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The Women Suffrage Movement in Canada, Research Paper Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2118

Research Paper

Introduction

The women’s suffrage movement in Canada began in 1878 at the instigation of Dr. Emily Howard Stowe, one of the founders and the first president of the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association, which was later incorporated in 1889 (Roome 4-5).  The need for this develop was apparent, as women were denied many of the rights men took for granted, such as the right to vote, own property, and be paid a fair wage in the workplace.  The suffrage movement in Canada emerged at around the same time as public concern regarding the state of the Anglo-Saxon race and the influence of immigration on Canadian society (Kinahan 8).   Although there have been many notable influences to the suffrage movement in Canada, this discourse will discuss the effects of figures such as Dr. Emily Stowe and her daughter, Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen on the progression of Canadian women towards the appointment of equal rights for women through legislation.  This examination is pertinent due to the insufficient research focusing on factors relating to gender relations and inequalities and their effects on social growth in Canadian history (Bolzendahl and Brooks 1509).

Women’s Suffrage in Canada

Credited as the architect of the Canadian women’s suffrage movement, Dr. Emily Stowe was raised as a Quaker, the emphasis on spiritual equality and her meeting with two American suffrage leaders, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in 1876 stimulated her involvement in the suffrage movement (Roome 5).  Creating this movement in Canada in 1883 after a meeting of the Toronto Women’s Literary and Social Progress Club in the city council chamber, she began the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association, and Sir John A. Macdonald presented a bill into parliament, granting Dominion license to unmarried women possessing the required qualifications (Roome 6).   Prior to the latter years of the mid-nineteenth century, women in Canada who worked for pay did many of the same tasks as their unpaid counterparts, such as domestic chores, weeding gardens, and tending animals in private family homes (Strange 1).  Although the petition was introduce again in 1884 and was routed, entreaties for the suffrage of women were presented to parliament in 1894 and 1896 through the joint efforts of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (Cleverdon 158).

However, by the late nineteenth century, the nature of “women’s work” had dramatically changed, most notably in the office and retail sectors, where women had usurped many positions formerly held by men (Strange 1).  This phenomenon was even noted in professions such as medicine and law,  and, although the vast majority of Canada’s wage-earning women were young, single, and poorly paid, the working girl’s emergence in turn-of-the-century industrial cities came to be known as the “girl problem” (Strange 1).  The attitudes of women, as described in Cleverdon’s work continued to inform much of the suffrage crusade in Atlantic Canada and women’s political activity in the region generally. A change in the Electoral Act, which made the Dominion and local voters’ lists overlap, rendered further effort useless in the Dominion legislature, and made of woman suffrage a provincial issue (Cleverdon 149).  Suffrage rights were first granted publicly in Ontario in 1884 to widows and spinsters and later in the 1890s, other provinces allowed public authorization to women, although Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the North West Territories, and Quebec, confined this right to widows and unattached women (Roome 6).   Other municipalities, like Nova Scotia, included widows, spinsters, and any married woman owning property, if her husband was disqualified, while Manitoba and British Columbia offered the municipal franchise to all females of substantial backgrounds, in all the provinces wealthy women were allowed the school vote, and in British Columbia, the North West Territories, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, women were considered suitable to become school trustees (Roome 7).

