Montreal Standard
9 December 1911, page 24


Votes for Canadian Women

A Montreal lady who believes in “votes for women” has not much hope of the success of the cause in Canada until women here take more interest in public affairs than they take in a new hat or in the pattern of a rug for the dining-room floor. Perhaps the time will come when the hat and the rug will occupy second place; and what will happen then? Where will women look for justice; by what means will they seek to secure it?
Mrs Pankhurst is coming, and possibly she will relegate the hat and the rug to their proper place, and infuse sufficient vigor into the cause of “votes for women” to make it a vital, insistent issue in our public life, as it is to-day in the public life of Great Britain.
In this country the franchise is exercised in three separate and distinct fields- the municipal field, which also includes the administration of schools maintained in part by ratepayers and administered by them; the provincial and the federal field.
The municipal franchise is already possessed by women, so that here the work of reform does not consist in procuring for women the right to vote, but in interesting them sufficiently in municipal affairs to lead them to exercise the right they now enjoy.
None of the functions exercised by our various governments more directly or continuously concern the citizen than do those delegated to municipal authorities. They practically regulate to a large extent the life of the citizen. They provide him with streets and roads, and in cities and towns with drainage, with water and light with fire and police protection. They attempt to safeguard public health, to prescribe the conditions under which the buildings may be erected, services performed, the goods sold.
Here is a broad and most important field of government, in which women are already permitted, to participate, and in which they can prove their usefulness as citizens and make good their claim to share in the broader fields of provincial and federal affairs.
Next to the municipal authorities, it is the provincial authorities that come into closest touch with the citizen, for they have to do with those matters which are at the very foundation of society- civil rights and property, and the administration of justice. The civil status of women, single or married, her legal rights with respect to property and contracts- these, and other similar matters, fall within jurisdiction of the provincial authorities; and it is with respect to these matters that women suffragists are most insistent upon the possession of power to influence legislation by having a voice in the selection of the legislators.
The cause of “votes for women” will, therefore, first rap at the doors of provincial executive councils and the doors of provincial legislatures. It will be at Quebec and Toronto, Halifax and Fredericton, and the other provincial capitals.