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Alberta Women Gain the Vote!

For the week of Monday, April 18, 2016.

On April 19, 1916, the Equal Suffrage Statutory Law Amendment Act received royal assent, granting women in Alberta the right to vote. Alberta was the third Canadian province to enfranchise most women after Manitoba in January 1916, and Saskatchewan in March 1916.

The Hon. Irene Parlby
© Mrs. John H. Acheson / Library and Archives Canada / PA-057325
Albertan women had long pressured the provincial government to give them the same voting rights as men. Many suffragists at this time used women’s maternal role in society and the need for women’s moral leadership to further their arguments. Women’s organizations offered excellent vehicles to push the agenda of women’s suffrage. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was an influential supporter of women’s rights, while the Canadian Women’s Press Club helped put feminist goals into newspapers. As well, several grain growers associations including the United Women Farmers of Alberta campaigned for women’s suffrage.

In 1910, unmarried women and widows in Alberta won the right to vote in municipal elections. Opponents of women’s suffrage argued that married women would vote the same way as their husbands, essentially giving married men twice the influence in elections. The Alberta suffrage movement began with efforts to grant the municipal vote to all women and then extended its campaign to include provincial suffrage. On February 27, 1915, suffragists occupied the Alberta legislature in a sit-in protest where they read petitions and speeches advocating women’s right to vote. The only assurance they received was that government would consider their proposal.

Louise McKinney
© Ontario Women's Directorate

Finally, in 1916, Alberta women won their right to vote. The Act stated, “…women shall be upon an absolute equality with and have the same rights and privileges and be subject to the same penalties and disabilities as men…” Elsewhere in Canada, however, not all women benefitted from this legislation; Aboriginal women and many minorities were excluded. In the 1917 provincial election, Louise McKinney and Roberta MacAdams were the first women elected to the Alberta legislature and became the first female Members of Parliament in the British Empire. The first female cabinet minister in Alberta was Irene Parlby, elected in 1921. Parlby was president of the United Women Farmers of Alberta and, along with Louise McKinney, was a member of the Famous Five. The federal franchise was granted to women in 1918.

Winning the Vote by Women is a designated national historic event. Several key players including Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby are national historic persons. To learn more about Canadian women’s suffrage, read A Person of Principle, The Famous Five are Persons...and Senators!, Marking 100 Years of Women's Suffrage in Manitoba , and Saskatchewan Women Win the Vote! in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada! Also, see the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to learn more about national historic designations.

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