Magazine article Teach

Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote

Magazine article Teach

Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote

Article excerpt


The following is a lesson plan excerpt from Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote, an interactive graphic novel and resource. To see the full lesson plans or to learn more, please visit


The Rise of Feminism

Suffrage: Canadian Women and the Vote is an interactive graphic novel and class resource that explores the origins and history of women's struggle for the vote in Canada. The story follows two teenage friends, Bridget and Shania who are apathetic and dismiss the notion of voting as unimportant. Then, after a fulsome discussion with relatives about women's struggle to win the vote in Canada, the girls reconsider their views and values and change their political and emotional responses. It is important for students to try to imagine a time when women in Canada could not vote-a time not all that distant!-and the impact that this inequity had on women as a group, and society as a whole, and why and how this inspired many Canadians to take action, such as the rise of feminism.

The foundation of this project is rooted in the upcoming 100th anniversary of (most) Canadian women getting the right to vote that occurred in 1918. It is instructive to examine how this specific struggle affected feminism in Canada and whether either movement could have, or would have, occurred without the other. Students will gain insight into why social change happens, and be inspired to make connections with current social and political movements, and predict their outcomes.


Citizenship, Global Citizenship, Canadian History, Social Studies, Political Studies


3 to 4 classes


Franchise: the right to vote

Suffrage: the right to vote in political elections

Suffragist: a person who supports or recommends extending the right to vote, especially to women


Women did not have the right to vote in Canada for many years. This inequity was not the only one faced by women in this country. There were many other rights denied to women. The prevailing dominant attitude of the time, both political and religious, reflected a belief that women were inferior to men, were less intelligent and less capable generally, and belonged in the home. Many of the social norms and laws in Canada were transplanted to this country from Great Britain. Throughout the 18th century and then when the colonies were confederated in 1867, Britain had become the ruling power and dominant influence in Canada. Over time, women gained more rights, including the right to vote, but the change occurred slowly, over decades of women's protests and campaigning. Historians differentiate three different stages: women's rights before the war, during the war, and after the war.

Feminism took hold in Canada, but women in this first wave of feminists were divided between two distinct sets of beliefs. The larger group were "maternal feminists" who did not advocate, nor believe, that women were equal to men; they did not challenge prescribed gender roles. Rather they believed men and women were complimentary, and that women had an important role in society that was different from men. Their belief had a biological basis. They believed the woman's role was to improve social conditions, and that women were in the best position to do this because of their "maternal natures." Maternal feminists attacked the discrimination that came about from the division of men's and women's roles but they did not question the underlying causes of this inequality and women's oppression. The belief of the smaller group, the "equal-rights" or "equality feminists," was justice-based, not biology-based. They believed women and men were equal and it was only laws and attitudes that promulgated observable differences.

The first wave of feminism was centered on women achieving a greater role in public life that included women's suffrage. …

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