Event: 1916 – Women win the vote in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta
Choose an event from Canada’s past or present (social, political, environmental, or economic) and describe / illustrate (show cause and effect) how this event influenced / influences all four of the quadrants. Provide images / primary source evidence where possible.
This was a huge step in the social aspect of women being equal to men. Although, giving women the right to vote took a long time to spread all throughout Canada. Women who lived in Quebec didn’t receive the right to vote provincially until 22 years later. Most women won the right to vote in Federal elections in 1918; however, Asian and Indigenous men and women were still denied this right. Although Canada was not the last country to allow both women and men to vote, we were definitely not the first. This was one of the first country wide feminism acts seen in Canada. The “woman suffrage movement [started] in 1817 under the leadership of Dr. Emily Howard Stowe,” an enduring advocate of women’s rights at the time. Because of the discrimination she faced when wanting to enter med school because she was a woman, she became even more persistent in achieving her dreams. Her fear that all of the Canadian colleges that called her a mere woman were right, drove her to eventually start a Women’s Medical College. There she also established the Women’s Literary Club, and Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Assn. Much work was to be done to pass bills in Canada to create a more equalized place for men and women to live, many of which were denied before being accepted years later. Women were slowly allowed out of their homes and into society as women’s rights became a more prominent topic that was addressed. Posters for suffrage meetings for women to attend and petitions to sign became popular in many provinces of Canada. This acceptance of the right for most women to vote provincially in 1916 in the provinces Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta inspired other provinces to do so as well, and was one of the first steps in getting us to where we are today.
Gender representation has been a huge issue in Canadian politics and has affected the lives of many women living in Canada. The first woman to be elected for the House of Commons was in 1921, her name was Agnes Macphail. The portrayal of females have increased greatly since women received the right to vote, however only make up 88 out of 338 members in the House of Commons. Even in 1916, when most women were given the right to vote in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, there was still discriminatory laws against Asian and Indigenous women living in the areas. This new idea that women should be given the right to vote greatly impacted the government because the number of people who were capable of voting almost doubled. As seen 5 years later, the first woman was sworn into government and was a member of the House of Commons for 19 years. This, what seems like a small act now of selecting one women to be in parliament, was a huge movement back then. This has greatly impacted our society today. If Agnes had been different, and had done something wrong while serving her time in the House of Commons, everything could have changed. The entire uplifting of women could have been diminished if Agnes made too many mistakes in her career. Today we are still fighting for the importance of women in society, and women in parliament, and Agnes Macphail being elected for the House of Commons was a huge step in this long fight for equality among people.
Interestingly enough, two out of three of the provinces that first passed a bill to say that most women were allowed to vote (Saskatchewan and Alberta) were just founded as provinces of Canada 11 and 8 years before, respectively. One might infer that this could have been to increase the population in Saskatchewan or Alberta since they were both relatively new provinces. By women winning the right to vote in certain places, this called for movements within the workplace as well. In 1920 a bill was passed to support women in the workforce with opportunities for work. In 1901 women made up 13% of the total amount of people working in Canada. This has massively increased since 1901. This rise of women in society would cause the work industry to enlarge since a larger population of people are allowed and interested in working. According to statistics Canada, in 1953 the participation of overall women was 23%. This rise in women involvement in government affected the labour market greatly, and is still affecting our workforce today.
Does your event represent a step towards creating and maintaining a coherent Canadian identity, or does it move Canada more clearly in the direction of Trudeau’s discussion of a “postnational” state?
This event has created a closer equality between men and women in today’s society. Although, there is still a lot to do; our society has much improved from where we started. I think this event promotes a more coherent Canadian identity because with a lesser divide between men and women, Canada has the ability to come together as one country. In many cases, men are still seen as the dominant gender of the two; however, in the Federal election in 2015, in the five leading parties, 33% of the participants were women, and 26% of the seats in the House were filled by women. These are the highest number up to date. As time passes and feminism begins to be a topic discussed in schools and homes, I hope these numbers will steadily increase until there is no differentiation between men and women in politics. In order for Canada to be even close to being a nation, everyone in Canada must share some similar belief/ideal. This means that women must be taken into consideration as well which is why this event put Canada a step closer in having one coherent identity.
In your opinion, is there any value in trying to define a specific Canadian identity, or should we abandon this idea towards a more open and global idea of nationhood? Why?
Diversity amongst people is what makes life interesting and it is important to appreciate the fact that everyone is different; however, I think there is a benefit in coming together as one team, under one umbrella. On a soccer team for example, a wide variety of skills/abilities/backgrounds is appreciated and sometimes makes the best type of teams; however, notice that no matter how different everyone is on a soccer team, it is still defined as a team. I think the same could apply to Canada, just on a larger scale. Nationalism is thought to be the cause of many wars, and a hate driven concept that causes whole countries to dislike other whole countries. Gustavo De Las Casas states that, “Nationalism is a feeling of unity with a group beyond one’s immediate family and friends. In and of itself, it is not conducive to disastrous wars” (foreignpolicy.com). Possibly in excess amounts, nationalism could be dangerous; however, a lack of nationalism can also be detrimental to the flourishing of countries. In extreme cases, such as the Axis powers, there was an abundance of nationalism resulting in hate towards others who had differing opinions/views. Although more evidently detrimental than the lack of nationalism that Canada seems to have at the moment, both are not the healthiest options. If we continue to see Canada as a bunch of broken cultures just merely related by where we each live, areas of Canada will become too independent from other areas of Canada, potentially breaking Canada into separate countries. In the extreme case this could result in civil war, but more likely a lesser feeling of community throughout, possibly leading to less fulfilling lives lead in Canada. In my opinion, there is a fine balance that needs to be found in all countries between pride in being who they are, and hating others because they are not the same.