A big adventure, romance and a stranger in need… all things I love in a good movie but in this case it was the life of our first hero, Irene Parlby (9 January 1868 – 12 July 1965). A Canadian women’s farm leader, activist and politician.
A BIG ADVENTURE: Growing up, Irene was very rich and often dressed in gowns and tiaras – but that got boring. She wanted to go on an adventure! She took a huge ship from her home in England to Canada in 1896. She spent 10 days on the ship, then took a train all the way across Canada to a small town in Northern Alberta to visit a family friend
ROMANCE: Soon after arriving to this new country, she fell madly in love with her neighbour, Walter, and never went back to England.
She moved into a tiny farmhouse and went to work right alongside her husband, planting feeds, weeding and hoeing, harvesting the crops and taking care of the house.
A STRANGER IN NEED: One day, as Irene was working in the field, a woman carrying a baby with three other children trailing behind her arrived at Irene’s house. The woman’s husband had decided that life on the prairie was too hard, so he sold their farm, took all the money and just disappeared. He abandoned his wife and their four children without even telling her that he had sold their farm.
Irene was outraged because she knew that the land had been given to the woman when her father died. But Irene was wrong. In those days, married women weren’t permitted to own property with their husbands. In fact, if they owned land and then got married, the law said that their land would be transferred to the man. Irene’s friend and her children were left with nothing. They had no farm, no home, no money, no food. Irene sat herself down and decided that if the law wasn’t fair, she would have to change it!
She was about to get involved in what would be her biggest adventure yet…
In 1913, Parlby helped to found the first women’s local community of the United Farmers of Alberta. In 1921, she was elected to the Alberta Legislature for the riding of Lacombe, holding the riding for 14 years. She was the first woman Cabinet minister in Alberta. Parlby was one of the Famous Five, who by means of a court battle known as the Persons Case. This case established that women were “qualified Persons” and therefore entitled to sit in the Senate of Canada.
Do you want to be a politician? A leader in your community? An inspiration to others? Irene Parlby’s hard work and dedication means that you can – that you can dream and achieve anything you would like.