Louise C. McKinney
Louise Crummy McKinney was the first woman to be elected to a parliament seat in the British Empire. She accomplished the feat in 1917 in Alberta.
Louise was the seventh child and second daughter of Richard Crummy and his wife the former Ester Empey. Richard Crummy was an immigrant from County Cavan, Ireland; Ester was a descendant of the pioneer Empey family of Easton’s Corners. She was born on September 22nd, 1868 in an old log cabin on the Crummy homestead along the north shore of Lake Eloida, on the Lake Eloida Road. The family farm on Concession 9, Lot 27 (Kitley Township) remained in the family possession until 1948, when Louise’s brother Albert Edwin and his wife retired and moved to Frankville.
She attended the old Mitchell public school, which is about a half mile from the Crummy Homestead and two miles west of the village of Frankville. She went on to Athens High School graduating in 1884 at age 16. Being too young to attend Normal School Louise stayed at home for a year and began Normal School in the fall of 1885. Louise Crummy graduated from Ottawa Normal School with a teacher’s certificate. She spent the next six years teaching in various Leeds County schools.
Wanderlust struck Louise Crummy in 1892 and she took off for Drayton, Pembina County, ND to join a sister, Edith, who lived there and was married to Joseph Morrison. She resumed her teaching career and also became an active member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
In 1896 Louise wed a North Dakota farmer, James McKinney. James McKinney was born near Stittsville, Ontario, but had moved with his family to North Dakota. After a two year courtship Jimmy and Louise wed at the Crummy homestead on March 10, 1896. After seven years here they moved to a farm near Claresholm, Alberta in 1903. They ran a 200 acre spread there.
Still active in WCTU affairs, Louise turned to politics. She shunned the old parties, Conservatives and Liberals, but instead took out a membership in a women’s political organisation, the Non-Partisan League.
In the 1917 Alberta provincial election, Louise won a smashing victory in Claresholm riding, carrying the banner of the NPL into the Alberta Legislature. She was a popular figure in her home riding and rolled up an impressive vote total. She served her riding for five years 1917 to 1921 inclusive.
Her victory was hailed by the Calgary Nutcracker, an independent newspaper, in these words: “The NPL platform is the only place where high minded women in this province can stand with dignity and clean feet. For this reason, the first woman to occupy a seat in a legislature in the Dominion of Canada bears the NPL standard which in itself is a tribute to the women of Alberta and indicates a new political regime.” The Nutcracker called Louise Crummy McKinney “a credit to any legislative assembly in any country.”
She backed social legislation in the Alberta house, and sponsored a petition to Ottawa to include women in appointees to the senate. Her nominee as the first woman in the senate was Emily Murphy, a long time Edmonton advocate of women’s rights.
The Supreme Court of Canada turned down the petition in 1928, but un-daunted Louise fired off another petition to the Imperial Privy Council in London, England.
This time she hit pay dirt. The Supreme Court of Canada had vetoed the original petition on the grounds that the British North American Act only specified that ‘person’ could be appointed to he senate and did not specifically state that women were eligible.
The Privy Council ruled otherwise, decided that ‘women’ were indeed ‘persons’ and entitled to the same consideration as ‘men.’ The ruling paved the way for the appointment of Emily Murphy to the Canadian Senate in 1931.
In 1925, she was appointed a commissioner in the first general council of the United Church of Canada. She was the only woman to sign the “Basis of Union” declaration which created the United Church.
On July 10th 1931, Louise Crummy McKinney died at the age of 63 at her homestead in Claresholm. Her husband James followed her in death seven months later. Their son, J. Willard McKinney became a physician in Berlin, New Hampshire. Thirty-three years after her death Alberta erected a plaque to her memory as the first woman legislator in the empire.