Magazine article Herizons

The Feminist Challenge to the Canadian Left 1900-1918

Magazine article Herizons

The Feminist Challenge to the Canadian Left 1900-1918

Article excerpt

THE FEMINIST CHALLENGE TO THE CANADIAN LEFT 1900-1918

BY JANICE NEWTON

MCGILL-QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY PRESS 1995

Janice Newton's book The Feminist Challenge to the Canadian Left 1900-1918 is an incisive study of women in left politics before suffrage. The book focusses on the work of women within Canada's two major socialist parties.

Newton recounts that women's involvement in socialist politics was not always looked upon with favour by their male counterparts. Men were often hostile to women in public forums, and many women were heckled by men when speaking. Women often organized socialist events, but few were public speakers. Moreover, the male worker had been the focus of socialism, and women's burdens either in the home or in paid work were often not noticed, and of course these duties often curtailed their political activities.

However, many women requested women's columns in socialist newspapers and it was often through their writing that they brought their views to the forefront. Newton discusses the work of such famous women as Bertha Merrill Burns, Ruth Lestor and Mary Cotton Wisdom. Although key socialists, not all believed the same things about women or women's place within society. All of them, however, stressed a somewhat material form of feminism, as opposed to equality-based feminism. The basic belief was that women should be politically active and be granted suffrage because they tended to be more morally conscious and religious than men. …

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