Plan - Student
Worksheet - Bibliography/Resources
EPISODE 38: The Reluctant
Politician: The Story of Irene Parlby
Directed by David Adkin
Irene Parlby was a child of
privilege. Born in 1868, in London, England, her father was a Colonel
in the British army. Hers was a world of governesses, garden parties and
polo. An invitation from a girlfriend brought her to frontier Alberta
in 1896. Falling in love with a neighbouring Oxford University educated
bachelor, caused her to stay. Irene Parlby, much to her credit, pulled
up her shirt-sleeves, and became a farmer's wife.
Both Irene and Walter joined the United Farmer Workers of Alberta, determined
to improve the social conditions for Alberta farmers. Articulate and educated,
Irene was urged to take on the responsibility of president of the United
Farm Women of Alberta. Through this forum, she urged for hospitals to
be built, travelling medical and dental clinics to be initiated, and the
creation of education systems which ensured that the children of Alberta
would have the opportunity to get an education until at least the age
of sixteen. From this forum, Irene was asked, and reluctantly agreed,
to seek a seat in the provincial legislature.
With her election in 1921, Irene Parlby became only the second women in
the British Empire to be appointed to the cabinet. She is perhaps best
known as one of the "Alberta Five", a group of five prominent
Alberta Women, who challenged the Canadian Government all the way to the
Privy Council in London, England, to have women declared "Persons"
under the British North American Act. In October of 1929, this was accomplished.
In 1930, Irene Parlby was asked by Prime Minister Bennett to represent
Canada at the League of Nations. Parlby retired from formal public life
in 1935, although she continued to be a popular speaker on the radio and
in person. With every opportunity, she delivered her message of cooperation
to improve the living conditions of every Canadian.
- Hardships faced by the homesteaders
- Exploring the class system
of Victorian England.
- Equality for women in Canada.
- Alberta Five;
- League of Nations;
- United Farm Women of Alberta;
- Privy Council.
- To understand some of the
hardships faced by Alberta's homesteaders.
- To explore the battles which
women had to fight in order to be considered "Persons" under
- To explore Canada's coming
of age following World War I. Attention to The League of Nations.
- Examine what Irene Parlby
meant by cooperation to improve the rights for everybody.
- The "Alberta Five"
were five Alberta women of distinction. Who were they and what were
they fighting for? Write an essay on any five women you think should
be called "The Canada Five" because of their strong voices
and concern for their communities. They can be people in your own family,
community, city, etc. or people you have read or heard about.
- Irene Parlby was appointed
to the League of Nations, which later became the United Nations. Set
up a mock United Nations in your classroom. The nations you will be
representing are "Eastern Canada," "Quebec," "Ontario"
and "the West." Discuss national unity and how each "country"
can get what it needs and wants from staying in Canada, or why they
have to separate and form their own country.
- Canada's small, family-run
farms are in a state of crisis. Visit a local farm, or research farmers'
lives to find out what the problems are they are facing Then, pretending
you are Irene Parlby, write a letter to your government explaining (or
demanding!) what you want them to do to help your local farmers.
- Canada is known as a multicultural
country, but our British roots are strong. Plan an English High Tea
(tea, scones, whipped cream, strawberry jam, little finger sandwiches)
in your classroom and have a feast to celebrate our English heritage.
- Pretend you have just left
your family, possessions and conveniences behind in England, and have
arrived in your new home - an isolated, rural farm in Northern Alberta.
Write a letter home to your family telling them what it is like there,
how you plan to "make it" in your new home, and what it is
you miss most.
- Like in Irene Parlby's days,
isolation is still a big problem for many women today, particularly
stay-at-home mothers in small towns and in the country. Pretend you
are a farm-wife in a rural community and are worried about the problems
facing other farm wives. Pull a group of them together (organize!) and
see what ideas and plans you can come up with to improve your lot.