Women's Suffrage in the West | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Women's Suffrage in the West

Political Equality League Presents Petition, 1915
  1. January 01, 1873

    British Columbia 

    BC Women Gain Right to Vote in Municipal Elections

    Married and unmarried women who owned property in British Columbia were allowed to vote in municipal elections, but not to hold office.

  2. January 01, 1887


    Manitoba Women Win the Right to Vote in Municipal Elections

    Female property owners in Manitoba win the right to vote in municipal elections. However, neither that class of women nor any other women at the time were enfranchised at any other level.

  3. January 01, 1890


    Manitoba Women Win the Right to Vote in School Board Elections

    Female property owners in Manitoba win the right to vote in school board elections and the right to serve as school trustees.

  4. January 01, 1893


    Women’s Suffrage Petition Presented by WCTU

    Amelia Yeomans and the Manitoba chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) petitioned the provincial government, calling for women to have the vote. When this petition was ignored, the WCTU sponsored what would be the first mock parliament in Canada. The mock parliament was a powerful medium in which suffragists made their arguments for the right to vote. These events were also organized to raise funds and public support for suffrage organizations.

  5. February 09, 1893


    Mock Parliament Held in Winnipeg

    The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union hosted a mock parliament at the Bijou Theatre in Winnipeg. Dr. Amelia Yeomans acted as the “premier,” arguing for women’s enfranchisement. Other attendees included Nellie McClung and E. Cora Hind. The performance was one of four mock parliaments held in Manitoba.

  6. November 01, 1894


    Manitoba Equal Suffrage Club Established

    Dr. Amelia Yeomans and E. Cora Hind announced the formation of the Equal Franchise Association (also known as the Equal Suffrage Club) at the end of a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union meeting in Winnipeg. Yeomans believed that prohibition might alienate possible suffrage supporters (including men) and that suffrage should be a separate movement. She was the club’s first president.

  7. January 01, 1904


    First WCTU Chapter Founded in North-West Territories

    Women’s rights advocate Louise McKinney founded the first North-West Territories chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Claresholm, NT (now Alberta). Though the WCTU worked to prohibit alcohol, it was also provided fertile ground for the suffrage movement. McKinney would go on to be part of the “Famous Five,” known for their work in the Persons Case.

  8. January 01, 1908

    British Columbia 

    Victoria’s Local Council of Women Endorses Suffrage

    Victoria’s Local Council of Women voted to endorse women’s suffrage. It was the first women’s council in Canada to do so. The Victoria council’s endorsement, under the presidency of Cecilia Spofford, was surprising because the National Council of Women would not do so until 1910.

  9. January 01, 1910

    British Columbia 

    Victoria’s Local Council of Women Holds Mock Parliament

    Victoria’s Local Council of Women held a mock parliament. Both the lieutenant-governor and the premier of British Columbia attended the performance. The mock parliament was one of two organized by BC women’s rights advocates during the suffrage movement. The University of British Columbia Women’s Club in Vancouver also staged a mock parliament that year.

  10. May 05, 1910

    British Columbia 

    British Columbia Political Equality League Holds Founding Convention

    The British Columbia Political Equality League (BCPEL) held its inaugural convention. The League included women and men as members. The Vancouver and Victoria Political Equality Leagues would form the core of the BCPEL, hoping to make suffrage a province-wide movement. Vancouver’s mayor led the meeting during which he proclaimed his support for suffrage.

  11. January 16, 1911

    British Columbia 

    Vancouver Political Equality League Founded

    The inaugural meeting of the Vancouver Political Equality League (VPEL) was held at the city’s Theosophical Hall. Maria Grant led the meeting, though the first elected president would be Woman’s Christian Temperance Union activist Florence Hall. The women chose not to use “suffrage” in their name to avoid the word’s increasing infamy.

  12. January 01, 1912


    Manitoba Political Equality League Established

    Nellie McClung, E. Cora Hind, Francis Beynon, her sister Lillian Thomas, and a number of other professional women formed the Political Equality League (PEL) and launched a sharp, concerted campaign that pulled in support from the Manitoba Grain Growers’ Association, the WCTU, and the Manitoba Direct Legislation League. Several men, including Grain Growers’ Guide editor George Chipman and journalist Fred Dixon, joined the league. Before long, the PEL had 1,200 members.

