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. The Women’s Suffrage and the Struggle for Democracy series serves as a timely 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.
The Representation of Women in Canadian Governments
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