The Edith Rogers Fund
In 1920, Edith McTavish Rogers was the first woman elected as an MLA in Manitoba. She was a member of the Manitoba Liberal Party, and was recruited to run as a “star candidate” in the first election in which women could be candidates.
Florence Edith McTavish was born at Norway House, Manitoba, on April 26, 1876, the daughter of Metis parents, Lydia Catherine Christie and Donald C. McTavish, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. McTavish’s mother Lydia Christie was the daughter of William Christie and Mary Sinclair, both Metis.
Rogers had strong family connections to Manitoba’s past. Her maternal great-grandfather, Alexander Christie, served as governor of Assiniboia on two occasions, and supervised the construction of Fort Garry. His son, William J. Christie, worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Manitoba from 1843 to 1873, and was named Inspecting Chief Factor in 1868. Rogers herself was born in the tiny outpost of Norway House, 600 kilometres north of Winnipeg. At age two, she moved with her family to Rupert House, on the shore of James Bay.
In 1920, Rogers was asked to run for the Manitoba Liberal Party in the Winnipeg constituency, which elected 10 members by a single transferable ballot. She accepted, contested the 1920 provincial election, finished eighth on the first count, and was declared elected on the 38th count.
In 1921, she introduced the legislation that incorporated the Winnipeg Foundation. An active advocate of the Child Welfare Act, she was re-elected in 1922 and 1927. During the First World War she was very involved in volunteer work, and was particularly active in social-welfare work, including a term as president of the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg (1919-1933). She served as the only woman on the Winnipeg General Hospital Board, and was secretary of the Central Council of the Battalion Auxiliaries.
For the next two years, Rogers served as a backbench supporter of the Norris administration. Because of her work with Winnipeg’s returned soldiers and unemployed men, she was said to more sympathetic to labour issues. She played a significant role in steering Manitoba’s Child Welfare Act through committee and into law. She also supported the prohibition of alcohol.
She stayed in office until 1932, when she chose not to run for re-election. She resumed her philanthropic career in the Second World War, serving as chair of the Provincial War Council of the Red Cross. She retired in 1942, and died in Colborne, Ontario, five years later.
Rogers’s daughter, Margaret Konantz, served as a Liberal MP from 1963 to 1965, and was the first woman MP from Manitoba.