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Saskatchewan Women Win the Vote!

For the week of March 14, 2016

On March 14, 1916, women in Saskatchewan won the right to vote after years of government stalling. In 2016, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of this event, and the advancement of women's rightful participation in the democratic process.

The executive of the Women Grain Growers Association. Identified in the original from left to right as: "Mrs. S.V. Haight, Miss. Erma Stocking, Mrs. J. Ames, and Mrs. Violet McNaughton"
©Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-A8489

The suffrage movement in Saskatchewan, which centred on women's right to vote and run for election, grew with the support of the Grain Growers Association and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). These influential groups organized petitions and letter writing campaigns to increase support. However, the organizations divided rural and urban women. Violet McNaughton, president of the Women Grain Growers Association, realized that to get the attention of the legislature, rural and urban women had to unite on the issue of suffrage. In 1915, she organized a coalition between the Women Grain Growers and the WCTU to form the Provincial Equal Franchise Board.

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Violet McNaughton ca. 1920
© Saskatchewan Archives Board, S-B2042

Although government acknowledgment of the women’s movement began as early as 1912, Premier Scott claimed that women had not proven that they actually wanted to vote. In 1913, the legislature voted unanimously in favour of the vote for women, but Scott continued to stall. Even after McNaughton's Provincial Equal Franchise Board submitted petitions to the provincial legislature in 1915, Scott remained unconvinced and demanded signatures from more regions in the province.

By late 1915, however, women’s movements were gaining traction in other parts of the prairies. On January 28, 1916, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to grant suffrage to women. Not wishing to be left behind, Scott bowed to political pressure and announced his plan to introduce women's suffrage. Finally, on March 14, 1916, Saskatchewan became the second province in Canada to allow women to vote and to stand for election. While this was a step forward for women’s rights, the right to vote was still denied to First Nations and many minorities.

Winning the vote by women is designated as a National Historic Event. For her contributions to women’s rights, public health, and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool as the president of the Women Grain Growers Association, Violet McNaughton is designated as a National Historic Person. To learn more, read “Violet McNaughton: Rural Reformer” in the This Week in History archives. To learn about the fight for suffrage in Manitoba, read “Marking 100 years of Women's Suffrage in Manitoba”.

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