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Archives: B.C.’s first female MLA elected

This day in Vancouver history: Jan. 22, 1918

Mary Ellen Smith became the first woman elected to the B.C. Legislature  after a byelection was held in the Vancouver riding to replace her husband, Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Smith, who died the year before.

Running with “Women and children first” as her campaign slogan, Smith defeated her opponent Walter Drinnan by a solid 3,500 votes. She later became, as a member of the Liberal party, the first female cabinet minister in the British Empire, although she resigned from the position after just eight months. Smith helped enact laws establishing minimum wages for women, juvenile court systems and social welfare support for families in need. She was also active with the Suffrage League of Canada, president of the Women's Canadian Club, regent of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, and an executive member of the Canadian Red Cross.