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McNAUGHTON (MacNaughton), ANNE CECILIA (Spofford), teacher, temperance worker, suffragist, and school trustee; b. 4 Dec. 1859 in Sydney, N.S., daughter of Duncan McNaughton and Jane Lavinia Musgrave*; m. 5 Dec. 1883 William Henry Spofford (d. 11 Dec. 1937) in Victoria, B.C.; they had no children; d. there 18 Feb. 1938.

Cecilia McNaughton moved to Victoria with her family in 1877. The McNaughtons were Baptists and their arrival coincided with the westward spread of their faith. Within a few months Cecilia was secretary-treasurer of the women’s missionary circle of First (Calvary) Baptist Church formed by her mother. In the summer of 1877 she graduated from Victoria High School and passed the provincial teachers’ examination. For a few years she taught school on Vancouver Island and in the Gulf Islands, but between posts she served briefly as superintendent of a Baptist mission to Chinese immigrants. None of these endeavours were hampered by her glass eye, which she may have begun using after a childhood accident.

In 1883 McNaughton became recording secretary of the newly established Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of British Columbia [see Catharine Morton*], adopting its goals of Prohibition and women’s suffrage as her own. Late that year she married William Henry Spofford, a carpenter from Ontario, but despite her new responsibilities she found time in 1884 to organize a Young Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and to canvass Victoria with Margaret Jenkins [Townsend*], encouraging women to exercise their newly obtained right to vote for school trustees. In 1885 she accepted the presidency of the provincial WCTU; her duties entailed some travel. She served for a year, and then she held a variety of executive positions at the provincial level and in the Victoria Union.

Again chosen as president of the provincial WCTU in 1893, Spofford would hold office for three years and include the advocacy of women as school trustees on the organization’s agenda. When a WCTU petition to allow women to be elected as trustees was rejected by the Legislative Assembly in 1894, she worked to found the Local Council of Women of Victoria and Vancouver Island. The council’s petition for women trustees, presented the following year, succeeded. Spofford, the council’s first choice as its candidate, did not have the necessary property qualifications, so her colleague Maria Heathfield Grant [Pollard] was selected instead.

From 1899 to 1901 Spofford was employed as matron of the WCTU’s Refuge Home and of the men’s mission established in 1900. After assuming different roles on the WCTU executive, she was hired in 1905 as its first paid provincial organizer in anticipation of a plebiscite on Prohibition. On the road for two or three months at a time, she exhibited an independence then rarely seen in married women. In 1907, after heading delegations to the government and adding 209 members and 10 local unions to the provincial WCTU in one year, she was elected its president by acclamation; she would hold the position for the next 12 years. She instituted a campaign to allow municipalities to control the sale of alcohol and was named third vice-president of the British Columbia Local Option League in 1908. Frustrated by municipal and provincial governments’ lack of action on women’s suffrage, she launched yet another drive to lobby for the franchise. Her popularity among members of the WCTU increased, and she was awarded life memberships in the provincial and dominion organizations.

Spofford was at the forefront of temperance activity during World War I, rallying crowds prior to provincial referendums on Prohibition and women’s suffrage held during the general election of 1916. Both measures would be ratified in 1917 by the Liberal government of Harlan Carey Brewster*. Sometime before World War I, Spofford and her husband had become managers of the home established by the Children’s Aid Society of Victoria. When William was called up for military service, she continued with the help of an assistant until her resignation in 1917. The next year she was a candidate for the post of police commissioner, promising to enforce the British Columbia Prohibition Act of 1916, but she lost the race. She then sought to become an independent candidate in a provincial by-election in Victoria City, but withdrew when it became evident that she had little support. Her third attempt for public office, in January 1919, was successful; she was elected for a two-year term as a school trustee. Several months later she was the only woman appointed to a four-person commission on health insurance which held provincewide hearings on a variety of welfare measures. In 1920 she was named to, and then chaired, the advisory board in Victoria to administer the new Mothers’ Pensions Act. She also tried to obtain the Liberal nomination for a provincial seat in the general election of that year but finished behind three men. John Hart*, the minister of finance, regretted her defeat, claiming that she would have been “a splendid acquisition in the House.” She was, however, re-elected to the Victoria School Board in 1921; during her campaign she had pointed with pride to the board’s establishment of a technical school and its reopening of Victoria College. After she lost the school-board election in 1923, she gave a series of lectures on citizenship and wrote The busy women’s handbook on civics and laws, a scholarly treatise on government institutions, laws, and the qualifications needed by women in British Columbia in order to vote and hold public office.

