In the month before the 1921 election, the United Farmers
of Alberta (UFA) launched an election crusade—and Irene
Parlby was called into personal service. One morning, she
received a phone call asking her to run for election in her
home constituency of Lacombe. She had resigned as President
of the United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA) the year before,
exhausted by the demands of the position. Now she was
looking forward to devoting her time to her family, her
beloved garden, her music and her books.
Her first impulse was to refuse the nomination, but her
own repeated call to women to take their place in public
life swayed her. She agreed to participate, never really
believing that she would get the nomination, and quite
certain she would never be elected.
Although she had spoken on behalf of Alexander Moore,
during his successful campaign in the 1919 by-election, that
was the extent of her election experience. Although she
delivered excellent speeches, Parlby did not enjoy
campaigning, and dreaded the hecklers. Her fears were
allayed when the country people embraced her as their own as
she campaigned throughout her constituency, but her
reception in the towns was less friendly, as the old parties
still had influence. She noticed that her opponents attacked
the one flaw they could find in her: "The only thing which
seemed to concern my opponents was that I am a woman—and
worse, and Englishwoman who, although I came to Western
Canada when it was still an undeveloped wilderness, could
not possibly know anything about it!" Thus, they claimed she
was not an appropriate representative for the people.
Regardless of her naysayers, her friends and neighbours gave
her campaign support, and her husband, Walter, and her son,
Humphrey, provided her with enthusiastic support that helped
carry her through.
On election day, an unprecedented number of voters turned
out and (to their own amazement) the UFA was swept to power
gaining 39 seats out of a total of 61. Parlby won Lacombe
with a huge majority in the rural polls, which offset her
much lower support in the towns.
|Heritage Trail: A Woman of the
||Irene Parlby was reluctant to
run for office as a United Farmers of Alberta member
in 1921. As a Cabinet Minister, she found politics
to be troubling but full of new experiences.