Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Nellie Letitia Mooney, 1873 - 1951

By Haley Jensson, student, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Green Bay, WI

Member of Alberta Legislature

Nellie Letitia Mooney was born to John and Letitia Mooney, on October 20, 1873 in Chatsworth, Ontario, Canada. In 1890, she started teaching at Hazel School near Manitou in Manitoba. On August 25, 1896, she married Robert Wesley McClung in Wawanesa, Manitoba. In 1897, they had their first child, John Wesley; in 1906 they had their fourth, Horace Barrie. Nellie died on September 1, 1951 in British Columbia. She is buried in Victoria's Royal Oak Burial Park Cemetery.

Some of Nellie's political achievements include serving in the Alberta legislature, and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations' first board of governors. She was also in the Political Equality League. During her life, Nellie published over ten works, including two autobiographical pieces on her work as a member of the Famous Five, also known as the "Alberta 5." These five women were petitioners in the ground-breaking "Persons" case, brought before the Canadian Supreme Court in 1927, on the right of women to be appointed to Senate. In 1928, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that women were not persons according to British North American Act, and therefore were ineligible for appointment to Senate.

The Political Equality League was a short-lived association, lasting from 1912 to 1916, and was an important organization in the battle for women's suffrage. Nellie was a member of the League and worked for the extension woman's suffrage. Much of the work that was done by the League is also seen in Nellie's writings, which focused on common themes such as feminine abilities.

In the 1910s, Nellie McClung went on a two-year lecture tour in Canada, United States, and Britain. She is documented as giving a lecture in Minnesota in 1916. It focused on women's part in the European war as an argument for woman's suffrage. She is also mentioned in several other newspaper articles and several sources such as History of Women's Suffrage Vol. 6 as being active in the fight for suffrage not only in Canada, but in the United States as well.

After her death at age 77 in 1951, her legacy lived on. She is one of five names inscribed on a plaque at the entrance to the Senate Chambers in Ottawa as a member of the Famous 5. She is also the inspiration for two other foundations, the Nellie McClung Foundation and the Famous Five Foundation. The Nellie McClung foundation gives a cash award to women so that they can continue the development of their work in their fields. The Famous Five Foundation works to ensure the legacy of the "Famous Five" is known and celebrated. Nellie is also eternalized in bronze in the Women are Persons! Monument, dedicated in 2000 in honor of the Persons case, and located on the grounds on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario..


Bemidji Daily Pioneer. (1916, December 05). Retrieved from Library of Congress:

Cavanaugh, C. (2006, June 01). The Canadian Encylopedia . Retrieved from Famous Five :

Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2017, April 25). Nellie McClung, Canadian Writer and Reformer. Retrieved from Encylopaedia Britannica:

Face to Face, Nellie McClung. (n.d.). Retrieved from Canadian Museum of History:

Famous 5 Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from Famou5:

Hathaway, D. (2010, April 23). The Political Equality League of Manitoba. Retrieved from Manitoba Historical Society :

History of Woman Suffrage Volume 6. (n.d.). [LINK]

Marshall, T. (2006, February 07). The Canadian Enclopedia. Retrieved from Persons Case :

Nellie L Mooney McClung . (2000, July 8). Retrieved from Find a Grave:

Nellie McClung. (2017, March 17). Retrieved from Library and Archives Canada:

Nellie McClung Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from Our Nellie:

New York Times. (1951, September 03). ProQuest. Retrieved from The New York Times:

Swann , M., & Strong-Boag, V. (2009). Mooney, Helen Letitia ( McClung). Retrieved from Dictionary of Canadian Biography:

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