The Clark’s Crossing Gazette received a total of 13 awards, including three first-place honours, at the 2018 Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association (SWNA) Better Newspapers Competition. Continue reading “Clark’s Crossing Gazette picks up newspaper awards”
By RUTH BITNER
In 1901 a few Russian-born, German-speaking Mennonites from Minnesota and Nebraska arrived in the “Last Best West” to put down roots on land that had once felt the thundering hoofs of buffalo herds and the transient footsteps of the people who depended upon them. Just 25 years earlier, Treaty 6 had been signed at Fort Carlton, forever changing the First Nations traditional way of life.
Railway companies scrambled to build a network of rail to serve the newcomers. The Canadian Northern advanced west through what would become Dalmeny in 1905. Two churches had already been built to the north and west by the first Mennonite homesteaders. A post office and an elevator opened in 1906. False-fronted buildings soon faced each other across a broad main street. By 1910 residents had organized a telephone company and in 1912 Dalmeny was incorporated as a village. Three-quarters of its 100 residents were Mennonites. Continue reading “Dalmeny then and now”
For 100 years, Saskatchewan women have been casting ballots in provincial elections. But on March 14, 1916, when women first got the vote, it was massive news.
Prevailing attitudes about gender roles had to be overcome: ideas like, ‘women lack the ability to vote intelligently,’ and ‘happy homes would be broken up by political squabbles.’ These and other protests were communicated in letters to the Grain Growers Association at the time.
A man of influence publicly inquired in a pained voice, “Who will mind the baby when the mother goes to vote?” Women’s movement mover and shaker, Nellie McClung’s reported episodes like this in her book, “In Times Like These.”
One of our neighbouring premiers expressed the popular sentiment of the time that ‘nice women don’t want to vote.’ That sentiment included a view of ‘the tender sex,’ that simultaneously idealized and subjugated women.
In fact, women were lumped in with some unsavory types. The 1906 federal Election Act decreed flatly, “no woman, idiot, lunatic, or criminal shall vote.”
With time, those attitudes and perceptions began to change, beginning in central Canada. Rural prairie women led the fight for provincial voting rights.
“Women in larger towns and cities were not so vocal perhaps as women on farms and rural women in small towns,” said Ruth Bitner, collections curator at the Western Development Museum (WDM).
“I think that’s partly because those women were working terribly hard both in the home and also on the farm.” A lot of chores were considered women’s work. Women were slogging it out, having babies and getting run down. They began to identify the need for better health care, and recognized their own potentially precarious dependency.
“There was the whole idea that your husband could take off and leave you with virtually nothing and you have little recourse,” said Bitner.
Women wanted change, and they thought if they had the vote they could effect change. Organizations like the Womens’ Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which advocated for prohibition and the end of drinking establishments, got involved.
“Their concerns were that there was a lot of drunkenness and women and their families were being neglected because of that,” said Bitner. The WCTU was one of the first women’s rights movements in Canada and one of the most active.
The Grain Growers Guide, a Winnipeg newspaper, was very influential in western Canada. Their women’s editor promoted political activism among rural women, according to Bitner.
“Violet McNaughton was one of the main forces behind that whole movement in Saskatchewan.” In 1914 she was elected president of Women Grain Growers, a women’s counterpart to the Saskatchewan Grain Growers (SGG), the men’s association.
“The men, by and large, supported the women in their campaign for increased rights and for voting,” said Bitner.
McNaughton was especially passionate about health care for women and children, and was one of the main driving forces advocating for change.
McClung, although a Manitoba native, also traveled to Saskatchewan to promote voting and other women’s’ rights.
Saskatchewan premier of the day, Walter Scott was not opposed to women getting the vote, but wanted to be convinced women were serious about it.
“In early 1916, the Provincial Equal Franchise Board, an alliance of rural and city women’s organizations, collected over 10,000 signatures in support of votes for women,” reads at statement from a WDM exhibit. Scott granted that right to most women, right after Manitoba did on January 28 and before Alberta on April 19 of 1916.
When this decision was formalized on March 14, everyone in legislature broke into singing, “For they are jolly good fellows.”
Not all women however, got the right to vote. First Nations people could not vote until 1960. In other respects as well, governments have been slow to dismantle certain cultural and societal institutions that maintain inequalities, some of which were highlighted on International Women’s Day. It is stunning that arguments still have to be made for income parity for women, and women continue to be greatly underrepresented in many board rooms and excluded from top positions.
More advocacy is needed, such as that being done by Planet 50-50 by 2030 which aims for gender equality by 2030.