description: John Diefenbaker summarized a conversation with Ellen Fairclough regarding the issue of Chinese immigration as it affected the loss of two constituencies from the Progressive Conservative Party during the 1962 Federal election, as well as his request that she transfer portfolios

Date Created: 12 August1962

Identifier:MG01/XII/C/171 Volume 60 (041926 – 041927)

Letter from Eldon Woolliams to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Eldon Woolliams

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Minister of Citizenship and Immigration | Canada – Member of Parliament

Description: Eldon Woolliams, MP, writes to John Diefenbaker, informing him of a letter he sent to Ellen Fairclough, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, regarding the treatment of Asians attempting to immigrate to Canada; Woolliams includes a copy of the letter he sent to Fairclough

Date Created: 23 August1960

Identifier:MG01/VI/335 Bow River Volume 288 (234922 – 234923)

Letter from Ellen Fairclough to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Ellen Fairclough

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Royal Commissions | Canada – Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Description: Ellen Fairclough suggests to John Diefenbaker that a Royal Commission on Citizenship and Immigration be established in June or September, 1960, with the report coming after 1962, the year of the next federal election

Date Created: 12 January1960

Identifier:MG01/VI/354 Volume 320 (256636 – 256637)

Postcard from Ellen Fairclough to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Ellen Fairclough

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Postmaster General | Canada – 1963 Federal Election

Description: Ellen Fairclough, on vacation in Barbados after losing her seat, indicates she will see John Diefenbaker next week

Date Created: 20 April1963

Identifier:MG01/XII/C/171 Volume 60 (041939 – 041939_f)

Letter from Ellen Fairclough to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Ellen Fairclough

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Personalities | Canada – Politics

Description: Ellen Fairclough updates John Diefenbaker on her personal and professional life since her defeat in the 1963 Federal election, in addition to her plans help the Progressive Conservatives regain Hamilton West

Date Created: 9 September1963

Identifier:MG01/XII/C/171 Volume 60 (041940 – 041942)

Letter from Ellen Fairclough to John Diefenbaker

Creator: Ellen Fairclough

Subject: Canada – Head of Government | Canada – Minister of Citizenship and Immigration | Canada – Politics

Description: Ellen Fairclough informs John Diefenbaker that she has a personal note to give him from Mr. Eloi Belanger, elevator operator at the Chateau Laurier; Belanger’s attached letter requests that Diefenbaker hold a Hamilton area appointment for Fairclough

Date Created: 12 April1962

Identifier:MG01/XII/F/204 Volume 112 (077090 – 077091)

Royal Commissions Appointed

Creator: Unknown

Subject: Canada –Government | Canada – Royal Commissions

Description: Three documents listing Royal Commissions appointed: 1) June 21, 1957-October 17, 1957; 2) April 1, 1953-June 21, 1957; 3) November 15, 1958 – June 21, 1957

Date Created:1961

Identifier:MG01/VI/354 1957-1962 Volume 320 (256615 – 256618)