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#GreenWhiteViolet Women’s suffrage in Canada

Women's suffrage in Canada

Today I am pleased to announce a guest post on women’s right to vote, written by blogger and costume designer Resa. The journey to women’s suffrage in Canada is eye-opening.


100 years ago, #GreenWhiteViolet meant, “Give Women the Vote.” Yet, what does it mean now, and why do I care?

The largely male-dominated world is a mess. To make it work better, I believe that the pragmatic answer is found by commingling the nurturing intuitional intelligence of women equally with the aggressive hard-line intelligence of men.

Nonetheless, women were and are currently sidelined to varying degrees, depending on the situation and issue.

I believe Canadian women have the earned right, and should be at the forefront of peaceful dialogue for a decent global future. This is because our sociopolitical evolution has been exemplary.

In the early 1900s, women of the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America who were involved in a political movement to obtain their right to vote became known as “Suffragettes.”

Canadian women were part of the Suffrage movement. Of the many inspiring sisters before us, my favorites are Dr. Emily Howard Stowe, Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen, and Nellie McClung.

Canada’s first female doctor, Dr. Emily Howard Stowe, began the Canadian Suffrage movement in the late 1800s in Ontario, Canada.

Portrait of Dr. Emily Howard Stowe.

In a world without computers, let alone Twitter, to communicate, the “Suffragettes” used fashion and jewelry to speak to each other.  It was their special secret language.

The first order of the day was to wear soft, white, and feminine pieces of clothing to contradict the male journalistic visage of a hardened harpy.

Then Mrs. Pethick Lawrence from the UK came up with the colours.

Green = Hope

White = Purity

Purple = Freedom & Dignity

Rings, pendants, and brooches designed with peridots, emeralds, pearls, diamonds, amethysts, and garnets were worn. Jewelry with chains & bars denoted she had been to jail for the cause. There was so much symbolism in the suffragette jewelry.

Or, perhaps that she had been a “Hunger Striker.”

Working-class women did not need to worry about how to afford white dresses and jewelry. They were simply focused on using the colors to express commitment. Sashes, scarves, ribbons, and flowers all worked quite nicely.

By the time Emmiline and Christabel Parkhurst of the UK changed purple to violet to fit the slogan “Give Women the Vote,” Dr. Emily Howard Stowe’s daughter, Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen, had taken up the cause.

Portrait of Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen

The Canadian “Suffragettes” did not experience the banal cruelty of imprisonment and starvation via hunger strikes as their European and American sisters had. No one had to throw themselves in front of King George V’s racehorse and die, as Emily Davison had done. Men, in fear, did not have to pass a law limiting the length of a woman’s hatpin to no longer than eight inches.

Rather, the deed got done with unyielding and continuous education, perpetual petitioning of the government, the introduction of bill after a bill by male supporters (Suffragists), and humor, yes, even humor.

With special thanks to Nellie McClung, a best-selling author of her day, women attained the right to vote at the provincial level in Manitoba on January 27, 1916.

Portrait of Nellie McClung.

Nellie and her gals put on a play, a mock session of Parliament. With Nellie as Premier, women held the power. Humorously, the women debated if men should get the vote. It gained national attention.

Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario followed suit, giving women the vote in 1917, and Nova Scotia followed suit on April 26, 1918.

Finally, on May 24, 1918, Canadian women were granted the right to vote federally.

Women’s provincial rights to vote were further peacefully granted: New Brunswick in 1919, Yukon in 1919, Prince Edward Island in 1922, Newfoundland in 1925, and North West Territories in 1951.

Due to the Quebec provincial government colluding with the Catholic Church, women in Quebec were not entitled to vote until 1940. Quebec women owe thanks to the courage of Thérèse Casgrain for that amazing step.

In regards to Aboriginal women (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis), the federal Legislature abolished the last formal restrictions on political citizenship in 1960.

Yay! Women in Canada have been voting for almost 100 years now.

Today, Ontario has an openly gay female Premier, Kathleen Wynne.

Women’s suffrage in Canada and looking ahead

However, Canada has never elected a woman Prime Minister. Our only female Prime Minister was Kim Campbell (in office from June 25, 1993, to November 4, 1993), who inherited the position from resigning Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. She was the first female leader of the PC party. And, no woman, Canadian or of any other nationality, can be a Catholic priest.

Globally, women still have a long way to go. Men and women are both parts of the human equation. Women worldwide need to become more empowered in business, politics, and religion. Men have never given it to us; we’ve earned every step we’ve taken.

It’s time to #GreenWhiteViolet on social media, but with a new message(s) for our current time and situation!

Global Women’s Village

Global Women’s Vision

Greatness Warrants all Views

What do you think it can mean?

About today’s writer

Resa is a costume designer who works in film and television. Based in Ontario, Canada, she also designs unique clothing and one-of-a-kind accessories. On her blog Art Gowns, she steps out of the box with the concept that her gowns are art, a poetic visual expression to be worn in heart, mind, spirit, and body.

