Biographical Sketch of Margaret Bayne

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Margaret Bayne, 1865-1946

By Mary Langer Thompson, Ed. D., retired public school principal and writer

Margaret Bayne was born in 1865 in Woodstock, Upper Canada, shortly before Lincoln was assassinated. Her father had moved back to Canada from Tennessee in order to avoid conscription in the Confederate army. Because of her father's ill health, Margaret spent a great deal of time with her Scottish grandparents for whom education, religion and politics were high priorities. She had an excellent memory, largely from memorizing large parts of the Bible, and was a bright student at Woodstock High School.

Eminent Women of the Age introduced Margaret to the suffrage movement as a teenager, and she began to borrow public affair magazines from the library. In 1884, at age 19, she passed her teaching examination and began practice-teaching at the Model School. The year following, she taught forty students in a one-room school in Princeton where some of the boys were her age. During that year, she also learned typing and shorthand, realizing these skills were helpful to suffragettes. In 1888. she went to the Toronto Normal School and then took a position in Dundas. In 1890, she became one of the first women to study at the University of Toronto where she studied a variety of subjects, including Shakespeare, paleontology, and science. During this time, she met Augusta Stowe-Gullen, Canada's first woman doctor, and became active in the suffrage movement. She founded the University's first Women's Literary Society, a euphemism for a suffrage group. In summer, 1893, she attended a major Women's Congress at the Chicago World's Fair.

Instead of returning to the university from Chicago, Margaret went to Minneapolis and then to Manitoba where she took a teaching position in Winnipeg and later to many other locations where she taught, often in small settlements, sometimes for only six months. She wanted to keep moving and learning, and in January 1898 took a train to Kamloops and then to Seattle, Washington, a city filled with gold prospectors heading for the Klondike. Margaret took the teacher's exam and then a first-grade position in Pysht, a small settlement on the Olympic peninsula. After a teaching position in Port Angeles, she took over an educational book supply business.

As she traveled through Washington state, she made many contacts, and in 1903 reconnected with Dr. Stowe-Gullen at a National Education Association conference in Boston. She went back to Washington with a renewed interest in women's issues and founded her own suffrage club. In 1906, she quit teaching to become Secretary of the Washington State Suffrage Association. In 1910, she traveled 8,000 miles in thirty days to raise funds. Later that year, Washington granted women the right to vote.

Margaret then became a businesswoman, registering a timber claim in the Coast Range, and taking a teaching position nearby. In 1914, she turned her attention to grain land and took a teaching position in Calgary to oversee her new venture. When WWI broke out, she volunteered for the Red Cross, collecting grain donations and teaching in Red Deer. She maintained her interest in women's suffrage, attending a speech in 1917 to hear Nellie McClung at the first election in the prairies where women were allowed to vote.

In 1917, at 52, after thirty years of travel, teaching, business, and fundraising as a suffrage organizer, she became the first woman superintendent of the Vancouver Girls' Industrial School, a place of detention and punishment needing reform. For twelve years she addressed health, behavioral, and academic issues, and although she struggled with the press and others, improved the school greatly.

Miss Margaret Bayne spent retirement in a cottage overlooking English Bay, and died in 1946 at age 81.


Fortieth Annual Report of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (convention) held at Buffalo, October 15 to 21st, Inclusive, 1908, accessible online at

C.H. Baily, "How Washington Women Regained the Ballot," Pacific Monthly, Vol. XXVI, No. 1 (July, 1911), 1-11, accessible at

Alastair Glegg, "Margaret Bayne and the Vancouver Girls' Industrial School," Historical Studies in Education, 18:2 (fall/autumn, 2006), 201-23, accessible at

Smandych, Russell Charles, et al. Dimensions of Childhood: Essays on the History of Children and Youth in Canada. Legal Research Institute of the University of Manitoba, 1991. Accessible at

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