One of the Nellie McClung houses was moved to its new location on August 3.
Two houses with a connection to activist and suffragette Nellie McClung moved to their new home in Manitou.
The move has been a long time coming, said Pembina Manitou Archive curator Al Thorleifson.
“Both houses were in their original sites up until the 1960s,” Thorleifson said. “The McClung house came up for sale and the community looked at it at that time and said, ‘Can’t really afford a museum.’ So they declined to take over the house as a museum.”
After that, the buildings were bought by the Archibald Museum. Now, the Archibald collection is being disbursed, and the houses came back to their original home.
“We were really honoured that they would do that and really happy to have them back,” Thorleifson said. “It’s a big job and I certainly respect the work that the Wallcraft family are doing to try to make sure the collection is disbursed correctly.”
The houses will sit on Main Street just off of Highway 3. One of the houses was moved on August 3, and dozens of people showed up to watch the house roll down the highway and be put onto its new foundation.
“I had goosebumps when it left,” Thorleifson said. “That’s the way we all feel. It’s a big committee of people and they’re really dedicated to it.”
“It’s shivery,” Thorleifson added.
The house that was moved on August 3 was built around 1887 by a pair of brothers. McClung and her husband Wes lived in that house until they moved to Winnipeg.
The other building is a log cabin, built in 1878, situated three miles north of town beside the Hazel School, which was the school McClung first taught at when she came to Manitou. McClung boarded in that log cabin while she taught.
In addition to the move, Thorleifson has been curating two different displays in town. One will focus on the people and events when McClung and Wes were living in Manitou that influenced McClung’s thinking on women’s suffrage. That display will eventually end up being shown in the two houses.
The Manitou Opera House will be hosting “Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote,” an exhibit developed by the Manitoba Museum. The exhibit outlines the Suffragist Movement and commemorates the 100th anniversary of Manitoba women winning the right to vote. The exhibit runs from August 8 to September 15. Admission is $5.
“If we don’t know where we’ve been we’ll make the same mistakes,” Thorleifson said. “I think it’s profoundly important that young people know their heritage, know where they’ve been and where they’re going.”
To help impart that message, all students in Manitou are going to tour the houses and the two exhibits in the fall.
Thorleifson hopes the exhibits help people understand how McClung developed her line of thinking. “[There was also] the importance of people like her mother-in-law Annie McClung, who was walking from door to door in Manitou in 1892, 20 years before women got the vote,” Thorleifson said. “[She] talked to the women in the community saying ‘Women need the vote, we’ve got to work for women’s suffrage.’ That woman had a big influence on Nellie.”
“It’s stories like that, part of the heritage of the community and the things that really influenced the way Nellie thought,” Thorleifson added. “I don’t mean to give too much credit to Nellie, she was only one of the Famous Five, and there were thousands of women and men across Manitoba who were all working for it or it never would have happened. She’s one, but she sure was a fiery speaker. She sure had an influence.”