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.
Antagonists of the feminine suffrage movement in Quebec who in these lively days are so boldly defending the sacrosanct nature of the Quebec Civil Code are generally to be found in one or the other of two groups.
There is the Autocratic Group, headed by the amiable Mr. Perron. It is their stand that nations would totter and dynasties crumble to ruin, were the women of Quebec to be granted the same franchise in provincial elections that they enjoy in federal affairs. Imitating Mr. Perron’s Ajax-like pose they cry aloud:
“When women enter public life, I shall leave it!”
You can’t do much about them, except to feel sorry for them. They are of the “après moi, le deluge” type of political leader. The world has always had them, although since democratic principles began their march on civilization they have been growing beautifully less every year.
You can’t teach these folks anything. In elective office they think of themselves as rulers of the people, never as servants of the people. What they say goes; otherwise some unhappy hireling loses his head. The possibility that they might share with the rest of humanity a fallible tendency to error never occurs to them. To suggest such a thing is high treason.
The one comforting thing about them is that sooner or later the deluge catches up with them, and they go down under the flood, wondering what on earth can have happened.
In the second group will be found the Patriarchs. These really nice old men are kindly by nature, and they mean well. Their trouble is that they are still living in the Nineteenth Century. Their attitude is that of the dear old gentleman who pats little girls on the head, and tell them to run away and play, and here’s a penny for candy.
Their answer to the feminist movement in this province is — “But, my dear ladies, you are very well looked after as things are. You have good kind husbands, who take all legal responsibilities off your hands, and provide you comfortable homes and protect you from the cruel world. What more do you want?
Of course, if the same Civil Code which makes the husband not only the head, but the supreme potentate of the family, would also assure the wives of Quebec that every husband should be good, kind, just, understanding, generous, and intelligent, as a supreme potentate should be things would appear differently. Unfortunately, Quebec husbands are the average run of husband; no better and no worse than husbands anywhere else; and when they turn out to be cruel, inconsiderate, selfish, drunken, or even brutal, there is nothing the wife can do about it, unless they are stupid enough to place themselves within reach of the Criminal Code. In the Civil Code women are just idiots, or perhaps minor children.
The nice old gentlemen of the Patriarch Group who ask what it is that women want, are easily answered.
Quebec women want the franchise. They already have the franchise in federal affairs. They want the provincial franchise. Every other woman in Canada outside Quebec has the provincial franchise. Quebec women want it too.
That isn’t much to ask.
It will not be long after the franchise is granted to women when a drunken husband will be restrained from selling his wife’s property so that he can buy liquor; when the pay envelope of a scrub woman will belong to her, not to her lazy spouse; when the marriage of twelve year old girls without their mothers’ consent will be a thing of the past.
Just grant the women of Quebec the right to cast a ballot in provincial elections, and the Patriarchs can go back to their clubs and gossip about the good old days without further interruption.
The Autocrats of course, will either have to stop being Autocrats, or take their medicine.
Source : “Should Women Vote?”, in Montreal Herald, February 20, 1930, p. 3. Article transcribed by Christina Duong. Revision by Claude Bélanger.
© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College