Early in 1924 Spofford and her husband moved to California, but two years later they were back in British Columbia and she resumed her activities. She was elected president of the Victoria branch of the Women’s Canadian Club. In 1930 she became the first woman president of the British Columbia Baptist Convention. She was named honorary president of the British Columbia Baptist Women’s Missionary Society in 1935 and wrote its history. Acclaimed president of the Local Council of Women, she served from 1933 to 1936, and on its 40th anniversary she delivered her presidential address by radio. On 14 April 1937, at age 77, she was unanimously elected president of the British Columbia Provincial Council of Women; she died after a brief illness before completing her first term.

Spofford’s talent for organization and strategy had placed her at the helm of many organizations. “She had the quality of leadership that inspired respect and the kind of judgment that swayed decisions,” wrote the Daily Colonist at her death. Her extensive knowledge of laws affecting women and children arose from her experience as matron and as a member of numerous boards, but the Victoria Daily Times also credited her with “an amazingly keen and analytical mind.” “Much of what has been accomplished in the way of social legislation in British Columbia has been led up to by her pioneering efforts,” said the Colonist. Spofford herself never forgot the difficulties that had hindered her endeavours. In a letter to the Colonist published in June 1937, she recalled “the rebuffs, the ridicule and sometimes the abuse” women had endured when they pleaded for recognition as citizens.

Lyn Gough

Anne Cecilia McNaughton Spofford wrote under her married name The busy women’s handbook on civics and laws ([Victoria], n.d.).

BCA, GR-0706; GR-1468, box 2; GR-2951, nos.1937-09-537076, 1938-09-540006; GR-2962, no.1883-09-002808. Daily Colonist, 24 Jan., 14 July 1877; 8 June 1937; 19, 22 Feb. 1938. Lyn Gough, “Long life of worthwhile effort: Spofford was a feminist long before the term was invented,” Times Colonist (Victoria), 2 June 1985; “Victoria’s forgotten suffragettes,” Times Colonist, 5 April 1987. Victoria Daily Times, 9 Nov. 1920, 9 April 1927, 18 Feb. 1938. J. C. Baker, Baptist history of the north Pacific coast: with special reference to western Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska (Philadelphia and Boston, [1912]). C. L. Cleverdon, The woman suffrage movement in Canada, intro. Ramsay Cook (2nd ed., Toronto, 1974). Convention of Baptist Churches of B.C., The Convention of Baptist Churches of British Columbia, 1862–1958: B.C. centennial year, 1858–1958 ([Vancouver, 1958]). Elizabeth Forbes, Wild roses at their feet: pioneer women of Vancouver Island ([Victoria], 1971). Lyn Gough, As wise as serpents: five women & an organization that changed British Columbia, 1883–1939 (Victoria, 1988). P. L. Smith, Come give a cheer: one hundred years of Victoria High School, 1876–1976 (Victoria, 1976). Victoria Local Council of Women, Address delivered at the fortieth annual meeting … and constitution ([Victoria, 1935]). Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of B.C., Report of the annual convention (Victoria and Vancouver), 1907‑9; later published as Yearbook and proc. of the annual convention (Vancouver), 1910‑18 (copies held at BCA, Northwest coll.).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Lyn Gough, “McNAUGHTON (MacNaughton), ANNE CECILIA (Spofford),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 25, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcnaughton_anne_cecilia_16E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcnaughton_anne_cecilia_16E.html
Author of Article:   Lyn Gough
Title of Article:   McNAUGHTON (MacNaughton), ANNE CECILIA (Spofford)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2015
Year of revision:   2015
Access Date:   June 25, 2024