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

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 17, 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.