Roberta MacAdams – second woman elected to a Commonwealth Legislature

Roberta MacAdams – second woman elected to a Commonwealth Legislature and one of the first women elected to a legislature in the British Empire, Roberta MacAdams was serving with a nursing unit during World War One when she ran for office. Although trained as a “domestic science instructor,” MacAdams volunteered in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in 1916. It was while serving in England that she entered politics for the first time, running in the Alberta provincial election of 1917. At the time, she was overseeing the production of over 6000 meals a day for patients and staff at the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, England.

Her striking election flyer has been preserved as a reminder of an effective political campaign. The flyer has a picture of a stern-faced MacAdams, in her military nursing uniform. It was evident she had decided to campaign on the natural sympathy for nurses at the time, asking military voters to: “Remember those who have helped you so nobly through the fight.”

MacAdams election flyer: "Soldiers and Nurses from Alberta! You will have two votes at the forthcoming Election under the Alberta Military Representation Act. Give one vote to the man of your choice and the other to the sister. She will work not only for your best interests but for those of your wives, mothers, sweethearts, sisters and children after the war. Remember those who have helped you so nobly through the fight."

MacAdams benefited from the special law for the 38,000 Alberta soldiers and 75 military nurses serving overseas, enacted by the Liberal government of the province at the time. The soldiers were expected to vote Conservative.  So the Liberal government, rather than allowing them to vote in their home ridings, created two special MLA positions at-large, with the Alberta Military Representation Act. MacAdams topped the polls, defeating 19 male candidates in the vote. In the Legislature, she joined Louise McKinney - who had just been elected the first women in the Commonwealth a few months earlier in the general election.

MacAdams became the first woman in the British Empire to introduce and successfully move a piece of legislation, the "Act to Incorporate the Great War Next-of-Kin Association.”

After the war, MacAdams did not run for re-election in 1921.  However, she continued to live in the province until her death in 1959.
Spacer Alberta Alberta Video Clip