Sarah Ramsland: Pioneer in Politics and Library Service.

Author:Bennett, Melissa K.
 
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After winning a by-election caused by the unexpected death of her husband, Sarah Katherine Ramsland became Saskatchewan's first woman MLA in 1919. Serving until her defeat in 1925, Ramsland then made the transition into the province's Legislative Library from 1926 to 1930. Noted for her dignity, firmness, and forthrightness, Ramsland is celebrated in Saskatchewan for her pioneering role as first female MLA, her pioneering contributions to library services, and for keeping her watchful eye on the Library Reading Room for one hundred years!

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In today's Canadian parliamentary environment, the policies and practices of non-partisan legislative services would bar a politician from crossing over to a non-partisan role in the legislative service. In earlier days, however, this was not always the case. In Saskatchewan, the Province's first female Member of the Legislative Assembly, Sarah Katherine Ramsland, served as MLA from 1919 to 1925 and then worked for the Saskatchewan Legislative Library from 1926 to 1930.

Sarah Ramsland was born Sarah McEwen in 1882 in Minnesota. She taught school in Minnesota until she married Magnus O. (Max) Ramsland. Historians note that Sarah always had an interest in politics. Her grandfather had been a member of the Minnesota Legislature and Max's father was a member of the Minnesota Legislature as well. Sarah and Max moved to Saskatchewan in 1906, where they farmed and Max brokered real estate, loans, and insurance. They had three children.

Max Ramsland successfully ran as a Liberal candidate for the Pelly constituency in Saskatchewan's 1917 provincial general election. A year later, tragedy struck when Max died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. The Liberal government of the day, faced with calling a by-election, asked Sarah to run for the vacated seat and she agreed. Historians believe that the Liberals backed Sarah Ramsland as their candidate because they thought she would generate a sympathy vote and they wanted to provide an income for her and the children.

During the by-election campaign, a newspaper headline of the day declared "Mrs. Ramsland is Making Strong Run in Pelly: With a Woman Friend, Tours Rough Country Canvassing for Votes." The friend was Sarah's sister-in-law. They had toured the northern part of the constituency by car and addressed two meetings a day. Newspaper coverage of a campaign event reported that Ramsland spoke "in a clear and emphatic way" and "showed the people that she was...

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