Do the names Emily Stowe, Nellie McClung, Harriet Walker, Irene Parlby and Violet McNaughton sound familiar? Beginning in the late 1800’s, these Canadian women were the talk of their respective towns, and Canadian provinces. They are all united in the story of The Suffragette Movement; a movement which began in The United Kingdom to gain the right to vote for women. The term ‘suffragette’ was first coined in a newspaper article, ‘The Falling Angels’ in Britain, 1906.
Women were expected to restrict their sphere of interest to the home and the family. Women were not encouraged to obtain a real education or pursue a professional career. After marriage, women did not have the right to own their own property, keep their own wages, or sign a contract. In addition, all women were denied the right to vote. Only after decades of intense political activity did women eventually win the right to vote.
Women in Canada obtained the right to vote in a sporadic fashion. Federal authorities granted them the franchise in 1918, more than two years after the women of Manitoba became the first to vote at the provincial level in 1916. Nellie McClung, teacher, advocate and author led the cause of women’s suffrage in Manitoba. On January 28, 1916, Manitoba became the first Canadian province to give women the vote.
In Ontario, Dr. Emily Stowe, from Toronto, Ontario, was an advocate for women’s rights and suffrage. Stowe helped found the women’s suffrage movement in Canada and campaigned for the country’s first medical college for women. She was the first female doctor to practice in Canada, setting up a practise in 1867 in Toronto. On April 12, 1917, women were given the right to vote in Ontario.
The Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site (ECNHS) is celebrating the Suffragette movement this weekend, through historical re-enactments, films, displays and activities.
Kathy Fisher, Curator, Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario took time out from preparations on Wednesday, June 1st, to share information with saultonline about the upcoming Suffragette Commemoration events.
“While all three seatings of the Suffragette Lilac & Lavendar luncheons are sold out, there is still much to discover at ECNHS this weekend.” she said. “Historical re-enactors will be out along Queen St, near ECNHS, in a demonstration for women’s suffrage. Historical displays are set up in the Old Stone House, where history comes alive through visual and interactive displays.”
The Suffragette Soirée, June 3rd and 4th, includes a showing of the movie ‘The Time is Now’. A power-house cast of women, including Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham-Carter take the viewer through a story, written among many, from the suffragette struggle set in England. There are casualties. “We don’t want to be law-breakers, we want to be law makers.”
Kathy Fisher said “We are going to be serving adult beverages, in protest of Prohibition that was the policy during the 1920’s.” Starting at 6:30 p.m., The Suffragette Soire gets underway in The Heritage Discovery theatre. “We still have a few seats left for both Friday and Saturday night. Appetizers will also be served.”
“Suffragette Sunday will include a presentation of the ‘Mary Poppins’ movie starring Julie Andrews. Mrs. Banks, is a Suffragette.” said Fisher. “As she protests and marches through the Banks house, we will join her in a protest march of our own. There are still tickets available for Sunday. Popcorn, beverages, and surprises are planned beginning at 2:00 pm.”
“Purple, green and white are the colours of the suffragette.” said Fisher. In 1908, the Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU, adopted the colour scheme of purple, white and green, that would not only distinguish them in their political movement, but would also prove to be a huge marketing success. The women’s suffrage movement in Canada, was also identified by those same colours.
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, editor of the weekly newspaper, Votes for Women, (England) wrote, ‘Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour, it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.’
“Local musician, and historical suffragette re-enactor, Kathleen Trussler, will be playing cello music as people come into the Heritage Discovery Centre.” said Fisher
The Zonta Club of Sault Ste. Marie & Area is a sponsor of the Suffragette Special Events taking place on June 3,4,5 at ECNHS.
For more information, contact: Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site at 705-759-5443 or at www.ecnhs.com.
‘On October 27, 1893, 1,500 women met in the Horticultural Pavilion in Allan Gardens, Toronto, to form the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC). In the years before women had the vote in Canada, the Council provided women with a means to affect public policy. Through the Council, women promoted policies which helped lay the foundation of the Canadian social safety net, advocated women’s suffrage, and lobbied for the legal recognition of women’s roles as mother and homemaker.
Through their advocacy of social and health care reforms, the NCWC and its local councils helped to construct some of the principal building blocks of the Canadian postwar social safety net. The NCWC was the primary organization behind several major initiatives, including the establishment of the Victorian Order of Nurses, Mother’s Allowance and the Canadian Association of Consumers. It also played a role in the founding of the Canadian National Committee on Mental Hygiene, known today as the Canadian Mental Health Association. The Council gave women political experience in organizing, lobbying and campaigning, and promoted women’s political representation at the national, provincial and community levels. Today, the NCWC continues its work on a wide range of issues involving women, the family and community. ‘ (http://www.pc.gc.ca)