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Andrew Swan, MLA Minto
October 20, 2016

Margret Benedictsson

Every member of this House is aware that this year marks the centennial of the first women gaining the right to vote in Manitoba.

While Nellie McClung is rightly given a lot of attention and credit and a wonderful new mural on Sargent Avneue, there were other Manitoba women involved with the struggle for women's suffrage.

One of the loudest and most articulate voices came from Manitoba's Icelandic community. Margret Benedictsson arrived in Manitoba around 1892 and lived for several years on Maryland Street in the West End of Winnipeg.

Within six years she had founded Freyja, an Icelandic language literary and political journal named after the most prominent goddess in Norse mythology and believed to be the only suffrage publication ever to appear in Canada.

Within the pages of Freyja, Margret Benedictsson advocated not just for the vote, but for true full citizenship and participation for Canadian women in all walks of life. Not only did she believe that women would improve the quality of public life, she believed that women were entitled because of their inherent rights as sovereign human beings.

Her views were considered radical at the time, as were her views on marriage as an equal partnership and the need for female employees to have better wages, time off, and protections from the paternalistic control exercised by male employers.

Margret Benedictsson's efforts provided support to the suffrage movement but also unified female Icelandic voices across Manitoba. Although she'd left Manitoba by the time the right to vote was given, it was fitting that Thomas Herman Johnson, himself the son of a pioneer Icelandic suffragist, was acting premier when the law was passed in 1916.

This weekend, the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli will launch an exhibit on the suffrage activity of the women of New Iceland. I encourage all Manitobans to learn more about outspoken and progressive women like Margret Benedictsson who advanced human rights in our province.

Thank you.