The fight for the right to vote

By Costa Maragos Posted: October 12, 2015 6:00 a.m.

After a long, hard struggle, Euro-Canadian women were granted the right to vote federally in 1918
After a long, hard struggle, Euro-Canadian women were granted the right to vote federally in 1918 .

The fight for the right to vote in Canada was not easy for women.

Following a long, hard-fought battle, Euro-Canadian women were granted the right to vote in federal elections in 1918 – more than 50 years after Canada was created.

U of R historian Dr. Donica Belisle is presenting a lecture entitled “When Women Couldn't Vote: Federal Elections and Canadian History” on October 14 at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sports.

The talk is open to the public, and there will be time for questions and discussion.

“Canadian voter turnout in the last federal election was 61 per cent. Certainly the people who, 100 years ago, fought for women’s right to vote would have been appalled,” says Dr. Belisle, who is an assistant professor of History at the U of R. She holds a PhD in Canadian Studies.

Donica Belisle
Dr. Donica Belisle, assistant professor of history (Photo courtesy of Donica Belisle)

“To the women who fought for the right to vote, casting a ballot was a crucial democratic right and one that guaranteed equal standing in Canadian society.”

Dr. Belisle’s talk will look at why the Canadian government aggressively resisted granting women the right to vote.

Although Euro-Canadian women started voting federally in 1919, most Asian Canadians were excluded from federal franchise until 1948.

And it was only in 1960 when Aboriginal people were no longer required to give up their treaty rights in order to qualify to vote.

“The right to vote confers respect and dignity; it suggests that, yes, one is a respected member of the community” says Dr. Belisle.

“Given the importance of voting, we should remember that the Canadian state has, on occasion, withheld voting rights from certain members of the population. We should inquire into why the Canadian government made those decisions. We should also look at what it was like to live in a country in which over half of the population could not vote.”

Dr. Belisle teaches Canadian history, with emphases on the political, economic and cultural trends that have shaped our lives.

She’s the author of the award-winning book Retail Nation: Department Stores and the Making of Modern Canada (UBC Press).

Her forthcoming book is “Consumer Citizens: Canadian Feminism and the Rise of Consumer Modernity” (U of Toronto Press).

Event:      When Women Couldn’t Vote
Date:       Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Time:       10:30 am – 11:20 am
Location:  Centre for Kinesiology (CK 185)
                 Open to the public.

A degree from the Department of History can lead to exciting career opportunities. For more information please visit here.