Parlby, Irene

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Date of Birth1868-01-09 Date of Death1965-07-12

Mary Irene Parlby entered public life on 18 July 1921 when she was elected to the Alberta legislature as member for Lacombe in the UNITED FARMERS OF ALBERTA government. She was appointed minister without portfolio with special responsibility for advising the government on issues of particular concern to women and children, a position she held until her retirement in 1934. She was popularly known as the “Women’s Minister,” but without a specific mandate or budget of her own and as the only woman among seven men, she was marginalized within cabinet.

Parlby was only the second woman in the British Empire to hold ministerial office. She was particularly active on issues related to public health care, improved wages for working women and married women’s property rights. In 1925, she introduced a Community of Property Bill that anticipated the legal recognition of women’s domestic work. The idea came under severe criticism and Parlby’s bill failed to pass.

Parlby was a reluctant politician, preferring the tranquillity of her garden in Alix, Alberta to the rough and tumble of the legislature, but she was popular among her rural constituents and was re-elected in 1926 and again in 1930. In 1930, she also served as a member of the Canadian delegation to the LEAGUE OF NATIONS. Today, Parlby is perhaps best known as one of FAMOUS 5 Alberta women associated with the PERSONS CASE.

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