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Female Suffrage

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Reasons Cited For and Against Granting Women the Vote

Groups Involved in Promoting Female Suffrage

The Western Provinces set a Precedent for Others

Ottawa Follows Suit

Election of the First Female MLA's, MP's


Nellie McClung and Emmeline Pankhurst, Edmonton, Alberta, June 17, 1916Due to a number of factors, between 1914 and 1917, the female suffrage movement experienced rapid success in the four Western provinces and Ontario. Out of the women's associations formed in the late 19th century, emerged a suffrage movement that continued to gain momentum until women began to appear in the political and economic spheres. Combined with the moral and social atmosphere that developed during the First World War, women stepping into positions vacated by servicemen, expanding their role in the community, and politicians' growing awareness that their position on female suffrage could swing the vote in an election, worked together to speed the process of getting women the vote to its inevitable conclusion.

The men and women who belonged to suffrage societies tended to be members of the Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle-class. The leaders of these societies generally were highly educated professionals, or leaders of the Social Gospel Movement, and their goals tended toward the preservation of British essence and heritage in Canada. Nevertheless, the suffrage movement in Canada, with its emphasis on the virtues of motherhood and its general interest in strengthening the family—and thereby improving society—appealed to the larger reform movement within the young Dominion.

Female suffrage was largely seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself. To reformers, female suffrage was a means of achieving other social reforms—like prohibition, applied Christianity, child welfare, purity reform, and civic and education reform. To farm and labour groups, female suffrage was a means of increasing their political clout, and to politicians, adopting the suffrage cause was seen as a means of obtaining or maintaining political power.

Video: The Vote
This one-minute vignette shows the beginnings of the women's suffrage movement in Canada, culminating with women receiving the vote.
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            For more on women and the vote in Canada, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
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