Although predominantly recognized in the United States, March is Women’s History Month. In honour of that, we want to share some facts about the important historical Canadian women.
There was a time in Canada, as in many other countries, where women had very little rights and were not even recognized by the law as “persons.” Thanks to many strong women throughout history, we now have rights many of them only dreamed of. Sometimes, the best way to appreciate where you are is to look at where you came from.
Progress in Academics
The first place that women really made a difference in being allowed equal rights was in the area of education. Prior to 1872, colleges and universities admitted only males. Because of this, those professions needing a more specific higher education were open only to men. A few noteworthy dates in this regard are as follows:
- Mount Allison University in New Brunswick became the first Canadian university to allow female students.
- Gracie Annie Lockhart became the first woman to get a degree when she received a Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Allison.
- Clara Martin became the first female admitted to practice law.
Progress in Politics
The battle for women to be involved in politics was a long one, one that happened gradually across the country. It is still a more heavily male area, but women are more and more making their mark in Canadian politics.
Jan 28, 1916
- Manitoba becomes the first Canadian province to award women the right to vote and to hold office. Later that same year, Saskatchewan and Alberta made this change as well.
- British Columbia and Ontario allow women to vote.
- Louise McKinney of Alberta is the first woman elected to the provincial legislature.
- Nova Scotia allows women to vote.
May 24, 1918
- Select women (limited by race and age) are permitted to vote federally.
- New Brunswick allows women to vote.
- Agnes MacPhail becomes the first woman to win a seat in the House of Commons.
- Prince Edward Island allows women to vote.
- Women are considered “persons” under the British North America Act.
- Cairine Wilson becomes the first female Senator.
- Quebec becomes the final province to allow women the right to vote.
Between the years of 1948 and 1960, changes started to be made to allow women of different backgrounds and ethnicity to also be allowed the right to vote. Indigenous women were the last to receive this right in 1960.
- Bertha Wilson became the first woman on the Supreme Court.
- Ethel Blondin Andrews (NWT) became the first Indigenous female Member of Parliament.
- Rita Johnson of British Columbia became the first female Premier.
Legislation Supporting Women
Over the years, there have been various acts and other legislations made which have aided women and their rights. Prior to the 1900s, the first change made in favour of women was allowing property owning women to vote in municipalities. But women had their sights set on more than this.
- Unemployment Insurance began to provide limited pregnancy benefits for working women.
- The Indigenous Act section 12 was repealed so Indigenous women did not lose their status for marrying a non-Indigenous man.
While much of this information may seem irrelevant to some people today, knowing our history is important, including the dates in history related to the right of Canadian women. It can be easy to take our rights for granted. Part of appreciating what we are “allowed” to do now is understanding what things were like for women before us.
It can also be alarming to look at these in a timeline. Some of these things happened during our lifetime! If we think about it that way, it really puts into perspective how recent history some of this actually is.
If you would like to read more info on the history of women in Canada, you can read about rights of women here and important historical dates in Canada here.
If you want to see how other countries in the world fare in comparison in regards to women in their history, we’ve got a SchoolhouseTeachers.com course for that! Check out the sample lesson and see if that is something that may interest you and your children.
This article has been written by homeschooling staff writers of The Canadian Schoolhouse (TCS). Enjoy more of our content from TCS contributors and staff writers by visiting our Front Door page that has content on our monthly theme and links to all our content sections.