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McClung Wedding Dress

Curated Submission
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
157 x 57
Materials & techniques
Cotton, glass beads, metal sequins; Machine-sewn, velvet, beaded
Saskatchewan Western Development Museum WDM-1973-S-2021.2.A.B
Nellie Mooney was born in Ontario in 1873, and her family moved to a Manitoba homestead when she was seven. As a young woman she obtained a teaching certificate and began her career. She also joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, where she became passionate about the suffrage movement. Nellie Mooney married R. Wesley McClung on a rainy August day in 1896 in the village of Wawanesa, near her parents’ old homestead. The couple chose the Presbyterian Church, not her own Methodist, because it accommodated more guests.
Wedding dresses today are almost always white, but that was not the case when McClung married. “White has only been the common colour for wedding dresses since the 1950s,” says Monique Brandt, curator of the Dugald Costume Museum in Manitoba. “Before 1900, most women wanted to buy a dress that they could wear more than once, and white was just not practical.” McClung’s dress is made from olive/brown brocade material.
The dress represents a part of McClung’s life that is often overshadowed by her political achievements. As a wife and mother of five children, she faced criticism for her decision to pursue a career in politics in the early 1900s. McClung was also a successful writer who published several short stories and novels. She is perhaps best known for her role in the Persons Case of 1929, when five Alberta women, including McClung, asked the highest court of the land if the word “Persons” in Section 24 of the British North America Act included female persons. The ruling, ultimately made by the Privy Council in London, determined that women were indeed persons under the Act and therefore eligible to be appointed to the Senate. The Persons Case was a major milestone in the determination of women’s rights. McClung passed away in 1951.
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