Politics has much that is objectionable, but I see no
good reason why it should not be conducted as a clean game.
It can be cleaned up, but it never will be till the average
citizen has a different attitude towards citizenship and
public service, and women should contribute very much to
this change. Not 'What can I get out of it?' but 'What can I
put into it?' must be the thought of the citizen.
In setting an example for other women to follow, the Famous
5 expressed that women must take direct political action to
achieve their desired reforms. Instead of being satisfied
with their present status, women were called upon to
exercise their right to vote and run for political office.
As Nellie McClung wrote in
In Times Like
greatest enemy there is and has ever been to progress is the
comfortable woman. Why? Because she accepts as her right,
her sheltered, pampered position and she uses it to minister
to her own comforts rather than to those of others."
Despite such calls to action, many Canadian women were
apathetic toward politics. Having achieved prohibition and
female suffrage, no issue rallied masses of women to the
same extent. They became divided along party lines, thus
reversing their influence as a voting bloc. Emily Murphy
became a strong Conservative supporter, while Louise
McKinney was elected as a
member of the Non-Partisan League
in 1917. Nellie McClung and Irene Parlby opposed each other
in the Alberta Legislature, McClung as a
member of the
Liberal party and Parlby as a
Cabinet Minister in the United
Farmers of Alberta government.
The rise of dictatorships in Germany and Italy during the
mid-1930s raised concerns about the return of war, but it
did not motivate women to lead in the condemnation of these
regimes. This concerned women like Irene Parlby, who
believed that the very foundation of democracy had been
undermined in these countries and even in Alberta by "the
increasing drift towards defiance of constitutional
authority." Not until Canada joined Britain in the Second
World War did women again become involved in public life as
factory workers and servicewomen.
Even after the war, most women showed little interest in
politics. Was it because they did not want to become
involved, or were social pressures holding them back?
Whatever the main reason, women's involvement in Canadian
federal and provincial politics was limited until the 1970s.
The international peace movement during the late 1960s
certainly involved women, but not to any great extent in
The modern feminist movement beginning in the early 1970s
helped raise women's public participation to levels seen
during the height of the prohibition and female suffrage
campaigns. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau responded by
appointing the first Minister Responsible for the Status of
Women in 1971. A record of nine female candidates were
elected to Parliament in 1974. By 1979, 12 women were
serving in the Senate. Still, these women only comprised a
small percentage of federal politicians.
As of January 2002, the Canadian Senate had 33 female
members, and the House of Commons had 62. Similar to most
politicians, they tend to vote along party lines. When
issues concerning women such as abortion or domestic
violence are raised, Canadians are about as likely to hear
from male politicians as these women.
|Video: "Great Grand Mother"
||Women's organizations demanded a
number of social reforms, including equal pay for
equal work, prohibition and female suffrage.
"Getting into politics was just housekeeping on a
national scale." Watch Now