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article imageManitoba marks 100th anniversary of women's right to vote

By Karen Graham     Jan 28, 2016 in World
Winnipeg - On January 28 1916, Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote. This was made possible through the crusading efforts of suffragette Nellie McClung and her many supporters
The right to vote and be considered an equal to men in the eyes of the law is something still denied to many women around the world today. But in Canada, as in the United States, it took a movement led by strong-willed and dedicated women to make change happen at the federal level.
Manitoba was the first province to give women the right to vote, even though some say it was reluctant to do so. But this one provincial move was the beginning of a wave of changes in the voting status of women in other provinces, so that by 1919, all women over 21 years of age had the right to vote in federal elections.
Nellie McClung creates a stir in Manitoba
Nellie McClung was an amazing woman. Besides being a feminist, social reformer and activist, she had a sense of humor, making it easy for her to gain people's attention and respect when she spoke. Although she didn't learn to read until she was 10 years old, she in later life became a prolific writer.
Born in Chatsworth, Ontario in 1873, her family moved to Manitoba in 1880, where she lived until right before Manitoba gave women the right to vote in provincial elections in 1916. Growing up in Manitoba, McClung became deeply involved in the suffrage-focused Political Equality League and was an active member of Manitoba's Liberal Party.
McClung's most memorable moment came after she rented the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg in 1914 and staged a mock Parliament. She cast herself as Premier and put men in the role of having to beg her for the right to vote. The performance created quite a stir, showing how ridiculous it was to exclude women in the voting process. The performance was a big success, both financially and politically.
Defining the term "persons"
McClung was also one of the Famous Five, also called the Valiant Five that included Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy and Louise McKinney. In 1927, these women put forth a petition to clarify the term, "persons" as set forth in Section 24 of the British North America Act of 1867.
This one little section was interpreted to mean women were excluded from holding political office. The petition eas successful, clearing the way for women to enter into public office. The "Persons Case" became a landmark legal decision for women in Canada, clearing the way for the appointment of women to the Senate; establishing that Canadian women were full persons, equal to men.
Unveiling plaque commemorating the  Famous Five.  
[Front  L-R]: Mrs. Muir Edwards  daughter-in-law ...
Unveiling plaque commemorating the "Famous Five." [Front, L-R]: Mrs. Muir Edwards, daughter-in-law of Henrietta Muir Edwards; Mrs. J.C. Kenwood, daughter of Judge Emily Murphy; Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King; Mrs. Nellie McClung. [Rear, L-R]: Senators Iva Campbell Fallis, Cairine Wilson.
Eugene M. Finn / National Film Board of Canada
The Liberal Party defeated the Conservatives in the 1915 election, reports CTV News Canada, and one of the first things that happened was the introduction of legislation to grant women the right to vote. The legislation became official on January 28, 1916. Other provinces soon followed suit, with Saskatchewan and Alberta granting voting rights in the same year. Quebec held off until 1940, and the Northwest Territories didn't allow women to vote until 1951.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement acknowledging the anniversary for women's voting rights on Thursday: "This victory played a crucial role in shaping the Canada we know and love - a Canada where acceptance, equality, and respect are integral parts of who we are and what we stand for," Trudeau said in the statement. "These brave suffragettes led by example then, and they continue to inspire us now."
The Prime Minister also mentioned the same notion he had put forth at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; saying that "All Canadians, women, and men alike, should be proud to call themselves feminists."
Last year, one of the first things Trudeau did after taking office was to select an equal-gender cabinet. This was a first for Canada. Only 26 percent of Canada's elected MPs are female, and only one woman has led the country as prime minister. This was Kim Campbell who governed from June 25, 1993, to November 4, 1993.
There are three women currently serving as premiers in Canada, including Rachel Notley in Alberta, Christy Clark in charge in B.C. and Kathleen Wynne in Ontario. "Together, we can, and will, continue to push for true equality between men and women, right here in Canada and around the world," Trudeau said in his statement.
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