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Allisonian Firsts: Margaret (Fawcett) Norrie

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Margaret (Fawcett) Norrie

First female senator from Nova Scotia, 1972

Graduation portrait of Margaret Fawcett.

Margaret (Fawcett) Norris, Class of 1928

Mount Allison University Archives. Roy Fraser fonds, 8141/1/2/2. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Margaret Rosamund Fawcett was born on 16 October 1905, in Upper Sackville, New Brunswick. She was the daughter of Bliss Fawcett and his second wife Laura (Fullerton). Her father died of typhoid when she was seven years old and thereafter she was raised primarily by her aunt and uncle, Agnes (Fawcett) and George Trueman. As her uncle was headmaster of Stanstead College in Quebec, Margaret attended that institution for four years but returned to her mother in Upper Sackville to attend high school, graduating from Sackville High School in 1924.

The year before her graduation her uncle George Trueman was appointed to the presidency of Mount Allison University. He ensured that she attend Mount Allison University; she graduated in 1928 with a Bachelor of Arts in honors Biology. As she had also earned a certificate in education, the university hired Margaret soon afterwards as an assistant professor to teach Biology; she also helped Professor Roy Fraser with his research. She was also appointed assistant dean of women in 1932-1933.

In 1933, Margaret met and married a widower, James Paul Norrie (Class of 1911), a mining engineer in the early days of Quebec’s gold mining industry. He had four children from his first marriage, and the two of them subsequently had two sons and two daughters. James died of a heart attack at age 53, leaving Margaret a single mother. She immediately relocated to Onslow (near Truro, Nova Scotia), buying the old Norrie homestead. She had no real farming experience so her brother Carman closed down Fawcett’s Upper Sackville farm and went to Onslow for three years to help her. After he returned to his own farm, Margaret hired farm managers.

In the meantime, Margaret, a Liberal, became involved in politics. In 1956, she was the first woman in Nova Scotia to run in an election for any party. Although she was defeated, her political activism continued, along with church work and the running of the family farm. In 1964, she was rewarded for her devoted and tireless work on behalf of the Liberal Party in Nova Scotia - she was appointed to the National Capital Commission. She continued her work with the Nova Scotia Liberal Women’s Association, and in the 1968 Liberal leadership convention she campaigned for Nova Scotia’s Allan J. MacEachen who was defeated by Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Trudeau appointed her to the Senate on 27 April 1972, Nova Scotia’s first female senator. She became a standard bearer on social issues but kept her interest in local Nova Scotia politics. She held the Senate position until 16 October 1980 when she retired and returned to live at the farm. In 1981, Margaret received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from her alma mater, Mount Allison University. Unfortunately, by this time her health was deteriorating rapidly, and she died on 23 August 1983.

Related materials

You can find more information about Margaret (Fawcett) Norrie and peruse the contents of her fonds (accession no. 8374), on our Descriptions Database. Related records also include an oral history interview that historian John G. Reid conducted with Norrie for the publication of Mount Allison: A History (accession no. 8249/1). You can access these records by planning a visit to the archives.