Documents of Quebec History / Documents de l'histoire du Québec
Women's Right to Vote in Quebec
Le droit de vote des femmes du Québec
A series of 10 articles published by the Montreal Herald promoting the right to vote for the women of Quebec (February 17 to February 30, 1930) These article were published in both French and English.
It would seem that lack of logic is a serious handicap to accurate vision on the part of opponents of the movement for feminist equality in the Civil Code and the ballot boxes of the Province of Quebec. Dour and determined adversaries of progress seeking arguments to bolster an impossible supersition [sic], long since out dated, pretend to discover them in very strange places. They advance weighty statements of learned men, and say: “There, that proves our point.”
Much of the time it does nothing of the sort.
For some reason best known to itself the Montreal Gazette has chosen to line up with Mr. Perron and those gentlemen who think that women’s status before the Civil Code is pretty close to perfect, and should be altered very little, and very cautiously, if at all. Of course The Gazette is ultra-conservative, in more ways than one. Unkind critics, lacking delicacy of perception have been known to describe it as reactionary. That The Gazette should find itself patting Mr. Perron and his friends on the head in the matter of the Civil Code is thoroughly in accord with the established policy of that staunchly Tory newspaper. It doesn’t say much for Mr. Perron’s liberalism, but in the matter of women’s status in Quebec. Mr. Perron is not liberal. He is ultra-conservative.
Discussing the question of women’s rights in the Civil Code recently, the Gazette quoted from an address made by Chief Justice Anglin to the members of the Junior Bar Association at Quebec. This is part of the quotation as offered by that newspaper:
The Chief Justice was praising the Quebec Civil Code as a legal instrument. He was not discussing or considering the effect of its administration as at present in practice in Quebec upon the legal status of women. Nevertheless, in the paragraph above quoted which is set forward by the Gazette to support an argument scolding those daring feminists who venture to protest against its injustices, the Chief Justice actually presents the strongest possible argument in favor of drastic changes in the present methods of administration in this province.
The fact is that the present administration of the Quebec Civil Code is unworthy of its conception, and does reflect discredit upon the “genius and ability of the great jurisconsults who produced it.”
Those great jurisconsults are gathered to their rewards many generations since. They created a might legal instrument which doubtless was perfectly suited to the conditions which prevailed in their day and age. Their Code was created to meet the needs of a time before railroads or automobiles, before equal franchise was dreamed of, when the interests of a woman were entirely absorbed by her home and family, when she toiled herself on the land, prepared food slowly and painfully with inadequate implements, wove and spun the fabrics from which she fashioned the clothes for her family with her own hands. Life in those days was far simpler, less intricate and less difficult than it is now. Women, then, as Mr. Perron reminds us were “neither educated nor intelligent.”
Things are different to-day: but the administration of the Quebec Civil Code as it establishes the status of women before the law as inferior to that of men and on a par with that of minors and imbeciles is not different. That is why so many women in this province, tired of having an unjust inferiority thrust upon them, suspicious of new promises while so many old pledges remain unfulfilled, smarting under the indignity of being placed by men politicians below the intellectual standard of the women of other provinces, have arisen in strength and are demanding, not pleading for, their rights.
Those responsible for the administration of the Civil Code in Quebec have failed to preserve its integrity in this modern age. There is the fault.
When the Gazette advances Chief Justice Anglin’s remarks quoted above as an argument against amendment of the Code, it makes itself appear stubbornly stupid.
The argument is all the other way.
Source : “Should Women Vote?” The Montreal Herald, February 22, 1930, p. 3. Articles transcribed by Christina Duong. Revision by Claude Bélanger
© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College