Women in Politics

The motivation and the impetus all came from the Women’s Movement. Our group (the Corner Brook Status of Women Council) realized that there was a glaring imbalance with virtually no women in any government positions at any level. At that time there was one woman in the House of Assembly…There had never been a woman elected federally. And there were very few women on the school boards or the hospital boards.

– Lynn Verge on her motivation for entering into politics

One of the major issues tackled by the Women’s Movement in Newfoundland and Labrador in the 70s and 80s was the lack of women in political and other decision-making institutions. In the early 70s, there had never been a woman elected to the provincial House of Assembly. There were few or no women on municipal councils, government boards, commissions, and committees.

In 1975, Hazel McIsaac became the first woman elected to the provincial House of Assembly. In 1979 two more women, Hazel Newhook and Lynn Verge were elected and also became the first two women appointed to Cabinet.

But despite these victories, things were slow to improve. In 1982, the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women did a survey and found that in Newfoundland and Labrador only 17% of government boards, commissions, and committees and only 8% of Directors of Crown Corporations were women. In 1985, Lynn Verge was the only woman (out of 52 elected members) in the provincial legislature.

The Status of Women Councils and other women’s groups, like the 52% Solution, worked hard to correct this problem. Women’s groups also lobbied the government to change sexist policies and to ensure their rights. One of the most important examples of this was when women in our province, and across Canada, worked to ensure the Charter of Rights was “guaranteed equally to male and female persons”.

While things have improved since the 70s and 80s, elected women in government still are well under the 52% mark (the percentage of women in our population) that was worked for thirty years ago.