Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lethbridge women could vote in 1912?


There's something about Canada Day that makes me think about being a Canadian and the rights and responsibilities of a citizen. One of the rights (and responsibilities) is to vote.

A question we often get asked is when did women get the right to vote?

Not as easy to answer as you might think. In Alberta, women won the right to vote in 1916 (same year as Manitoba and Saskatchewan). Federally, women were able to vote in 1918. So the answer is 1916, right?

As this article from the 1 November 1912 Lethbridge Herald shows, it's not quite that simple. If you read the sub-title it mentions that "Quite a Number of Women" have their names on the voters list. This is 1912, 4 years before "Alberta" women could vote.

Voting was once the prerogative of only the "landed class" -- there was a property qualification. And property was the deciding factor if someone voted, even more so than gender. If a woman owned property, she could vote. The first woman to vote in Lethbridge actually voted in 1896. A recent widow, she voted in the school board elections as head of family. A woman's vote was often limited if she was married because the husband would vote for the family.

And yet this article suggests that in 1912 (in a city of approximately 10,000), 150 women would be voting. And, as I've been working on getting ready for my presentation on the history of Lethbridge's Red Light District for next week's Wednesday program here at the Galt, I also wonder how many of these voting women were madams? Hmmm!


I'd love to hear from some other communities. When did women vote municipally in your community? Was it before or after the province? The federal government? And when did renters in your community get the right to vote? We're trying to pin that date down for Lethbridge. (I say it was 1913; another staff says 1918.)


And, of course, I hope everyone has a fabulous Canada Day!

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