Between 1890 and1900, bills for the regional enfranchisement of ladies were incorporated within the legislatures of Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, and, despite the fact that they were all routed, new opportunities in the light industry, retail, office, and service sectors expanded, and domestic service slipped from its position as the number one employer of women (Strange 1).  The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union increased their efforts towards improving the plight of women in 1902 and in 1906 the issue of suffrage rights for upstanding women became a party concern that was eradicated by the Conservative legislature, but reinstated the following year (Kinahan 9).   The struggle for female suffrage in Canada had started in Ontario, and was instigated for the most part by the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association, which was initially motivated by the desire to achieve Dominion rights for women, but the change in the Electoral Act escalated its efforts to provincial suffrage in Ontario and the daughter of Dr. Emily Howard Stowe, Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen, was president from 1903 to 1911 (Roome 6).  Additional backing for suffrage came from Finnish, Ukrainian, and Jewish women in the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who favored suffrage and cooperated with middle-class suffrage organizations so that by 1906, Finland had granted women suffrage and socialist organizer Sanna Kannasto supported suffrage as part of a radical feminist program (Roome 11).  The American Finnish women’s paper Trovitar, which translates to Worker Comrade, kept the suffrage issue before Canadian readers and the establishment of Alberta as a province in 1905 incited a new burst of activity within suffragist groups (Roome 11).

Protestant evangelical feminist organizations like the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), which was created in 1870 and organized nationally in 1895, provided spiritual and economic support to single girls that came to the city searching for work in the new factories and offered leadership positions to evangelical Christian feminists (Roome 7).  Since settlement occurred in Alberta at a diminished pace, consequently, women’s organizations also developed more slowly, with  Alberta women’s organizations growing from 1905 until 1910 as new towns and cities appeared, and Ontario women that came as pioneer homesteaders with their husbands to Alberta soon discovered that the Manitoba and Northwest Territorial governments had reduced women’s traditional dower rights to one-third of the marriage property, claiming that a simpler system of land transfer would enhance real estate sales and permit rapid land development (Strange 7).  Married women also found out that they did not qualify for the Canadian government homestead grants that gave applicants 160 acres of Prairie land for a minor remuneration (Strange 7).  In 1914, the Liberal platform was a standing point for the provincial franchise for women and a bill supported by Premier Norris in 1916 passed its third reading unanimously, making Manitoba the first province to succeed in the enfranchisement of women, on January 27, 1916 (Kinahan 18).  Saskatchewan initiated its endeavors to lengthen the metropolitan authorization to married women at the same time as Alberta and, in 1916 a petition was presented to Premier Scott for the full suffrage of women, passing through the legislature without much opposition (Roome 13).  In 1916, female suffrage was passed by a large majority, coming into effect in 1917 (Roome 15).

The Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association became the Canadian Suffrage Association and, in 1909 a delegation of 1,000 members, requesting full franchise for women, was sent to the legislature of Ontario (Strange 8).  Many prominent women’s groups took an interest in the movement, including the National Council of Women, which drew voluminous audiences to hear famous suffragettes like Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst and Mrs. Philip Snowden of England speak (Strange 9).  In 1917 the War Time Election Act was passed by the Dominion parliament and, in February, a bill presented by J. W. Johnson was sanctioned by Premier Hearst and approved by the Liberals and Conservatives (Cleverdon 158).  Following this milestone, in 1921, Miss Agnes McPhail was nominated to the Dominion House and  by the 1950’s, the women’s organizations were working for full woman suffrage, with women’s magazines like Chatelaine, were playing monumental roles in providing an authentic voice for suffragettes and disseminating the feminist message (Korinek 14).  Nowadays, anywhere from two-thirds to three-fourths of women in Western democracies are active participants in the paid labor force, although in Italy, this number is only about 48%, and dual-earner households are typically the norm since they an economic necessity (Nichols).