  13. June 01, 1912


    Grain Growers’ Guide Names Female Editor

    Grain Growers’ Guide editor-in-chief George F. Chapman appointed feminist Francis Beynon as editor of the weekly’s woman’s page. Since the Guide’s creation in 1908, it had published articles and letters on suffrage. Chapman was a noted supporter of the movement. Beynon would edit the section until June 1917.

  14. January 01, 1913


    Edmonton Equal Franchise League Established

    The Edmonton Equal Franchise League, Alberta’s first organization wholly dedicated to suffrage, was established. Created on the heels of the United Farmers of Alberta’s pro-equal rights resolution, the League included male members such as the University of Alberta’s Dr. W.H. Alexander. Female members included Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung.

  15. January 16, 1913

    British Columbia 

    BC Political Equality League Hosts Membership Drive

    The BC Political Equality League held a membership drive on the legislature’s first day of session in 1913. The outdoor event included speeches as pamphlets and a suffrage petition were circulated. The drive kept enfranchisement in public view.

  16. February 14, 1913

    British Columbia 

    BC Suffragists Deliver Petition

    Delegates from the BC Political Equality League presented a suffrage petition to Premier Richard McBride. While the premier had previously mentioned that not enough women appeared interested in the right to vote, the petition contained some 10,000 signatures. At the meeting, McBride was evasive. Six days later, he refused the PEL’s request in the Legislature.

  17. January 01, 1914


    Alice Jamieson, First Female Judge in Canada

    Alice Jamieson became the first female judge in Canada and the British Empire when she was appointed to Calgary’s juvenile court. Jamieson, a suffragist, faced opposition to her appointment, noting “cold shoulders greeting me on every hand.” Yet she was determined, “I drew myself up and said, ‘well, I’m here and I’m going to stay.’”

  18. January 27, 1914

    Roblin, Sir Rodmond Palen


    Manitoba Suffragist Delegation Appears before Legislative Assembly

    A delegation of suffragists gathered before the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. The group included Nellie McClung, who demanded, “Give us our due!” Conservative Premier Sir Rodmond Roblin responded, stating that, “most women don’t want the vote.” McClung lampooned Roblin’s response the next night in a historic mock parliament.

  19. January 28, 1914

    Mock Parliament at Walker Theatre


    Walker Theatre Mock Parliament

    Suffragists held a mock Women’s Parliament at the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg. Nellie McClung played the role of the premier, addressing a group of men seeking the franchise in front of a packed, laughing audience. The event was a financial success and helped render the notion of women’s suffrage more publicly acceptable.

  20. February 01, 1915


    Saskatchewan Provincial Equal Franchise Board Founded

    The Saskatchewan Provincial Equal Franchise Board was founded in the tiny town of Moosomin. Led by Violet McNaughton, the 50-member board spearheaded the province’s suffrage movement until 1916. It united such disparate groups as the Women Grain Growers and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union behind a common cause.

  21. February 26, 1915

    Nellie McClung


    McClung's Petition

    Suffragist Nellie McClung presented the Alberta legislature with a petition demanding that women be given the right to vote. The right was granted in municipal elections 2 months later.

  22. March 01, 1915


    United Farm Women of Alberta Host Equal Franchise League

    The United Farm Women’s Parliament (i.e., annual convention) hosted the president of the Edmonton Equal Franchise League, Dr. W.H. Alexander. During his speech, Alexander praised a recent petition drive, but lamented the lack of representation by the province’s rural women and urged the audience to redouble their suffrage efforts.

  23. December 23, 1915


    Manitoba Political Equality League Presents Petitions

    A delegation from the Manitoba Political Equality League presented two suffrage petitions to Premier Tobias Norris. The group, which included both women and men, had collected nearly 40,000 signatures, stating there was no reason to keep women from voting. Ninety-three-year-old Amelia Burritt presented the second petition 4,250 names.

  24. January 28, 1916


    Manitoba Women Win Right to Vote

    Women in Manitoba who are of British descent or citizenship, 21 or older, and not otherwise disqualified are given the right to vote provincially and to hold provincial office. Other provinces soon follow and grant women the right to vote in provincial elections.

  25. January 28, 1916

    McClung, Murphy and Jamieson


    Manitoba Women Get Vote

    Manitoba was the first province in Canada to grant women the right to vote and to hold political office provincially.

