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TimeLinks: Winona Flett (Mrs. F. J. Dixon) and Lynn Flett

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Members of Political Equality League

Winona and Lynn Flett, sisters, were prominent figures in Winnipeg's women's movement. Both began their political careers as independent women: Lynn worked as a courtroom stenographer while Winona operated her own business as public stenographer. Both were members of the Canadian Women's Press Club, an organization which brought together professional women and served as a means of making professional and political connections.

In 1912, the Flett sisters were active in founding the Political Equality League, an organization which, although it was primarily concerned with women's suffrage, also took up other progressive causes, including better working conditions for women and a meaningful minimum wage. Winona Flett served on the executive of this organization through much of its existence.

In 1914, the League backed a number of progressive Liberal and Labour candidates in the provincial election. Many prominent suffragists including Lillian Beynon Thomas and Nellie McClung campaigned for progressive candidates and lent the prestige attached to their names. The Flett sisters became deeply involved in the campaign in North Winnipeg of Fred Dixon, an independent labour candidate and one of the small number of progressive men who were members of the Political Equality League.

Later that year, Winona Flett married Dixon, then a newly elected MLA. She retired from her stenographic career at this point, but continued to be seen on public platforms as a champion of issues that she favoured, and took seriously the role of MLA's wife, which was very demanding of time and energy. In addition to her public appearances, which she used to urge women to exercise their franchise and to support labour candidates, she handled much of the constituency work. She also continued to serve in a number of capacities with voluntary organizations, including as a secretary to the Political Equality League. After the summer of 1917, much of her attention was turned to the demands of motherhood and her community profile diminished, although she returned to work in the fall of 1917 in anticipation of her husband's imprisonment for his opposition to mandatory registration for conscription. In the end, Dixon was not arrested.

Winona Dixon was a frequent speaker at J.S. Woodsworth's Peoples' Forum, a series of lectures on a wide range of issues including political theory, current events, history, art and literature, sponsored every Sunday by the All Peoples' Mission. There, she spoke on topics like "The Role of Women in Industrial Society" or "The Challenge of the Franchise, " sometimes sharing the podium with her sister or her husband.

In January of 1919, the Flett sisters took the pulpit at the "Women's Sunday" gathering of William Ivens' Labour Church to lecture on the shared interest of organized labour and the women's movement. There, Lynn Flett asserted, "The women's struggle is linked with labour's; both fight economic bondage, but women have the additional burden of male domination."

Winona Dixon died of pneumonia in March of 1922 weeks after the birth of her third child. Two years later, after the death of the sisters' mother, who was raising the Dixon children, Lynn Flett gave up her job as a courtroom stenographer and moved into the Dixon house to care for her sister's children and to support Fred Dixon, who was also in ill health.

Page revised: 23 August 2009

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