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Module 21

The Early Canadian Women’s Movement and the Struggle for the Vote, 1870s-1918

Lynne Marks

Women’s rights were a much debated topic in early twentieth century Canada, and this module includes arguments for women’s suffrage by famous suffragist Nellie McClung, as well as the anti-suffrage arguments of humourist Stephen Leacock. The battle for women’s rights was closely linked to social reform efforts, as revealed in the work of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU, like other feminists, used a range of arguments in advocating for women’s rights, including arguments about women’s special moral abilities, as well as arguments that we see as racist today. Historians have disagreed about how to understand the racism of the early women’s movement, and in this module we see two quite different perspectives on this issue, from Janice Fiamengo and Mariana Valverde.

Primary sources:

  1. Text: Vancouver Branch of the British Columbia Political Equality League, ‘Points in the Laws of British Columbia Regarding the Legal Status of Women’ (1911)
  2. Text: Nellie McClung In Times Like These (1915)
  3. Photograph: Nellie McClung, c. 1910
  4. Cartoon: ‘Canada Needs a Clean Up Week’ (1915)
  5. Text: Stephen Leacock. ‘The Woman Question’ (1915)
  6. Women’s Christian Temperance Union excerpts (1880, 1888, 1900, 1911)
  7. Cartoon: ‘Everybody Votes But Mother’ (1914)
  8. Cartoon: ‘The Door Steadily Opens’ (1910)
  9. Cartoon: ‘A Nice Mess You Men Folks Make of Running a House’ (date unknown)

Secondary sources:

  1. Mariana Valverde. 'When the Mother of the Race is Free': Race, Reproduction, and Sexuality in First-Wave Feminism in Gender Conflicts: New Essays in Women's History, Franca Iacovetta and Marianne Valverde (eds.) (1992)
  2. Janice Fiamengo. ‘Rediscovering our Foremothers Again: Racial Ideas of Canada's Early Feminists, 1885-1945’ in Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women's History, Edited by Mona Gleason and Adele Perry (eds.) (2006)

Introduction

List of Modules -- 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50