Documents in Quebec History / Documents de l'histoire du Québec
Women's Right to Vote in Quebec
Le droit de vote des femmes au 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.
Reactionary newspapers which lead the war against female suffrage in the province of Quebec, base their chief arguments on two main premises.
They say that Quebec women do not want the vote.
They say that Quebec women, if they had the vote, could not play any appreciable part in political affairs.
The first is a matter of opinion, which we have already discussed. And for which there seems little support in fact. Unless there were a very large and active number of Quebec women who did want the vote, and who were not afraid to come out in public and protest against the present unjust conditions, there would be no need for certain individuals to so vehemently oppose the idea of a change.
Astute leaders in political affairs do not waste time tilting at windmills.
So far as the second objection is concerned the women of Quebec who are chiefly concerned in this suffrage movement deny it flatly. They say that they will have a very considerable influence in public affairs, once the opportunity is given them to exercise it.
They insist that they will use their franchise and the political power that accompanies the franchise to place upon the statute books certain laws in which they, as women are especially interested.
They are quite ready to inform their opponents just the sort of laws which, once enfranchised, they will demand.
More especially they are concerned with legislation of the social type. They claim, and with some justification, that question of education, public health, housing, the employment of women, and the status of women in the community are matters which affect them more than they affect the men. Therefore, they say, it is reasonable to expect that the enfranchisement of the women of Quebec would result in a much keener legislative interest in these important matters.
Further, they insist that under the present system of male franchise these questions have been neglected in favor of such matters as roads, bridges, agriculture and commerce which are the chief interests of the dominant male, but which are of no greater importance in the community as a whole, than is, for example, public health.
It has repeatedly been demonstrated that Quebec’s public health record is nothing of which the province may be at all proud. Provincial public health officials themselves admit this to be true.
Quebec has no old age pensions, no mothers’ clinic, and no pension provisions for mothers.
Salaries of teachers in rural districts are so low as to barely sustain life.
Women may not exercise any of the liberal professions except medicine. There are no women lawyers in Quebec, for example, although in other countries women may not only practice law but are eligible for the office of magistrate and judge. Women have no voice whatever in the legislative body which puts into effect laws which are the sole concern of themselves and their children.
In 1920 the Quebec government created a Minimum Wage for Women Commission. This body did not function until 1926, six years after it was formed. Women are not permitted to sit in its deliberations. The Commission has succeeded in putting into effect exactly four laws during its existence. In Ontario a similar organization has brought about the creation of new regulations and amendments affecting forty different trades and industries.
These are matters, the women of Quebec insist, which concern them far more than they concern the men, and in which they are strongly interested.
They claim the right to a voice in such matters, and they pledge themselves to exercise such a voice, if the franchise is granted them.
The extension of the franchise to women, they claim, would eventually result in a cutting down of the death rate, improvement in educational conditions, modern legislation in social affairs, and advantages for mothers and children which they do not at present enjoy in this province, although they do exist elsewhere.
This is a definite programme, and a progressive one; the leaders of the movement for feminine suffrage have brought it into being. Yet there are those who, opposing women’s votes have the temerity to declare that women in this province have no real interest in the vote.
© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College