29 thoughts on “#GreenWhiteViolet Women’s suffrage in Canada”

  1. Dear Resa, What a fantastic and informative piece on the suffrage movement in Canada. I’d not known about the use of attire , jewelry and colors in the plight of women’s rights and autonomy during this time period. Fascinating – and a perfect fit for what you are achieving through your incredible blog forum I thank you for sharing more on this topic, and I agree that there is a sort of “polarity” necessary (the commingling you refer to) between the masculine and the feminine (both in government and in most all facets of societal thriving) to achieve the ultimate balance and highest level of any social/political system. Super interesting and brilliant post my FGS ~ Sending much love and hues of green, white and violet to Canada today ~ ;) RL

    1. Dear FGS Robyn,
      I remember learning about the Suffragettes at some point in life, but I discovered the colors and jewelry importance when doing research for a film project.
      It’s a subtle thing, Even though the character herself was not a Suffragette, as she walked along a street she would/could have passed a woman wearing the colors.
      It is a perfect touch of reality.
      Robyn,you are an intellect and a dear heart. We share the idea of what commingling can bring about.
      Sending love to you and #GreenWhiteViolet to all the beautiful and wonderful sisters in the U.S.A.! _Resa

  2. Fantastic post! I love this history and the courage of the women of that time! Thanks so much for sharing this! ♥♥♥ ;^) ps a 8 inch hat pin sounds like a pretty serious weapon, lol!

    1. <3 The women were brave, and we are today!
      8"was a modest hatpin in the large, handsome and ostentatious hats of the time!
      Take care, _Resa

  3. Hi Resa , your guest post on suffrage is informative . interesting to note evolution of suffrage movement in canada with all the attire , jewelry and colours and their symbolic import . as far as my country goes , independent india is just 67 years old and women enjoyed voting rights from the first elections onward . . over last six decades , india has had women prime minister , president , supreme court judges in addition to many scientists , engineers , doctors , architects , airline pilots , business heads etc . still there is a long way forward as , for example , the participation of women in politics , armed forces is minuscule globally . there must be more women in government to make their impact really felt…

    1. It’s a very good reality that women in India have been part of the political and business processes from day 1!
      I sure agree that on a global basis women’s voices need to be louder, and that more women in government and armed forces is very desirable.
      Thank you for reading, and for your informative comment!

  4. What an interesting post. As I am a proud Ontario, Canadian, it was lovely to learn some of the insights here that were part of the suffrage. I wasn’t aware of the colour coding and attire and jewelry as symbolic parts of the suffrage movement. So fascinating! :)

    1. The colour coding was a brilliant idea at the time. It drew a lot of women into the movement. I think it can still work today with an updated message!
      Don’t you just love that Canada’s first woman doctor was from Ontario? I do! Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this post.
      I’d also like to say that Christy is very inspiring. She really owns her blog.
      Cheers, _Resa :-)

  5. A great post, very informative and well written, Resa… Women have achieved the right to vote quite early over there… That was clearly a precedent that led the way to other women on the American Continent…
    Thanks for sharing, Christy and Resa,
    Best wishes, Aquileana :D

    1. Thank you Aquileana!
      This compliment means a lot to me! Your posts are so well researched and informative, and so well done that, well, I feel proud.
      Best wishes to you, too! _Resa :D

  6. Excellent and insightful post. I knew nothing about that symbolism in clothing and choice of colours: it’s wonderful!

    And it’s great to know they had male supporters, because I don’t think any progress can be made unless both women and men work together towards a common goal.

    1. I love the symbolism, too! Women are very clever.
      The old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention” is right on!
      Yes, the male supporters were, and are important. They are our allies, and we are theirs. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post, and writing a comment! _Resa

  7. I loved reading this post! Here in the United States, we need to learn about our Canadian sisters’ history. Thanks for this inspiring look at the history of voting rights and womens’ suffrage.

    1. Oh my, I’m so thrilled that you loved reading this post!
      I love history, and I love American history! My entire life I have been proud to be a sister to the American family just south!
      Doing this guest post has inspired me immensely. Cheers to you, Judith!

    1. Valentine, thank you!
      I’d like to see the colours used for a modern political endeavour for women, as well! What is an important issue, today? I’m looking around, and I think it is a global cause.

  8. Very interesting to learn how this worked in Canada. In P.R. (a U.S. territory) we had our first elected female governor on 2001, but we have yet to see it happening in the U.S. with regards to the presidency.

    1. P.R. = Puerto Rico? I love it there! Very interesting that you had your first female governor in 2001! I’d like to see a female President. I think it would bring a different point of view. I can’t tell you how happy I am that you read this piece, and thank you so much for your comment! _Resa

  9. I can’t begin to express how excited I am that I have written my first guest post, and for such a wonderful blog as “When Women Inspire” It’s been a crazy summer, with no time to design an Art Gown. However, I feel a bracelet and earrings coming on!
    Christy, thank you so very much!

    1. Christy Birmingham

      Oh Resa it is truly my pleasure to have you as a guest! I wish you continued success with your career and may you continue writing too :)

    2. Thank you so much, Christy! I’m so inspired that intend to keep writing. I signed up for a writing thing next Monday. I’m really looking forward to it! :-)

    3. Great post Resa. There’s no doubt that if women had more control over politics, government, business, the world would be a better place. Sadly, I can’t see it happening anytime soon.

    4. Thank you John!
      I was thrilled when Christy invited me to write a guest post on the topic.
      Writing this piece has been … liberating. You obviously have a lot of respect for women’s abilities. I feel the same about men. It’s unfortunate the world is, as you say sadly, not going to embrace the idea of co-ruling anytime soon. Yet…….

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