In 1963 the establishment of a Women’s Bureau within the Department of Labor was initially constructed as a tool to assess training needs and encourage the efficient use of female labor in areas where there were perceived worker shortages, by the late 1960s the Bureau increasingly became linked to policy development (Sangster 119).  Mindful of women’s growing contribution to the labor force, the government was keen to satisfy a research, education and public relations role in the context of an expanding economy through the use of female labor, but, within seven years of its founding, the Bureau supplied an imperative incentive for the creation of anti-discrimination and maternity leave legislation in the form of the Women’s Equal Opportunity Act (Sangster 119-120).  The state, including the view that it is inherently anti-feminist and “masculinist”, despite attempts to mediate or maneuver between fiduciary interests, it is still bound to act in the interests of capital the dominant economic interests of capital, which inevitably controls, and indeed limits, labor policy initiatives designed to aid women workers (Pedersen 46).  Although by the early 1920s, two thirds of Canadian women in their twenties worked for wages, the majority of female labor under the age of 18 was still employed in domestic service, while the majority of women in their twenties were employed in offices as clerks, stenographers, secretaries, and bookkeepers (Conrad 5).  While the employment options for working girls had expanded greatly, allowing some wage-earning women without professional degrees to support themselves as telegraph operators making $27 per week in the early 1920s, more than some working-class men, in every sector of the economy, the ratio of women’s to men’s wages remained lopsided at about 60 cents to the dollar (Conrad 5).  However, the wage-earning young woman of the post-war era had become a fixture of urban public life and the trend of young women working for wages between attending school and getting married had come to be a normal activity for the daughters of all but the most affluent families.

Conclusion

The women’s suffrage movement in Canada has flourished due to the influences of many determined individuals, including women like Dr. Emily Stowe and her daughter, Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen as well as men like J. W. Johnson on the progression of Canadian women towards the appointment of equal rights for women through legislation. Although some critics suggest that women in positions of formal political power have done little to change the system for the benefit of women, that fact remains that there are gender differences that complicate efforts to integrate women into the competitive and hierarchical structures that characterize Canadian political life and the narrow access points controlling access to political power presents formidable barriers to cultural minorities. Despite the powerful model presented by the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, which comprise the only nations in the world where women’s political involvement approaches 50 percent, rising from less than 10 percent in 1945, the rest of the world’s nations have not been able to move beyond token representation of women in their political institutions through the establishment of quotas, the adoption of a system of proportional representation, and making women’s participation a priority of public policy, which is what it will take to adopt the model of integration presented by the Scandinavian nations (Conrad 10).

 

 

Works Cited

Bolzendahl, Catherine and Clem Brooks. “Women’s Political Representation and Welfare State Spending in 12 Capitalist Democracies.” Oxford University Press, Social Forces, 85.4 (2007, June):1509-1534. Available from <http://www.jstor.org/stable/4494997.pdf>.

Cleverdon, Catherine. The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974.

Conrad, Margaret. “Addressing the Democratic Deficit: Women and Political Culture in Atlantic Canada.” Atlantis 27.2, (2003): 1-13.

Kinahan, Anne-Marie. “Transcendent Citizenship: Suffrage, the National Council of Women of Canada, and the Politics of Organized Womanhood.” Journal of Canadian Studies, 42.3(2008): 5-27.

Korinek, Valerie J and Doris Anderson. “The Chatelaine Legacy.” CBCA Complete Canadian Woman Studies, 26.2 (Summer 2007): 14-21.

Nichols, Carole. Votes and More for Women. New York: Institute for Research in History, 1983.

Pedersen, Diana L. Fifty Years of Women’s Right to Vote in Quebec. Montreal: Concordia University, 1993.

Roome, Patricia. “Women’s Suffrage Movement in Canada.” Chinook Multimedia Inc. (2001): 1-21 Available from <http://www.cssd11.k12.co.us/palmer/social_studies/teachers/schulzki/IB/Progressive%20Seminar%202009/Women%20and%20reform/Womens%20Suffrage%20in%20Canada.pdf>.

Sangster, Joan. “Women Workers, Employment Policy and the State: the Establishment of the Ontario Women’s Bureau.” Labour/Le Travail, 36.1(1995): 119-145.

Strange, Carolyn. “Girl Problem in late-19th and early-20th Century Canada.” Chinook Multimedia Inc. (2001):1-14 Available from <http://www.myteacherpages.com/webpages/ASchulzki/files/women%20and%20reform%20readings1.pdf>.

Hill, Irene “Female Suffrage”, in W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada,   Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates in Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 325-327.

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