Women in Canada began to fight back against discrimination, violence, and unfair wages near the end of the 29th century. In hopes of finding a solution for the ills of the female population, women saw the right to run for office, at the very least the right to vote, as a gateway to having their voices heard and making significant changes to their quality of life.
SUFFRAGIST: A member of the women’s suffrage movement, male or female. Often associated with activists who used peaceful methods of protest, including petitions and mock parliaments.
SUFFRAGETTE: A woman seeking the right to vote through militant protest. Commonly associated with British activists, who used illegal methods to fight for the vote. Often used as a derogatory term by opponents.
ANTI-SUFFRAGIST: Commonly known as “antis,” these men and women felt deeply threatened by the prospect of equality, which would unbalance the status quo
Canada, beginning with towns and spreading to a provincial and national level.
The suffrage movement began to bloom at the end of the 19th century, resulting in small scale town, library and school board voting rights before the first provincial election voting rights were given to women in Manitoba in 1916, followed by;
- Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1916
- British Columbia and Ontario gave women the vote in 1917
- Yukon (1919),
- Atlantic Canada (1918-25),
- Québec (1940)
- the Northwest Territories (1951)
- Women were granted the federal vote in 1918 (excludes asian and indigenous women)
As the independence and value of women came to be slowly recognized in Canada, women sought a way to have their basic rights ensured and solidified through being an active part of political decision making. They had to overcome narratives of being incompetent and undeserving of being treated as equals before the national standpoint began to shift, and the arguments about women’s incompetence invalidated. The right to vote was crucial to beginning a social shift of providing Canadian women with autonomy, strength, and fundamental value.
Views on Women’s Suffrage
There were many strong supporters and opposers of women’s suffrage, varying in demographics and time at which they engaged in the movement. The majority of suffragists were middle class white women, this being the same demographic of women to win these primary rights to vote. Though many women of colour also pushed for the suffrage movement, most did not receive their own rights to vote until much after. Plenty of men were also suffragists, the number increasing as time went on and the movement became more socially accepted.
However, a large portion of Canada was made up of anti-suffragists. These people saw the independence of women as threatening to culture, religion, and society as a whole. Many women were also silenced by their husbands and the men in their life regarding their views on independence. Most politicians were starkly against the women’s vote, as they were all male and unreceptive to a disruption of their system.
Extent of impact on Canadian social, political, and economic norms and values
The women’s suffrage movement was incredibly influential to the norms and values of Canadians. Women’s independence and value went from an unheard of concept to an essential part of the social atmosphere. The women’s suffrage movement did not stop at becoming a Liberal value, it became also a Conservative value therefore covering the ground of most Canadians and their political standpoints. Involving women in politics was a major shift for Canada. Not only were women entitled to vote, they were also able to run for office. This created a major influx of attention to many critical issues that had been ignored before, such as violence against women and children, unfavourable working conditions and wages, and an extreme disadvantage in getting an education as a woman. As a result, more women became involved in the workforce and were able to better support their families financially. Along with this came the development of equipment such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners which freed up the hands of mothers to use their energy and time on more than just housework and childcare.
Contribution to Canadian autonomy
The women’s suffrage movement was essential to Canadian autonomy. Without it, half of Canadians would have no autonomy at all. This, of course, overlooks the treatment of women and men of colour in comparison to their white counterparts, and how many people of colour, those with disabilities, those within the LGBTQ+ community, and those in other minorities still do not have full autonomy in Canada. However, the freedom of the lives of Canadians as a whole would be significantly decreased without women in politics, regardless of gender. The Suffrage movement has made way to more progressive values in Canadian politics by demonstrating that it is possible to introduce new ideas from diverse perspectives into our culture and establish them as norms. It has allowed for parents, not just mothers, to take leave and become fundamental to caring for and raising children. It has made room for movements against assault, violence, and maltreatment to all people. It has brought people from all walks of life to unite under the movement and create significant changes in the lives of Canadians. With women in politics, we see diversity in other ways become a part of our political system, and in turn the needs of a larger portion of Canada’s population are recognized and attended to. The women’s suffrage movement was the start of Canada taking charge of itself, with a greater number of free thinking and living citizens, we have been able to better establish Canada as a country that represents the values of its people. Without the women’s suffrage movement, Canada simply would not have autonomy.