The achievement of the vote in 1918 is often celebrated as a triumphant moment in the onward, upward advancement of Canadian women, a moment symbolized by famous suffragists such as Nellie McClung and famous events such as the Winnipeg Mock Parliament.
In The Question of the Vote, acclaimed historian Joan Sangster looks beyond the shiny rhetoric of anniversary celebrations and Heritage Minutes to show that the struggle for equality included gains and losses, inclusions and exclusions, depending on a woman’s race, class, and location in the nation.
Beginning with debates by anti-slavery advocate Mary Shadd Cary in the 1850s and ending with Indigenous women’s struggle to gain the vote in the 1950s and 1960s, Sangster travels back in time to tell a new, more inclusive story for a new generation.
The history of the vote, as Joan Sangster tells it, offers vital insights into our political life, exposing not only the fissures of inequality that cut deep into our country’s past but also their weaknesses in the face of resistance, optimism, and protest.
This book is for all Canadians who want to know more about our history, the history of women, and the state of our democratic traditions.
We have needed this book for a long time – a well-written, lively, and thoughtful account of women’s campaign for political equality. Sangster gives us the complexity of a highly regionalized movement fed by a wide range of ideologies, and she introduces us to a cast of extraordinary women who quietly pushed for radical change. Deep scholarship, no jargon – a book for all of us.
Centenaries are worth celebrating, and Joan Sangster’s brilliant 100-year history of women’s suffrage provides a fitting occasion for pride. Sangster unveils the rich and diverse stories of the women (and men) whose activism pried the right to vote out of reluctant opponents. Along the way, she shakes up a multitude of misapprehensions. To read this is to be inspired.
Joan Sangster is Vanier Professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and director of the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
1 The Privilege of Property
2 Race and the Idea of Rights for Women
3 Suffrage as a Socialist Issue
4 Making Suffragists
5 The Anti-suffragists
6 Feminist Countercultures
7 Debating War and Peace
8 Old and New Agendas in Peacetime
9 Votes for All Women
Sources and Further Reading; Photo Credits; Index
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