Nellie McClung House, 803 15th Avenue SW
Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0359
Because I am a genealogist I have an interest in the creation of records of people. Things like birth and marriage records, census records and, appropriately enough during this mayoral election, lists of eligible voters. When I speak to young people and people just getting started in genealogy, I have to remind them that we can’t look for everyone in the voters’ lists. As strange as it may seem now, at one time in our history not everyone was entitled to vote. In earlier times, being a citizen, as we understand it now, was not enough to qualify you as a voter. Sometimes you had to be a landowner, of a particular race, or of a particular gender. Changes in law that brought us to where we are now, where every citizen has a right to a voice in the choice of government, were often hard won. Often it took a way of thinking that was outside of accepted beliefs. This was the case with women’s suffrage. It sometimes astonishes people to find out that women weren’t granted the absolute right to vote in Canada until 1940, when Quebec finally granted women the right to vote in provincial elections.
The right of women to vote in the Prairie Provinces has much to do with a woman called Nellie McClung. She was a social activist who was concerned about many causes, among them, the right of women to have a voice in government. Through the work of Nellie and other women, Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote in provincial elections and to hold run for provincial office, in January of 1916. Nellie and her family had moved to Edmonton by this time and she had continued her fight. Alberta granted women the vote shortly after Manitoba, in April, 1916.
We have come a long way since we had to fight for the right to vote. Now we need to make sure that we exercise that right.
The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library has an excellent collection of material relating to the history of the political environment in Alberta and many of Nellie McClung’s works.