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

  • Paratrooper becomes 1st French casualty in anti-ISIS coalition

    World News CTV News
    PARIS - A French paratrooper has died in combat while fighting extremists in the Mideast as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, in what appears to be the first official French casualty in the operation. Source
  • You big dummy! Las Vegas police reveal mannequin's role in search for suspected killer

    World News Toronto Sun
    Las Vegas police detectives say they were surprised when they were able to use a decoy mannequin in their search for a suspected killer who had bludgeoned to death two homeless men. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Metropolitan Police Department officers and a prosecutor described Tuesday how they used a CPR-training mannequin to help convict Shane Schindler. Source
  • Blame Trump if 'innocent lives of the U.S. are lost': North Korea

    World News Toronto Sun
    North Korea’s foreign minister told world leaders Saturday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s insult calling leader Kim Jong Un “rocket man” makes “our rocket’s visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.” Ri Yong Ho called the American president “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency” with his finger on the “nuclear button. Source
  • Ric Flair: I body slammed buckets of booze

    World News Toronto Sun
    Wrestling legend Ric Flair has revealed that he would pile-drive 20 beers or shots on a daily basis at the height of his career. The ailing “Nature Boy” whose brush with death last month stunned the wrestling world says he’s now sworn off booze. Source
  • Georgia to pay $550G to convicted murderer for leg amputation

    World News Toronto Sun
    ATLANTA — A diabetic inmate serving a life sentence for murder has won $550,000 from Georgia for a lawsuit alleging he lost his leg because of improper care and neglect by a prison doctor. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the state agreed to the settlement for Michael Tarver, which means the case against Dr. Source
  • North Korea: Trump insult makes 'rocket's visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable'

    World News CTV News
    Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans gathered at Kim Il Sung Square to attend a mass rally against America on Saturday Sept. 23, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea, a day after the country's leader issued a rare statement attacking Donald Trump. Source
  • Holly Bobo sex killer guilty; gets 50 years

    World News Toronto Sun
    Zachary Adams will die in a dingy Tennessee prison. Adams, 33, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering nursing student, Holly Bobo in a case that generated world-wide headlines and a nationwide manhunt. A jury Saturday sentenced him to life in prison without parole, plus 50 years. Source
  • 'Full of energy and passion': Liberal MP Arnold Chan remembered as advocate for Canadians at funeral

    Canada News CBC News
    Arnold Chan, the Liberal MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, was remembered for his compassion and dedication to politics at a church service in Toronto on Saturday. Chan died last week of cancer at the age of 50. Source
  • Rich couple murder, BBQ nanny: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    A wealthy couple who were furious that their nanny was quitting allegedly murdered her, then tried to dispose of her corpse on their barbecue. Cops say French-Algerian designer and makeup artist Sabrina Quider, 34, and her boyfriend Ouissem Medoun, 40, were arrested for killing French au pair Sophie Lionnet, 21, in London. Source
  • U.S. buzzes North Korea coast with bombers, fighter escorts [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — In a show of American military might to North Korea, the United States on Saturday flew bombers and fighter escorts to the farthest point north of the Demilitarized Zone by any such American aircraft this century. Source