On July 7, an anniversary quietly went by with little notice or fanfare, but it should have been acknowledged and heralded. On that date, one-hundred years ago, Canadian women became eligible to run for office and to hold seats in the Canadian House of Commons. Even I, who is interested in women’s issues, was not aware this important date, until after it had passed. I came across a news release dated July 7, 2019 titled “Today Marks the Centennial of Canadian Women Winning The Right To Stand For Office In The House of Commons”. It was released by the Merchant Navy Commemorative Theme Project.
Most of us now take women in politics for granted. It is difficult to believe that it is only one hundred years ago that we became eligible to run for office! Until that time, only men could represent us in the political forum. In fact, it is only one-hundred-and-one years ago, on May 24, 1918, that women won the right to vote! On that date, the act that was passed stated, “Women who are British subjects, 21 years of age, and otherwise meet the qualifications entitling a man to vote, are entitled to vote in a Dominion election”.
It would take another two-and-a-half years after the act passed before the first woman was elected. Agnes Macphail ran as a candidate for the United Farmers of Ontario and became a Member of Parliament, becoming the first female MP ever in Canada. I can imagine the barriers she faced and the war she had to rage each day just to be considered equal to her male counterparts. It is because of courageous women like her that Canada began its slow march to equality for women. In modern times, it has often been women from our cities who have led the fight for rights, so it is interesting that Mrs. Macphael was from rural Ontario.
It seems that for the many strides forward women have made since that time, we are now living in an era of uncertainly. In several middle eastern countries, women who once enjoyed rights and freedoms, have had them taken away and now live under the control of the men in their lives. Closer to home, in the United States, there seems to be a level of disrespect toward women and even attempts to take away some of the rights and opportunities we have come to take for granted. In Canada, we have far too few women entering politics and for the first time in years, we have all male premiers across our country.
It’s important that remember and acknowledge the past and hold dear the advances made by the women before us.