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One Hundred Years of Struggle: The History of Women and the Vote in Canada

One Hundred Years of Struggle: The History of Women and the Vote in Canada, by Joan Sangster, looks beyond the shiny rhetoric of anniversary celebrations and Heritage Minutes to show that the struggle for women's equality included gains and losses, inclusions and exclusions, depending on a woman’s race, class, and location in the nation. This excerpt from "Chapter 6: Feminist Countercultures," explores the roles of satirical theatre and print media in the Canadian suffrage movement. 

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Torontonians packed the pagoda pavilion at Allen Gardens in February 1896 to witness a major social and intellectual happening: a Woman’s Mock Parliament. Well-heeled attendees had secured tickets ahead of time to hear the latest arguments on this avant-garde issue. After some dignified classical music and an earnest statement of support by the Men’s Enfranchisement Association, the feature attraction unfolded: suffragists’ collectively written, dramatic rendition of a typical day in Ontario’s female-dominated legislature. No less than fifty-two amateur actresses filed onto the stage to portray members of the legislature, though in skirts not suits. 

The play began with the usual parliamentary practice of question period. Why, one legislator demanded, would the governmen …

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In Times Like These: On #elxn42 and the Suffragists

Book Cover In Times Like These

Talking History focuses on a wide range of topics in Canadian history, and it consists of articles by Canada's foremost historians and history experts. Our contributors use the power of narrative to bring the past to life and to show how it is not just relevant, but essential to our understanding of Canada and the world today. "Talking History" is a series made possible through a special funding grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Veronica (Nikki) Strong-Boag is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Professor Emerita in UBC’s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice and the Department of Educational Studies and Director of the pro-democracy website, http://womensuffrage.org

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2015’s unprecedented 78-day federal election campaign exposes the perilous state of fairness and justice in Canada. My war bride mother’s favourite adage in raising three children, "Don’t care will be made to care," is more relevant than ever. So too is Joni Mitchell’s more lyrical warning from 1970, a peak moment for so many equality campaigns: "You don’t know what you’ve got 'til it’s gone."

Why, we should ask, is the 21st century still jammed with missing and murdered women, everyday threats to women’s reproductive choice and safety, pre …

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