Tilly Rolston

First woman in Canada to be appointed a cabinet minister with portfolio (1952)

Tilly Rolston

Tilly Rolston was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1887. Following her studies at the Vancouver Provincial Normal School and the University of British Columbia, Rolston worked as a teacher and later as a homemaker and Sunday school teacher. She was also involved with numerous community associations, held a leadership role as a Director of the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver and was elected to the Parks Board in 1938.

Rolston entered the provincial political arena at the age of 54, winning election to the Legislative Assembly in 1941 as the Conservative member for the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey. She was re-elected in 1945 and 1949 as a Liberal-Conservative coalition member and, in 1952, as a member of the first Social Credit Party government.

Rolston served for several years as Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Social Welfare. At the House’s direction, the Committee studied and made recommendations on such topics as unemployment, drug addiction and old age and mothers’ pensions.

Following her re-election in 1952, Rolston was appointed Minister of Education, becoming the first woman in Canada to be appointed a cabinet minister with portfolio. During her tenure, she introduced a new school funding formula that transferred some of the financial burden from the municipal to the provincial level.

Rolston died of cancer in October of 1953. She was the first woman in British Columbia to be given a state funeral.