May 24th marks an important date in Canadian history. It was on that day in 1918 Prime Minister R.L. Borden’s government passed “An Act to Confer Electoral Franchise Upon Women”, or in other words, Canadian women were given the right to vote in federal elections. But not all Canadian women were granted the ability to vote in 1918. This right was limited to women who were British Subjects, or not “alien born” and met the property requirements of the province where they lived. The right to vote in federal elections however, was not extended to women of either Asian or Aboriginal descent. These women would have to wait several more decades – until 1948 and 1960 respectively for this privilege. The Canadian provinces each granted women the right to vote in provincial elections at different times. Manitoba was the first province in January 1916; Alberta followed in April 1916 and the province of B.C. granted the right to women in 1917.
(photo courtesy history museum.ca)
Nellie McClung was Canada’s well-known suffragette; a feminist before her time as well as published author of 16 books and outspoken advocate for the right of women to vote. Born in Ontario in 1873, McClung would later become a school teacher, marry and have 5 children (the times dictated that Nellie give up her teaching job when she married.) These accomplishments are in addition to her involvement with the Canadian Women’s Press Club and the Political Equality League. (For those unfamiliar with the word suffragette, the Oxford dictionary defines suffragette as “a woman seeking the right to vote through organized protest”.) Nellie McClung died in Victoria, B.C. in 1951 where she had relocated with her husband in 1935. For more information on this Canadian icon, check this link: https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/nellie-mcclung
The suffragette movement was active in Chilliwack, B.C. – with a Suffragettes Convention held on the nights of February 10th and 11th, 1915 at Chilliwack’s Imperial Theatre on Yale Road.
Campaign button from WAC Bennett (BC Premier from 1952-1972) Chilliwack Museum and Archives