Gladys Grace May Strum

B. February 4, 1906, Gladstone, Manitoba
D. August 15, 2005, Penticton, British Columbia

Gladys Strum was the first woman member of the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) to be elected as a Member of Parliament in Canada. A school teacher by trade, Grace decided to enter politics in the 1930s due to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that affected the Canadian Prairies, as well as her experience dealing with her husband’s tuberculosis.

Gladys joined the CCF in 1935, and would go on to be a CCF candidate in seven federal and provincial elections. Her time as an teacher made her a great educator for the CCF, and in 1945, she was elected President of the Provincial CCF in Saskatchewan. In June of that year, she was elected as a Member of Parliament for the riding of Qu’appelle, making her the first woman member of the CCF to enter the House of Commons. In Parliament, she was labelled “Mother” due to her being the only female MP, and therefore the voice of women across Canada. She used this voice to advocate for pay equity between men and women.

In 1949, Gladys left federal politics, but returned in provincial elections after a short time living in British Columbia and New Zealand for her husband’s health. While abroad, she researched New Zealand’s political systems and gained new insight that she brought back to Saskatchewan. She was elected to the Legislature of Saskatchewan in 1960, the first woman in Saskatoon to do so. While in provincial politics, she helped pass the Medical Care Insurance Act of 1961, which would bring socialized healthcare to Saskatchewan and later be the basis for the national model. Throughout this period, she continuously stood up for female equality in the Legislature.

Gladys was a countrywoman through and through, down to earth, assertive, and forthright. She believed she was born too soon, as the second wave feminism of the 1980s made her a self-proclaimed feminist, and she saw feminism as part of being socialist. In 2004 she was formally recognized by the House of Commons for her work for women’s equality.