First woman in the Commonwealth to be elected Speaker (1950) and first B.C. woman appointed to serve in the Senate of Canada (1953)
Nancy Hodges was born in England in 1888. She attended King’s College at the University of London and, upon graduation, found work as a journalist. In 1912, she immigrated to Canada with her husband, Harry Percival Hodges. They settled first in Kamloops, British Columbia, where together they edited the Inland Sentinel newspaper. Following a move to Victoria in 1916, Hodges became editor of women’s content at the Victoria Times newspaper, a position she would hold for over 20 years before gaining further recognition as a daily columnist.
In 1937, the Victoria Liberal Association asked Hodges to run as a candidate in the provincial general election. Defeated in her first attempt, she ran successfully in 1941, joining the Liberal-Conservative coalition government. Hodges was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1945, 1949 and 1952.
In the Legislative Assembly, Hodges gained a reputation as a skilled debater and supporter of women’s rights. She opposed the layoff of single women following the end of the Second World War, advocated for the extension of benefits to women under the then-Workmen’s Compensation Act and argued for the protection of married women’s property rights.
In 1950, Hodges was elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, becoming the first woman in the Commonwealth to hold this position. “I’ll doubtless find it hard to restrain myself sometimes” said Hodges of the Speakership, a role in which she could not enter the debate. However, fellow members praised her seriousness, efficiency and ability to keep control of the House at all times.
Following her defeat in the 1953 provincial election, Hodges made history once again; in November 1953, she was the first woman from British Columbia to be appointed to the Senate of Canada, where she served until 1965.