  26. March 14, 1916

    McClung, Murphy and Jamieson


    Saskatchewan Women Get Vote

    Saskatchewan women won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  27. April 19, 1916


    Alberta Women Get Vote

    Alberta women won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  28. September 14, 1916

    British Columbia 

    British Columbia Suffrage Referendum Passes

    Male voters in British Columbia passed a suffrage referendum, agreeing that women should have the right to vote. Conservative Premier William Bowser had said he would not move on enfranchisement without a referendum, attaching it to the provincial election. Suffragists saw it as a delaying strategy and vigorously campaigned for the Liberal party.

  29. April 05, 1917

    British Columbia 

    BC Women Get Vote

    British Columbia women (except Asian and Indigenous women) won the rights to vote and to hold provincial office.

  30. June 07, 1917

    Louise McKinney, women's rights activist, legislator


    First Elected Women

    Louise McKinney and Roberta MacAdams were the first women in Canada elected to a provincial legislature, in Alberta.

  31. October 01, 1917

    British Columbia 

    BC Suffrage Societies Meet with Conservative MP

    Conservative MP H.H. Stevens met with members of the BC United Suffrage Societies (USS) after he had mused, in the House of Commons, about its ability to represent women in BC. The USS was not pleased that Stevens had raised one woman’s telegram — in which she argued that the USS did not speak for BC’s patriotic women — as an example of BC women’s opinion.

  32. January 24, 1918

    British Columbia 

    First Woman Elected to BC legislature

    Mary Ellen Smith was the first woman elected to the BC legislature; it was the first election in which women could vote in BC.

  33. January 24, 1918

    British Columbia 

    First Woman MLA in BC

    Mary Ellen Smith was the first woman elected to the BC legislature; it was the first election in which women could vote in BC.

  34. July 29, 1919


    Saskatchewan Elects First Female MLA

    Sarah Ramsland, Saskatchewan’s first female Member of the Legislative Assembly, won her seat in a by-election. After her husband, MLA Max Ramsland, died in the 1918 influenza epidemic, Sarah was invited to run in the same district and won. In the first 66 years in which Saskatchewan women could hold provincial office, only 10 were elected.

  35. June 29, 1920


    First Woman Elected to Manitoba Legislature

    Edith MacTavish Rogers became the first woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

  36. March 23, 1921

    British Columbia 

    Mary Ellen Smith Appointed First Female Cabinet Minister

    Premier John Oliver appointed Mary Ellen Smith as minister without portfolio, making her the first female Cabinet member in the British Empire. A noted suffragist, she resigned just eight months later, stating: “a Cabinet minister without portfolio is as a fifth wheel on the political couch, a superfluity.”

  37. July 18, 1921


    Parlby Elected

    Irene Parlby was elected to the Alberta Legislature, representing Lacombe in the United Farmers of Alberta government. She was subsequently named to Cabinet, as minister without portfolio. Parlby was only the second woman in the British Empire to hold ministerial office. She was particularly active on issues related to public health care, improved wages for working women and married women's property rights.

  38. March 24, 1937

    British Columbia 

    First Woman Elected to Vancouver City Council

    Helena Gutteridge became the first female member of the Vancouver City Council. Gutteridge had been a force in the political scene for several decades. A noted feminist and socialist, she worked tirelessly for enfranchisement during the suffrage movement and for workers’ rights.

  39. January 01, 1949

    British Columbia 

    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in British Columbia

    Status Indians in British Columbia were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  40. December 12, 1949


    First Woman Speaker

    Nancy Hodges was named Speaker of the BC Legislature, the first woman to hold the post of Speaker in the British Commonwealth.

  41. January 01, 1952


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Manitoba

    Status Indians in Manitoba were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  42. January 01, 1960


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Saskatchewan

    Status Indians in Saskatchewan were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  43. January 01, 1965


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Alberta

    Status Indians in Alberta were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  44. May 25, 1966


    Parlby Designated Historic Person

    Advocate and respected politician Irene Parlby was designated a National Historic Person. Parlby was best known for her role in the Persons Case, but she worked in Alberta’s Cabinet as minister without portfolio at a time when female politicians were largely marginalized. She was known as the “Women’s Minister.”

  45. April 02, 1991

    British Columbia 

    Rita Johnston Becomes Canada's First Female Premier

    Social Credit leader Rita Johnston was sworn in as BC's 29th premier, subsequently becoming both Canada and BC's first female premier.

  46. October 02, 2011


    Alison Redford Becomes Alberta’s First Female Premier

    Alison Redford was elected leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party after Ed Stelmach’s resignation, making her the province’s first female premier. Redford led her party to victory in the 2012 provincial election.