So often it happens that we have heroes in our own backyard which we know so little about. We seem to know far more about people in other provinces and countries who have done great things to improve the lives of others, and yet seem to ignore those who improved the lives of people right here in Saskatchewan. Violet McNaughton is one such person.
Violet McNaughton was born in 1879 in England and immigrated to Canada in 1909. In England, she worked as a teacher. She came to Canada to join her father and brother on their homestead near Harris. There, she met and married John McNaughton, a neighboring homestead. Violet and her husband continued to farm near Harris.
She became a leader in women’s issues, farm issues and co-operative movements. Motivated by the dire living and working conditions on the prairies, she dedicated herself to improving the lives of women and children. She organized the Saskatchewan Women Grain Growers (WGG), one of the most radical groups in Canada at the time because of the class and gender of its members! She worked tireless for the woman’s suffrage movement. She also led the WGG’s campaign to have more trained midwives, nurses, doctor and hospitals. The WGG advocated to have these service be affordable and in close proximity to farm families. Because of their strong campaign, legislation in 1916 allowed for the establishment of union hospitals, municipal nurses and doctors. This led the way to many hospitals opening in rural Saskatchewan.
From 1919 to 1923, Violet was the president of the Inter-provincial Council of Farm Women and the Women’s Section of the Canadian Council of Agriculture. By the 1920’s, she was one of the most influential people in Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association. She helped to organize the Wheat Pools, the Saskatchewan Egg and Poultry Pool and the newspaper, the Western Producer. In 1925, she became the women’s editor of the Western Producer, a position she kept until 1950. Throughout all her life, Violet McNaughton worked for co-operation and peace. She was a Canadian delegate to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Violet McNaughton is truly a Saskatchewan hero who fought hard to improve the conditions of her peers and those who would come after her. Although she has been gone since 1968, we continue to benefit today from the many things she fought for and worked so diligently toward. October is Women’s History Month. It is important that we recognize the contributions of fellow Saskatchewanian women and acknowledge their contributions. Our society would be much different if not for the conviction and compassion of women like Violet McNaughton.