A century ago, a savvy campaign won Canadian women the right to vote

OTTAWA -- "We were young and vigorous and full of ambition. We would rewrite our history. We would copy no other country.

See Full Article

We would be ourselves, and proud of it." -- Nellie McClung.

It was the kind of savvy political strategy that politicians and lobbyists attempt to craft today: Stitch together a coalition of supporters from diverse communities, secure financial backers, mount a successful ad campaign, and earn some positive media coverage.

A group of women in Manitoba used it to win the right to vote a century ago.

The province was the first place in Canada to bring in women's suffrage, on Jan. 28, 1916. That triggered a wave of changes -- first in Western Canada and finally at the federal level in 1919. Indigenous people, it should be noted, did not get the vote federally until 1960.

The Manitoba movement was complex.

There were people who supported temperance, and the havoc they believed alcohol was wreaking on families. There were many journalists -- members of the Canadian Women's Press Club. Some unions supported women's suffrage, as did powerful farmers' groups.

Members of the Political Equality League, which included such notable members as Nellie McClung, Cora Hind and Lillian Beynon Thomas, as well as male supporters, helped recruit and rally those disparate voices with speeches, meetings and articles in the papers. They had paid organizers, and launched a major publicity blitz at the Winnipeg Stampede in 1913.

"I've always said that if (Beynon Thomas) had been running things today, she would have been running a strategy group that planned elections, because she was the plotter of the whole thing," said Linda McDowell, a retired Manitoba history teacher and expert on women's suffrage.

Businesswoman Martha Jane Hample, who would go on to become a member of the provincial legislature, helped bankroll the activities of the league. Outside Winnipeg, there were other hives of suffragist activity in Gimli and in the Roaring River district.

"Rural women in Manitoba by 1916 had telephones, good train service and good mail service, and people like Nellie McClung ... travelled to all these places; every little town had an auditorium or an opera house," said McDowell.

"Really, there was a big network, and they had a lot of support."

Social media and viral videos didn't exist, of course, but in 1914 the women created major buzz with a provocative play at the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg. Their mock Parliament parodied the intransigence of Manitoba Premier Rodmond Roblin, and imagined a parallel world where women were in power.

"Politics unsettles men and unsettled men means unsettled bills, broken furniture, broken vows and divorce.... Man's place is on the farm," McClung told the crowd, playing the role of Roblin.

Roblin's government fell the following year amid scandal, and the new Liberal government finally extended the vote to women in 1916.

Today, 29 per cent of the Manitoba legislature is composed of women lawmakers. Of the 14 MPs from the province, three are women.

"I thought in 100 years we'd be further along than we are, whether it's women in politics, women on boards, women running big companies," lamented Myrna Driedger, founder of the Nellie McClung Foundation and a Conservative member of the Manitoba legislature.

Still, Driedger said she's felt in recent years that there is a new energy among women in Canada, a conviction that they must have a seat at the decision-making table. Earlier this month, 600 women gathered in Winnipeg at a business networking event called "SHE Day."

"It seems that there is something happening," she said.

"We are taking more charge of ensuring that we can be leaders, and inspiring leaders, and inspiring the women who come after us."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Same-sex couples start registering marriages in Taiwan

    World News CTV News
    TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Hundreds of same-sex couples in Taiwan are rushing to get married on the first day a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage takes effect. One household registration office in Taipei was packed Friday as couples seized the earliest opportunity to tie the knot. Source
  • Brazil's supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime

    World News CTV News
    RIO DE JANEIRO -- A majority in Brazil's supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains. Source
  • More than video shows in Vegas bus shove murder case: lawyer

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- There is more to know than a bus security video clip has shown about the case of a 25-year-old woman accused of killing a 74-year-old man by shoving him off a public bus in Las Vegas, an attorney defending the woman on a murder charge said Thursday. Source
  • Family of incapacitated woman who was raped blames Arizona

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX -- The parents of an incapacitated woman who was raped and later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care centre alleges in a $45 million legal claim that the facility and state broke their promise to have only female caregivers tend to their daughter. Source
  • Calgary man convicted of murder for second time after new trial ordered

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- A Calgary man has been convicted of the killing of a University of Calgary student -- for the second time.READ MORE on this story from CTV News Calgary A jury convicted Mitchell Harkes Thursday of the second-degree murder of 20-year-old Brett Wiese, who was fatally stabbed in the back at a party in January 2013. Source
  • Lawyer says deal close in Weinstein sexual misconduct lawsuits

    World News CBC News
    A tentative deal is close to settling lawsuits brought against the television and film company co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women. "We now have an economic agreement in principal that is supported by the plaintiffs, the AG's office, the defendants and all of the insurers that, if approved, would provide significant compensation to victims, creditors and the estate, and allow the parties to avoid years of costly, time consuming and…
  • Trump moves to escalate investigation of intel agencies

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump directed the U.S. intelligence community on Thursday to "quickly and fully co-operate" with Attorney General William Barr's investigation of the origins of the multi-year probe of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. Source
  • Reports: Theresa May expected to announce departure as British PM

    World News CTV News
    LONDON — Increasingly isolated, Prime Minister Theresa May backed down Thursday from plans to seek Parliament’s support for a Brexit bill already rejected by much of her Conservative Party, as expectations rose that she would cave in to demands that she resign and let a new leader try to complete the U.K. Source
  • Theresa May expected to announce departure as British PM: reports

    World News CTV News
    LONDON — Increasingly isolated, Prime Minister Theresa May backed down Thursday from plans to seek Parliament’s support for a Brexit bill already rejected by much of her Conservative Party, as expectations rose that she would cave in to demands that she resign and let a new leader try to complete the U.K. Source
  • Canada seeing spike in temporary visas as migrant worker advocates raise alarm

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Applications for temporary resident visas issued to visitors, students and temporary workers in Canada have more than quadrupled since 2015, stretching the Immigration Department's ability to process them, according to a federal report. Source