Previously published in Examiner
Part 2 of the Status of Women in Canada in the 1940’s
Quebec of the 1940’s was a staunch Roman Catholic Province and the women were considered the “guardians of the French Canadian Race.” To see women voting and getting into the political arena was a direct threat to home life. Some viewed it as the beginning of the deterioration of family life and family values. It would stand to reason the many women attempting to hold onto old world values would be against their forward looking sisters. This new breed of women became feminists before the word was invented.
Besides women against women on the issue, there were ongoing legal debates and media debates: “…French-Canadian women risk becoming “public women”, “veritable women-men, hybrids that would destroy women-mothers and women-women.” Henri Bourassa, founder of Le Devoir, (source: Cap-aux-Diamants, no 21, spring of 1990, p. 20). http://www.dgeq.qc.ca/en/women_quest_equality.asp
Quebec Women suffragists
The early Quebec suffragists were not wild like their British counterparts in the UK, they did not go on hunger strikes, or burn mailboxes. Instead they set out to create a strategy that would systemically change public opinion in a subtle matter. They used the media to their advantage and got prominent politicians on their side. Henry Mills was the first politician to introduce the bill to allow the female vote. However, it would take 17 attempts to pass the bill and several women’s marches to Quebec City before it would be put in place.
Bill 18 was passed on April 25, 1940, giving women the right to vote. Montreal lawyer, Marie-Claire Kirkland Casgrain became the first woman to become a member in the Quebec Legislative Assembly. She continued the woman’s cause. In 1964, she introduced a bill that ended “married women’s legal incapacity” – given them legal rights. This was just a steppingstone. The Quebec Charter of Human Rights was not introduced until 1975 and that was supposed to get rid of all racial inequality.
Note: That in 1976, this Montreal examiner was a Montreal married woman who had to get her husband’s permission to have her son put on her passport. In the rest of Canada that would not have been required.