A century in review: Fighting for the rights of women

January 28 marked the hundredth year since women got the right to vote. A century later, women have gained rights not only to vote, but also to run for senate, and become members of Parliament.

“Never underestimate the power of a woman,” Nellie McClung, a member of The Famous Five said over a hundred years ago. And with that she brought forward many rights for women.

Women as voters

In 1914, McClung fought for the right to vote in Manitoba. Two years later, Manitoba granted women the right to vote. Following this, the Canadian feminist and social activist moved to Alberta. Soon women were allowed to vote all over Canada.

According to Elections Canada’s 2011 election report, more women under the age of 55 tended to vote than men under 55. And this isn’t the first time women have placed more ballots than men. The same results were found in the 2008 election. The right to vote is not taken for granted in the United States either, with a voting rate of 63.7 (women) to 59.7 (men), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Women in Parliament


“I want for myself what I want for other women, absolute equality,”

-Agnes MacPhail

Five years after the right was granted, Parliament welcomed in the first woman: Agnes MacPhail. Following this, MacPhail was re-elected in 1925, 1926, 1930, and 1935. Since MacPhail, the number of women in Parliament has slowly climbed. Elections Canada reports that there was one woman on Parliament Hill in 1921. In 2015, we have 88. Though this appears to be a step in the right direction, of the people in Parliament women only represent 26 per cent.

The Famous Five


“Whatever is dirty, it is women’s job to clean up, or drive some man to clean up, and that goes for everything from cellar to senate,”

-Agnes MacPhail

The Famous Five included Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Irene Parbly, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Edwards. In 1927, they created a petition in regards to the statement that all persons were allowed to run for Senate. In 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court responded to the petition ruling that only men were persons. Women were not. A year later, after going to a higher court, the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council overturned the ruling saying women are in fact persons.

Cairine Wilson was the first woman appointed to Senate in 1930.

 Women are leaders

“So even in countries where women have had the vote for a long time, they have to struggle against this broader social expectation that leadership is not a feminine quality,”

-Kim Campbell

Several years later, in June of 1993, Kim Campbell became the first female prime minister. She succeeded Brian Mulroney following his retirement. Campbell had a short-lived run after she was defeated by the Liberals merely months later.

What’s next?


“Disturbers are never popular–nobody ever really loved an alarm clock in action-no matter how grateful they may have been afterwards for its kind services!”

-Nellie McClung

Although the rights of women are still progressing, there is a lot more to do. With half of the population being female, the lack of representation in Parliament creates a large gender gap, as 75 per cent are male. Campbell opened the doors for female prime ministers 23 years ago. But no female has ever been elected. Despite the narrowing of the gender gap, many businesses still believe men are more fit for the job than women. This doesn’t stop at job titles. Pay equity is still a large and relevant issue in many workplaces. In the end, we have come far in gender equality, but not far enough.



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Taylor Waines is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. When it comes to writing and reporting, she enjoys covering concerts, health concerns and student issues. She likes to spend her spare time writing, and drawing. Taylor hopes to continue feature writing following graduation.