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Speaking of Women: Woman Suffrage Bill


But time goes on, and the world moves; and the ways of the world are growing kinder to women. Here and there in a sheltered eddy in the stream of life, where the big currents never are felt, you will find the old mossy arguments that women are intended to be wageless servants dependent upon man's bounty, with no life or hopes of their own. But the currents of life grow stronger and stronger in these terrible days, and the moss is being broken up, and driven out into the turbulent water.


On March 1st, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the Woman Suffrage Bill was given its second reading in the legislature of Alberta, and the women of the province gathered in large numbers to hear the debate. For over an hour before the galleries were opened; women waited at the foot of the stairs; white-haired women, women with little children by the hand, women with babies in their arms, smartly-dressed women, alert, tailor-made business women; quiet, dignified and earnest; they were all there; they filled the galleries; they packed every available space. Many were unable to find a place in the gallery, and stood outside in the corridors.


"I consider it an honor to stand anywhere in the building," one bright-eyed old lady said when someone expressed their regret at not having a seat for her, "and I can read the speeches to-morrow, and imagine that I heard them."
When the Premier rose to move the second reading of the Bill the silence of the legislative chamber was tense, and the great mass of humanity in the galleries did not appear to breathe. The Premier, in a straightforward way, outlined the reasons for the granting of the franchise; he did not speak of it as a favor, a boon, a gift, or a privilege, but a right, and declared that the extension of the franchise was an act of justice; he did not once refer to us as the "fair sex," or assure us of his deep respect for us. The Leader of the Opposition, whose advocacy of woman franchise dates back many years, seconded the reading of the Bill; and short speeches were made by other members. There was only one who opposed it; one timorous brother declared it would break up the home.


On the same day that the Bill got its second reading, and at the same hour, the women of Calgary met together to discuss what women should do with the vote; and they drafted a platform, which must commend itself to all thinking people. Each subject discussed was for human betterment, and social welfare.


Women will make mistakes, of course,—and pay for them. That will be nothing new—they have always paid for men's mistakes. It will be a change to pay for their own. Democracy has its failures—it falls down utterly sometimes, we know, but not so often, or so hopelessly, as any other form of government. There have been beneficent despotisms, when a good king ruled absolutely. But unfortunately the next kind was not good, and he drove the country to ruin. "King Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but Amaziah, his son, did that which was evil."


Too much depended upon the man!

Democracy has its faults; the people may run the country to the dogs, but they will run it back again. People, including women, will make mistakes, but in paying for them they will learn wisdom.

Nellie McClung, “Speaking of Women,” Maclean’s May 1916.
 

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