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Opposition, Indifference, and Doubt
Original title:  Begbie Contest Society - Women's Suffrage

Source: Link


Henri BOURASSA, politician, journalist, author, and lecturer, was a tireless and bitterly hostile opponent of the suffragists:

[I]n April [1899] [Bourassa] made a speech in Ottawa, which he would repeat in Montreal in May, castigating the budding feminist movement and urging women to shun public office and devote themselves to home and family.”

 

Resistance to women’s suffrage was not expressed only by men. Some women, such as Clementina TRENHOLME (Fessenden), were vigorously opposed:

Speaking through a series of newspaper letters, [Trenholme] described votes for women as an empty promise of power since only men were in positions to enforce legislation. The women’s movement was acceptable, in so far as it strengthened women’s influences within the domestic sphere, but suffragism, she wrote in the Hamilton Spectator in 1913, ‘was just the thin edge of the wedge, opening the door to the inner room of socialism, agnosticism, anarchy, feminism, each and all making for the “dismemberment of the Empire.”’”

 

For their part, Marie LACOSTE (Gérin-Lajoie) and the suffragists in Quebec faced determined adversaries, including the bishops, whose opposition delayed women’s acquisition of the right to vote until 1940:

Although Marie had long been aware that the province’s bishops were hostile towards women’s suffrage, she was surprised at the strength of the anti-suffragist media campaign. Certain bishops used all their power to persuade their flock that granting women the right to vote was contrary to Catholic doctrine.”

 

In common with some other women, the writer Félicité ANGERS, known as Laure Conan, expressed relative indifference to the issue of women’s suffrage:

[I]n the December 1893 issue of the Montreal paper Le Coin du feu, she replied to Joséphine Dandurand [Marchand]: ‘I confess to you, madam, that it seems to me not very desirable for us [to have] the right to vote. But, if it were ever granted to us – and this is a matter I care little about – I am convinced that women could hardly make worse use of it than men [do].’” 

 

The journalist Catherine (Kathleen Blake) FERGUSON, known as Kit Coleman (Willis; Watkins; Coleman), went through a period of doubt before supporting the suffrage cause:

[Kathleen Blake Coleman] did not come out publicly in favour of women’s suffrage until 1910, … partly because the Mail and Mail and Empire adamantly opposed it. She also felt unsure about the extent to which women – and ‘objective’ journalists – should become involved in politics. Her feelings of uncertainty were not just a matter of temperament or of professional considerations: many accomplished women of her day were torn between the new opportunities for their sex, and the more self-effacing expectations of womanhood that they learned as girls.”

 

To assess male and female opposition to women’s right to vote, as well as the indifference and doubts voiced by some women with regard to the issue, we invite you to consult the following biographies:

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