The women's suffrage movement was one that held significance all over the world, as many different nations embarked on their own paths toward getting the vote for women. Compared to other English-speaking and industrialized nations like the United States, Canada began its suffrage movement relatively late, and success was attained relatively easily, but this is not to say that it came without its struggles. Perhaps those in Canada were watching the progress down south and used the lessons there to expedite the process up in Canada when the time came. In fact, one of the early influential events in the suffrage movement in the United States occurred relatively close to the Canadian border in Seneca Falls, New York in July of 1848. This was the site of the Seneca Falls Convention which was an early and significant convention regarding women's rights and the drive toward getting women the vote. This event was significant because it marked an early step toward women in that country being awarded the franchise and effectively attaining a greater share of social, moral and civil rights. It was also significant because of the revolutionary nature of it. Never before had women organized in this way to fight for a cause that was widely believed to be against ideas of divine rights and duties. (Martin 1972). This conference did not succeed immediately in attaining the vote for women, but it was arguably significant, in Canada and the United States in terms of raising awareness in the public discourse about the growing women's rights movements, and these sentiments did make their way to Canada. (Bacchi 1983: 2-4). This essay will examine the suffrage movement in Canada while drawing parallels to the movement south of the border in the United States. From this it will be clear that the suffrage organization' in Canada and the United States became the mechanism that eventually led to the granting of franchise to women in both of these countries.
[...] They included organizations like the Manitoba Political Equal Franchise League which began in 1912, and the Montreal Suffrage Association which began in 1913. By the year 1916, Toronto had at least eight active suffrage associations working hard to pursue the rights of women in society. (Bacchi 1983: 31-2). This increasing number of organizations that were developing across the country served to give the cause much more credit. It did not take long before people who had previously sought to distance themselves from the cause were become involved. [...]
[...] In the years before the turn of the century, the suffrage movement in both Canada and the United States had made progress, but it was still not quite socially acceptable as there were still many people in society, women included who were against the cause. As late as 1893 the National Council of Women deliberately disassociated itself from the original American National Council because the latter was too closely associated with the suffragists. Lady Aberdeen felt it necessary to repeatedly assure Canadian men that their women were not fanatics, and that they had no intention of marching into man's territory and stripping them of their purpose. [...]
[...] Suffrage organizations in Canada that developed before the turn of the twentieth century were rarer than they were after this time, but the development of these few organizations had a significant impact in shaping the course of the movement in the years after 1900. The only other pre- 1900 suffrage society in Canada developed in Manitoba. It was influenced by a unique group of Icelandic suffragists, led by Margaret Benedictssen, who had campaigned for women suffrage from their arrival in the 1870s. [...]
[...] When it was all completed though, it can safely be argued that suffrage organizations played a significant role in the franchise of women in Canada and the United States. In Canada the tactics used by suffragists were cautious and undemonstrative. They did not have to resort to more extreme means, as their experiences after the turn of the century were quite successful. There are several reasons why the Canadian movement was marked with such timidity. The movement was still young and had not faced the long years of rebuke and ridicule which enraged British women. [...]
[...] It was organizations like these that allowed the rest of the public to become aware of the issue and throw their support behind it. It is worthwhile to note that this was the middle-to-late nineteenth century, and information and news did not spread in the same way that it does today. This is what made this organization and others like it so important in the development and eventual success of the suffrage movement in Canada and the United States. (Bacchi 1983: 26). [...]
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