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Liberation Deferred?

Liberation Deferred?: The Ideas of the English-Canadian Suffragists

Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 203
  • Book Info
    Liberation Deferred?
    Book Description:

    This book offers an intellectual history of the English-speaking Canadian woman's suffrage movement. It argues that the motivations of a great many suffragists were affected by their membership in a social elite that saw the need to regulate society's future and hoped the family would remain the foundation of that future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7666-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    Compared to those of other English-speaking, industrialized communities, Canada’s suffrage movement started late and success came rather easily. The first suffrage association appeared in Toronto in 1877, disguised as a Women’s Literary Society. Between 1877 and 1918 some twenty-two organizations specifically committed to woman suffrage sprang up in cities across the country. The issue never attracted a groundswell of support. At its height in 1914, the movement probably had a total membership of ten thousand men and women, only 0.2 per cent of the adult population at that time. Still, by 1918 all women over twenty-one years of age had...

  7. The Making of a Suffragist
    (pp. 13-23)

    While it is impossible to determine the precise circumstances which made a woman interested in the suffrage issue, clearly the backgrounds of the female suffragists were similar in several ways. Most, almost 60 per cent, worked. All were well-to-do. The majority were well educated. Almost all had some reform connection. Each of these factors could and did encourage women to become politically active.

    Among those who worked, some became suffragists because of their anger at discrimination in their pay packets or restrictions on their career ambitions, while the homebound suffragists seem to have been motivated more by their frustration with...

  8. 2 Suffrage Organization in Canada: Feminism and Social Reform
    (pp. 24-39)

    The suffrage movement in Canada was launched by women with a strong feminist commitment, frequently the same moving spirits who tried to batter down the sexual barriers constructed to keep women from prestige occupations. These women challenged the sexual division of labour and even suggested that married women had a right to work, a radical innovation in this period. This feminist clique, centred in Toronto, created a network of hard-core activists who provided organizational leadership and who revived interest when the movement lapsed into despondency. Because of the unpopularity of their views, they remained an ideological and numerical minority.


  9. 3 The Political Ideas of the Suffragists
    (pp. 40-57)

    Many Canadian suffragists themselves recognized two approaches to the suffrage question, the feminist and the social reform approach. Flora Macdonald Denison distinguished between ‘social service suffragists,’ those with a prior commitment to reform, and ‘real suffragists,’ those who believed that ‘men and women should be born equally free and independent members of the human race ...’¹ The categories, quite clearly, were not exclusive. Most feminists were also enthusiastic, dedicated social reformers. Even Mrs Denison, a leading feminist, felt sure that woman suffrage would rectify crimes against childhood and other social evils. Otherwise, she emphasized, she would not work for it...

  10. 4 In Defence of the Church
    (pp. 58-68)

    Several historians have noted the close connection between the Protestant Churches and the social reform movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.¹ The revelation of declining Church memberships and poor attendance at services convinced some Protestants, and a few Catholics, to make their message more socially relevant. This led to the enunciation of a social gospel which stated that Christians had a duty to remove visible social ills and help to create Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Their good works would testify to their salvation.

    The social gospel played an important role in the political awakening of women. Clearly,...

  11. 5 Temperate Beginnings
    (pp. 69-85)

    The temperance movement, a movement closely tied to Protestant evangelicalism, provided the single most popular route to suffrage activity for many men and women in Canada. Some 27 per cent of the male leaders belonged to temperance associations. Woman suffrage won their support largely because they believed that enfranchised Anglo-Saxon, Protestant women, the most vocal anti-liquor element in the community, would vote in prohibition. Female prohibitionists, who were equally convinced that women’s voices would swing the political balance in favour of prohibitive liquor legislation, constituted almost 25 per cent of the female executive membership. Most of these became suffragists after...

  12. 6 The Secular Reform Movement
    (pp. 86-103)

    Woman suffrage attracted two types of reformers, those who concentrated upon improving the individual through controlling his behaviour, and those who looked to causes rather than effects in their reform strategy. The temperance suffragists fall into the first category. In the second we find municipal reformers, child welfare reformers, teachers and public school inspectors, juvenile court judges and directors of reformatories, settlement workers, and members of Humane Associations, Welfare Leagues, Parks and Playgrounds Associations, Municipal Ownership, City Improvement and City Planning Leagues. Of those identified, approximately 30 to 35 per cent of both male and female suffragists belonged to such...

  13. 7 Race Regeneration, Evolution, and Social Purity
    (pp. 104-116)

    The ideology of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century reform in Canada, as expressed in the suffrage movement, was complex. The movement included prohibitionists and municipal reformers. Attitudes towards the government ranged from the moderate interventionism of the COS to a more complete State Welfarism. One unifying theme, however, underlay the entire movement and made sense of its diverse strands – a concern for the future of the Anglo-Saxon race. Most of the reforms in some way aimed at strengthening and preserving this kin-group against internal weaknesses and external threats. Two areas in particular caused concern: the declining birth rate, especially among the ‘better...

  14. 8 The Suffrage Fringe: Labour and the Organized Farmer
    (pp. 117-132)

    The organized farmers in the Prairie West – the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Grain Growers’ Associations and the United Farmers of Alberta – and some elements of the Canadian labour movement were among the earliest and staunchest advocates of woman suffrage. Yet very few farm or labour men or women managed to penetrate the ranks of the overt suffrage societies which form the basis of this study. These remained predominantly an urban phenomenon, dominated and run by male and female journalists, lawyers, teachers, clerics, and businessmen, a professional and entrepreneurial élite. In general, farmers, their wives, and members of the labouring classes preferred...

  15. 9 The Politics of Success
    (pp. 133-143)

    The takeover of the suffrage movement by social reformers committed to other causes guaranteed its success. The general reform movement became very powerful in early-twentieth-century Canada as its analysis of social problems seemed increasingly relevant. The suffragists profited politically from the strength of their allies. Moreover, once it became clear that female enfranchisement was imminent, politicians from all shades of the political spectrum proved willing to introduce the legislation on the off-chance that the women might feel some sense of obligation to support their benefactors.

    Ideologically, the domination of the movement by men and women who had no intention of...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 144-150)

    Some eight years after women received the vote, a former Manitoba suffragist, Anne Anderson Perry, analysed its effects. The franchise, she felt, had changed very little. Few women participated in politics, as workers or candidates. Most followed or deferred to men much as they had before. Women, of course, attended political conventions, decorated platforms, and helped male politicians achieve victory, but they continued to take a secondary place to men. There were certainly exceptions, women whose able contribution to public life made conspicuous the absence of larger numbers. Moreover, women seemed indifferent to the great issues which had preoccupied their...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 151-178)
  18. Primary Sources
    (pp. 179-188)
  19. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 189-194)

    The standard work on the Canadian woman suffrage movement is Catherine Cleverdon’sThe Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada,first published in 1950 by University of Toronto Press and recently (1974) reprinted with an excellent introduction by Ramsay Cook. Cleverdon’s study is a thorough and scholarly narrative of incidents and events at both the federal and provincial levels. Similar descriptive narratives have been written about the American movement by Eleanor Flexner (Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States,Massachusetts: Belknap Press 1968), the English movement by Constance Rover (Woman’s Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain, 1866–1914,...

  20. Index
    (pp. 195-204)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-206)