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Immigrant was a champion of women's rights

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/1/2016 (1529 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NEWCOMERS are today celebrating the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in Manitoba.

Welcome Place is hosting a lunch and paying homage to an immigrant woman who was in the vanguard of the province's suffrage movement.

Margret Benedictsson

Margret Benedictsson

Icelander Margrét Benedictsson was an ardent feminist and magazine publisher who wasn't included in the Famous Five with Nellie McClung, but led the fight for women's rights in the Icelandic community.

"She's a hero," said immigration lawyer and event organizer Bashir Khan.

"She's important to us as immigrants and newcomers. She's a person who immigrated to Manitoba like many of us."

English wasn't her first language, and she belonged to a minority religion, but that didn't stop her from standing up and demanding her rights, said Khan. "She worked very hard."

Benedictsson launched the Icelandic-language magazine Freyja in 1898 to publish stories about women's issues. A post on the Manitoba Historical Society website said in Benedictsson's day, the Icelandic population was cut off from the Anglo-Saxon majority by its different language and culture. One major difference was the status and role of women.

Women in Iceland had a long tradition of equal rights when it came to cultural, economic and political participation, it said.

Benedictsson attended business college and, according to a historic plaque posted outside her former home at 530 Maryland St., was a founder of the Icelandic women's suffrage society in 1908.

Benedictsson was ahead of her time when it came to championing women's rights, said Khan.

"She wished to see women in the family as equal partners -- as in a business concern but with that relationship expanded into family life."

On Jan. 28, 1916, most Manitoba women got the right to vote in provincial elections, and Manitoba became the first Canadian province to give women the right to vote.

Today's 100th anniversary celebration of that event is hosted by the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council's Welcome Place and the Pakistan-Canada Cultural Equation of Manitoba.

Khan said the noon-hour gathering at Welcome Place, 521 Bannatyne Ave., includes a free lunch, and the public is welcome -- especially immigrants and refugees.

"Anybody who's a newcomer to Canada and doesn't know about Canadian history -- they need to know why we have women's rights," said Khan, who has represented clients from countries where basic human rights aren't respected.

It's important for newcomer women to know their rights and where they came from -- because of efforts by women such as Benedictsson and McClung, he said.


Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography


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Updated on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 11:18 AM CST: Adds accent.

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