Cairine Wilson
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Cairine Wilson

Cairine Wilson
Cairine Wilson.jpg
Canadian Senator
from Ontario

February 15, 1930 - March 3, 1962
Personal details
Cairine Reay Mackay

(1885-02-04)February 4, 1885
Montreal, Quebec
DiedMarch 3, 1962(1962-03-03) (aged 77)
Ottawa, Ontario
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Norman Wilson
RelationsJane Mackay, mother, Robert Mackay, father

Cairine Reay Mackay Wilson (February 4, 1885 – March 3, 1962) was Canada's first woman to become senator.


In 1918, Wilson and her family moved to Ottawa, where Cairine performed extensive volunteer work. This includes working with underprivileged children, refugees and the poor, as well as running political organizations that influence women and children to get involved in politics.[1] She helped found the Twentieth Century Liberal Association and the National Federation of Liberal Women of Canada, of which she was President from 1938 to 1948.[2]

Rt. Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King unveiled a plaque to the Valiant 5 in the Person's Case

Wilson was appointed the first female senator of the country at the age of 45 in February 1930 by the government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King; this was just four months after the Persons Case judgment was handed down by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Previously, women had not been allowed to serve in the Senate, as the lower courts did not consider women to be "persons" and were prohibited from being called to the Senate.

As president of the League of Nations Society of Canada in 1938, Senator Wilson spoke out against the Munich Agreement's appeasement of Hitler. During the Second World War, the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King was resistant to permitting Jewish refugees from Germany to settle in Canada, but she was able to arrange the acceptance of 100 orphans.

In 1949, at the request of King's successor Louis St. Laurent, Wilson became Canada's first female delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She was the chairman of the Canadian National Committee on Refugees and the first woman to chair Senate Standing Committee (Immigration and Labour). She was given the Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honor by France in 1950 for her work with child refugees.

Wilson again made parliamentary history in 1955 when she became the first woman Deputy Speaker of the Canadian Senate.


Wilson was recognized for her continuous dedication to advocacy-related work.[3] She served as the Chairman of the Canadian-American Women's Committee, President of the Princess Alice Foundation for the Training of Youth Leaders, Vice-President of the Victorian Order of Nurses, Honorary President of the Ottawa Young Women's Christian Association and the Save the Children Fund. In 1930, Wilson established the National Organization of Young Liberals, with the support of her friends and family. Wilson would send groups of youth across Canada on a periodical basis, in hopes of providing them with a better understanding of politics.[3]

Personal life

Cairine Reay Mackay was born in Montreal on February 4, 1885. She was born into a family of Scottish-Canadians that were very wealthy and influential.[4] Cairine was the daughter of Jane and Hon Mackay. Robert Mackay, a Liberal Senator and personal friend of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Cairine Wilson was introduced to her future husband by Laurier's wife, Zoe, at a 1905 state ball.[1] In 1909, she married Norman Wilson, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Russell, who died on July 14, 1956 due to having failing health for some time. Before his death, however, they moved to Cumberland, Ontario and raised eight children together.


Cairine Wilson died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 77 years on Saturday, March 3, 1962. She spent three weeks at the Civic hospital in Ottawa with complications that were emerging from her hip fractures that she suffered from a year before her death. Wilson's funeral services took place on a Tuesday at the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Ottawa.[5]

A secondary school in Orleans, Ontario is named after Wilson.[6]


  1. ^ a b Gorham, Harriet. "Cairine Wilson". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008.
  2. ^ Knowles, Valerie (2005). Capital lives : profiles of 32 leading Ottawa personalities. Ottawa: Book Coach Press. ISBN 0-9739071-1-8.
  3. ^ a b Ross Lowrey, Mary (June 11, 1995). "First Lady of the Senate". B. 4: Biographies of Women.
  4. ^ Forster, Merna (2004). "Cairine Wilson". A Guide to Women in Canadian History.
  5. ^ "Senator Wilson Dies". Winnipeg Free Press. 5 March 1962.
  6. ^ "School sign mistakenly honours Wilson Phillips singer". CBC.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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