100th Anniversary of Women’s First Right to Vote in Canada

International Women's Day

2016 marks 100 years since women were allowed to vote in a provincial election. On January 28, 1916, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to extend the franchise to women voters.

It all started in Manitoba

Two years before, on January 27, 1914, a large group of women and men, many members of the Political Equality League of Manitoba, appeared before the Manitoba Legislative Assembly to make the case for women’s suffrage. They were led by well-known writer and suffragist Nellie McClung, who would later be known for her role in the groundbreaking Persons Case. McClung asked the members of the legislature: “Have we not the brains to think? Hands to work? Hearts to feel? And lives to live?” She went on, “Do we not bear our part in citizenship? Do we not help build the Empire? Give us our due!”

In December 1915, the group delivered a petition containing almost 40,000 signatures in support of women’s right to vote. Premier T.C. Norris delivered the petition to the first session of the 15th Legislature, followed soon after by a Bill to Amend the Manitoba Elections Act. On January 28, 1916, the Lieutenant Governor passed into law the right of Manitoba women to vote – and to put themselves forward as candidates – in provincial elections.

Saskatchewan and Alberta Followed

On March 14, Saskatchewan passed into law An Act to Amend the Saskatchewan Election Act, and on April 19, Alberta passed the Equal Suffrage Statutory Law Amendment Act S.A. 1916 c.5, both jurisdictions thereby granting women the right to vote and stand for election. On May 24, 1918, following passage of An Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women S.C. 1918, c. 20, women in Canada were granted the federal franchise. It would be another 10 years before the Famous Five won the Persons Case Victory, and it was not until 1940 that Quebec women won the right to vote in provincial elections. In 1960 First Nations were allowed to vote without giving up treaty rights. Read more.

100 Years in the Struggle for Women’s Rights: Where Are We Now?
Library and Archives Canada in partnership with University of Ottawa

A Voice Through Voting: The Franchise for Women
Library and Archives Canada (archived content)

"Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote" until April 10, 2016
Manitoba Museum, temporary exhibit

"Give us our due!" How Manitoba Women Won the Vote
Manitoba Historical Society, by Harry Gutkin and Mildred Gutkin, 1996

Women's Right to Vote in Canada
Parliament of Canada

Persons Case
Status of Women Canada

Women’s Franchise Petition
Saskatchewan Archives

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