Cairine Wilson

Politician

1885 – 1962

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Who was Cairine Wilson?

Cairine Reay Mackay Wilson was Canada's first female senator.

Born Cairine Reay Mackay in Montreal, she was the daughter of Jane Mackay and Robert Mackay, a Liberal Senator and personal friend of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. In 1909, she married Norman Wilson, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Russell and they moved to Cumberland, Ontario to begin a family. In 1918, the Wilsons moved to Ottawa, where Cairine performed extensive volunteer work. She helped found the Twentieth Century Liberal Association and the National Federation of Liberal Women of Canada, of which she was President from 1938 to 1948.

Wilson was appointed the first female senator of the country at the age of 45 in February 1930 by the government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, just four months after the Persons Case judgment was handed down by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Previously, women had not been allowed to serve in the Senate as lower courts had ruled they were not full "persons" under the law.

As president of the League of Nations Society of Canada in 1938, Senator Wilson spoke out against the Munich Agreement's appeasement of Hitler. During the Second World War, the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King was resistant to permitting Jewish refugees from Germany to settle in Canada, but she was able to arrange the acceptance of 100 orphans.

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Born
Feb 4, 1885
Montreal
Parents
Spouses
Nationality
  • Canada
Education
  • Elmwood School
Lived in
  • Montreal
Died
Mar 3, 1962
Ottawa

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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