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Nielsen, Dorise Winifred (1902-80)

Dorise Winifred Webber was born on July 30, 1902, in London, England. After attending college and teaching in England, she emigrated to Saskatchewan in January 1927 to take up a teaching post near the present town of Spiritwood. She soon married a homesteader, Peter Nielsen, and gave birth to four children, one of whom died in infancy. By 1935 both Peter and Dorise were staunch supporters of the new CCF Party although Dorise's politics moved further left. She became a member of the Meadow Lake CCF executive and the Provincial Council of the CCF. The Meadow Lake CCF executive joined with Social Credit and Communist Party supporters to form the United Progressives. Nielsen as their candidate defeated the federal Liberal incumbent in 1940. She was the third woman to hold a seat in the Parliament of Canada. Considered one of the best speakers in the House, she worked conscientiously to bring attention to the plight of the west. While the Communist Party was outlawed (1940-42), she was spokesperson for its policies in Parliament, and active in the crusade to have its members released from prison. She also protested the internment of Japanese Canadians, advocated equal pay for women in the armed services, and proposed, successfully, that the new family allowance be payable to the mother. Following her defeat in 1945, she moved to Toronto and worked for the Labour Progressive (Communist) Party in various capacities. As the party dwindled, she sought other employment but could find very little that suited her abilities. Finally, in 1957 she moved to China, where she worked until her death on December 8, 1980, as an English teacher and polisher of English texts for the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing.

Faith Johnston

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Further Reading

Johnston, Faith. 1989. “Dorise Nielsen, the Life and Times of a Canadian Woman in Politics.” MA thesis, Carleton University.
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