Agnes Macphail Digital Collection
Unveil Plaque at Hopeville to Memory of Agnes Macphail

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Newspaper article about the unveiling of the historic plaque in Hopeville commemorating Agnes Macphail.

A large crowd gathered Sunday afternoon in the Village of Hopeville, nine miles west of here, to witness the unveiling of a plaque honouring the memory of Miss Agnes C. Macphail, Canada's first lady member of Parliament, who was a member of the House of Commons from 1921 until 1940. Miss Macphail, who was a colorful and outstanding figure, later served for two terms in the Ontario Legislature, 1943—45 and 1948—51. The plaque, which has an evergreen hedge for a background, is on the north side of the road, a short distance west of Hopeville store, on the property belonging to the store, was unveiled by Miss Macphail's two sisters, Mrs. Hugh Bailey of Dundalk and Mrs. M. Reany of Palmerston. The late Miss Macphail, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Dougal Macphail, was born on a farm about 1 1/2 miles west of Hopeville.

Protege Chief Speaker

Farquhar R. Oliver, M.P.P. for South Grey, a protege of Miss Macphail in her early political life, was the chief speaker and paid high tribute to this outstanding figure in the public life of Canada. Canadian women could have had no better champion than this woman of Proton Township, he declared. As Canada's first lady member of Parliament she overcame many difficulties by her forthrightness, stamina, and determination to do what's right. Her independent spirit and deep concern for the welfare of others won for her great admiration, not only in her home riding but throughout the length and breadth of the country she loved so much.

"The example set by Miss Macphail and her interest in young people through debating societies and public speaking contests promoted by her have been responsible for giving her home district many outstanding leaders," Mr. Oliver stated, in paying her richly - deserved commendation. Her efforts to improve the lot of agriculturists, and in prison reform and welfare for the aged have born abundant fruit, he said, and expressed the hope that all who viewed this plaque would have a truer understanding and appreciation of a great life, well lived in the service of mankind.

Institutes Had Hand

This memorial plaque was erected by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board, in co-operation with the Ontario Dept. of Travel and Publicity. Sunday's program was sponsored by Hopeville - Swinton Women's Institute and the Grey County Historical and Art Society of Owen Sound. Wm. McLernon, the society's secretary, acted as chairman at Sunday's largely-attended gathering.

Neil S. Campbell, Reeve of Proton Township, was first called upon and stated that Miss Macphail had been born on Lot 7, Con. 11, Proton, about 1 1/2 miles west of the point where this plaque to her memory had been erected. Miss Macphail was known and respected across Canada and in many parts of the USA, not only because she was the Dominion's first lady to be elected to the House of Commons but because of her sincere desire to help the common people. As a resident of Alberta, Mr. Campbell said he and other former residents of this section of Ontario felt "mighty proud" when Miss Macphail came to the West on speaking tours and he could boast that she was a native of his old home district. He felt pride in having a part in the ceremony of honouring the memory of one who had done so much in the public welfare.

Pioneer in Women's Rights

Mrs. James Black spoke on be half of Hopeville - Swinton W.I. and expressed "deep pride in this woman who was born in our midst". As a girl Miss Macphail had spent many of her holidays on her grandparents' farm on Con. 15, Proton, now owned by Wm. Goheen. Miss Macphail's high ideals for the welfare of mankind and our country were a worthy example for Institute members to follow, stated Mrs. Black, who emphasized the fact that Miss Macphail's efforts brought about a more ready acceptance of woman's viewpoint and a new era for women in public life.

Mrs. Ivan McClure, president of Grey County Women's Institute, asked: How do we assess greatness? "I think it is in bringing comfort to people and helping them in any way we can," she said, pointing out that this had been typical of the late Agnes Macphail.

Mrs. McClure announced that the Women's Institutes of Grey County had decided to provide $1,000 annually so that two young people from the county each year could enroll at Guelph. This year it would be two girls from Centre Grey. Next year it will be two boys from another section of Grey. All parts of the county will have their turn.

Have Erected 225 Plaques

Leslie R. Gray of London, representing the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites Board, congratulated the people for turning out in such large numbers to witness the unveiling of this plaque. He suggested it was indicative of the high regard in which Miss Macphail was held.

The role of the Sites Board is an advisory one, he stated. The
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object in placing plaques is to preserve history and to honour famous Canadians in all fields. In recent years 225 plaques had been erected through the board's efforts. He said that the board is always pleased to receive suggestions as to the erection of plaques. They make our country more interesting in an historic sense, he pointed out.

Federal Member Speaks

Eric Winkler of Hanover, Federal Member for Grey-Bruce, the riding once represented by Miss Macphail, confessed he was not personally acquainted with the early phase of Miss Macphail's career, as he was born the year she entered public life in 1921. "However, I do know she made a real contribution to the political life of our country and distinguished herself in her keen interest for the underprivileged and the aged". Further he said: "We are here to-day, representing Canada, and this plaque is a modest tribute to the good work which Miss Macphail did."

Following the ceremony, pictures were taken by a CBC cameraman and a photographer representing the Department of Travel and Publicity. A picture of the plaque and those taking part in the ceremony will appear in next week's Herald, together with a resume of Miss Agnes C Macphail's career.

Wording On Plaque

The plaque reads as follows:
1890 - 1954

The first woman elected to the parliament of Canada was born on a nearby farm in Proton Township, Grey County. In 1919 women had received the right to sit in the Federal House, and in that year Agnes Macphail joined the United Farmers of Ontario. Elected as a Progressive for South-East Grey in 1921 she retained her seat until 1940 A strong and eloquent speaker she always maintained her independence from party politics and was concerned mainly with Agricultural affairs, Prison Reform and the Welfare of the Aged. In 1942 she joined the Provincial C.C.F. Party, and represented East York in the Ontario Legislature from 1943-45 and 1948-51.

Dundalk Herald
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Dundalk, ON
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Agnes Macphail Collection
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.1168 Longitude: -80.5497
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Dundalk Herald
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Dundalk, Ontario
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Unveil Plaque at Hopeville to Memory of Agnes Macphail

Newspaper article about the unveiling of the historic plaque in Hopeville commemorating Agnes Macphail.