On Election Day 1844, seven widows cast ballots in Canada West, a display of feminist effrontery that was quickly punished: the government struck a law excluding women from the vote. It would be seven decades before women regained voting rights in Ontario.
Our Voices Must Be Heard asks why the vote mattered. It explores Ontario’s suffrage history, examining its ideals and failings, its daring supporters and thunderous enemies, and its blind spots on matters of race and class. Historian Tarah Brookfield looks at how and why women and their male allies from around the province, urban and rural, joined an international movement they called “the great cause.”
Ontario’s suffragists were varied in their politics and objectives, and their interests overlapped with temperance, socialism, and pacifism. Yet too often, the movement as a whole only focused on achieving the rights most relevant to white, middle-class women. The book makes apparent the parallel work and efforts by women whose race, ethnicity, class, and religion made them largely unwelcome in the mainstream suffrage movement. Ultimately, the vote was but one outlet for women’s protest against a status quo that consigned women and many others to subordination.
This is the second volume in a seven-part series on the history of the vote in Canada, Women’s Suffrage and the Struggle for Democracy. These short, insightful books present a history of the vote, with vivid accounts of famous and unsung suffragists. This series provides a deeper understanding of Canadian society and politics, serving as a well-timed reminder never to take political rights for granted.
This book is written for readers who want to know more about Canadian history, women’s history, and the history of our democratic traditions, including secondary school and university students in Ontario.
- 2018, Winner - Alison Prentice Award for Best Book in Ontario Women's and Gender History, Ontario Historical Society
Tarah Brookfield paints a vivid picture of the multi-generational tenacity that was required to disrupt the narrow, patronizing view of women’s place in Canadian society. Our Voices Must Be Heard also does a great service to our understanding of the suffrage movement by telling us about the voices excluded from it – particularly those of Indigenous, Black, and low-income women.
1 Women’s Rights in Indigenous and Colonial Ontario
2 Origins of Feminist Thought and Action
3 Early Legislative Victories and Defeats
4 Waking Up to the Power
5 Resisting a Revolution
6 Victory amid Discord and War
Sources and Further Reading; Index
The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments
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