This coming year, 2017, will mark 100 years since women in BC were given the right to vote in provincial elections.
Women’s suffrage groups began emerging across Canada in the 1870s, but politicians and those in positions of power continued to dismiss their efforts, stating politics were no place for women and disagreements over political ideals could break up households.
When the First World War broke out, men across Canada could no longer ignore the ideas these women were putting forth. In addition to running households and raising children, Canada’s women were also serving in the war, working in factories and offices when the men went overseas and working in various volunteer positions to support the war effort. Despite the idea that politics was too harsh an environment for women, they couldn’t be kept out of politics any longer.
In 1917, The Military Voters Act gave nurses and women serving in the armed forces the right to vote in federal elections. The Wartime Election Act went a step further and allowed women with husbands, fathers or sons serving in the military the right to vote. By Jan. 1, 1919, all women over the age of 21 were given the right to vote in federal elections.
Provincial governments took their time coming to this same conclusion. Manitoba was the first province to allow women to vote, in 1916. Alberta and Saskatchewan followed suit the same year. Ontario and British Columbia gave women the right to vote in 1917, Nova Scotia in 1918, New Brunswick in 1919, Prince Edward Island in 1922, Newfoundland in 1925 and women in Quebec were finally given the right to vote in provincial elections in 1940.
The right to vote and the right to be a candidate in the election were not the same thing. In federal elections, women won the right to be a candidate in 1919. Most provinces allowed women the right to become a candidate soon after giving them the right to vote.
The general election of 1921 was the first election where all Canadian citizens over the age of 21 could vote. In that election, Agnes Macphail, the first female member of Parliament, won a seat.