June 17, 2005 11:30 ET

A Place In Cabinet-A Place In History... New Canadian Stamp Honours Ellen Fairclough

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - June 17, 2005) - Through the years, Canada Post has often recognized the enlightened social activism of Canadian women. On June 21, it will once again remind all Canadians of the significant contributions of women to the growth and maturity of this country by issuing a 50-cent stamp to commemorate the many achievements of The Rt. Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough (1905- 2004). Ms. Fairclough was the first woman federal cabinet minister, the first woman in Canadian political history to serve as Acting Prime Minister and the only female postmaster general. The Ellen Fairclough stamp is a welcome addition to the pantheon of Canadian champions featured on Canada Post stamps. The stamp will be unveiled on June 27 at McMaster University in Hamilton.

A lifelong Progressive Conservative, Ms. Fairclough was initially reluctant to enter the political arena. Her first foray into the world of public service was at the municipal level, when in 1946, she was elected to the Hamilton City Council, serving as alderman, city controller and deputy mayor. Defeated in her federal election bid of 1949, she was successful in a by-election the following year and entered Parliament as the Progressive Conservative Member for Hamilton West, a seat she held until 1963. In her first term, she was the only woman with a seat in the Commons.

When John Diefenbaker formed a minority Progressive Conservative government in 1957, he appointed Ellen Fairclough Secretary of State. She thus became the first woman in Canada's history to be sworn into the federal Cabinet. In 1958, she became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and from 1962 to 1963, served as postmaster general. In addition to these portfolios, she was also responsible for a number of agencies including the National Film Board, the National Gallery and the Royal Canadian Mint.

An energetic and capable multitasker, she demonstrated an interest in housing, income tax, unemployment insurance, the post office, and the status of women. Her sense of fairness gained her nationwide attention as she championed private member's bills on equal pay for work of equal value and on banning discrimination in hiring on the basis of sex, race and religion.

The Diefenbaker government was defeated in a vote in the House of Commons, and Ms. Fairclough went down to defeat in the 1963 general election. And though she retired from the give-and-take of active political life, Ellen Fairclough continued to be a key player in her native Hamilton.

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth bestowed upon Ms. Fairclough the title "Right Honourable", in recognition of her service, including the two-day period she was Acting Prime Minister of Canada.

Prior to her election as an M.P., Ellen Fairclough held executive positions in various organizations: Consumers' Association of Canada, Girl Guides, Imperial Order Daughters of Empire, United Empire Loyalist Association, Zonta Club of Hamilton and Zonta International. Ellen Fairclough passed away in November 2004, just two months shy of her 100th birthday.

The stamp will be available for sale in post offices across the country on June 21. It was designed by Toronto-based Katalin Kovats, who has designed definitive stamps for Canada Post as well as the 2003 Authors set. The stamp measures 40 mm x 27.5 mm, and will be sold in a pane of 16. Canadian Bank Note printed 2.5 million of the stamps, using 6-colour lithography and P.V.A. gum on Tullis Russell Coatings paper. It is general tagged on all four sides with 13+ perforations. The Official First Day Cover will read HAMILTON, ONTARIO.

Additional information about Canadian stamps can be found in the Newsroom section of Canada Post's website, and a downloadable high-resolution photo of the Ellen Louks Fairclough stamp is in the Newsroom's Photo Centre. Stamps and Official First Day covers will be available at participating post offices, can be ordered online by following the links at Canada Post's website, or by mail order from the National Philatelic Centre. From Canada and the USA call toll-free: 1-800-565-4362 and from other countries call: (902) 863-6550.

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