Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federal Election Day

Moving forward. Grandma is third from the right.

It is Election Day, the 40th federal election since Canada's Confederation in 1867. The election was called by Prime Minister Stephen Harper a few weeks ago as he felt it was a good time to try for a Conservative majority government. The campaign has been boring and attack ads have been the main strategy used to sway voter opinion, an approach I personally find very distasteful. The financial crisis has garnered more media attention than the election and it will be interesting to see if this unexpected twist will hurt the Conservatives in the end.

It would be very easy to skip the polling station today...

...but a woman's right to vote was a hard fought campaign in many democratic countries. Grandma Devins was born in 1896 and graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Toronto in 1918. She retired in 1960 and was a great influence in my life until her death in 1990. When I was young I did not realize how exceptional she was as a woman of her time.

Grandma on the left with some of her friends on a birding trip

Women were granted the right to vote in federal elections for the first time on May 24, 1918, just when Grandma would have graduated from University. The following information on women's history in Canada is found at this government website.

"Before the 20th century, women who owned land were occasionally allowed to vote. In 1849, all Canadian women, regardless of race, religion or property rights, were banned from voting in all elections. Beginning in the 1860s, wanting a say in the moral and social welfare of their communities, women began to unite for this common goal. This surge of activism was the beginning of the women's suffrage movement. Suffragists were relentless campaigners, lecturers, demonstrators and petitioners. They bravely faced politicians' ire and the aggressive opposition of public opinion. By 1918, some women were granted the right to vote and to have a say in the political future of Canada. For many other women, their race, ethnicity and religion still barred them from the vote and, for them, the fight continued for almost 50 years. It wasn't until the introduction of the Universal Right to Vote in 1963 and the addition of the equality clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1985 that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, mental or physical disability, or gender."

I have many books from Grandma's library including two by Nellie McClung. The following quote comes from a website about this tireless worker for women's rights in Canada .

"Nellie McClung was one of the most important leaders of Canada's first wave of feminism, and she is still remembered for her role in the famous "Person's Case" which saw Canadian women declared persons in 1929."

Today she would have been a blogger. Her book "More Leaves from Lantern Lane" reads like a blog as she comments in short chapters on her life and goals. She published several books, a few of which are still in print.

I will vote today, for Grandma, for Nellie, and for all the women who fought hard in a democratic way to ensure the rights of women in this country.


  1. I love hearing these stories about your grandmother Ruth. I know she must have been a remarkable woman.

  2. I'm pretty sure that Grandma would be thrilled that you honour her memory like this.

  3. How wonderful Ruth....a lady to remember....

    I always vote.....Emily Pankhurst got the vote for woman in England......I could not let her down.......

  4. It seems that most elections come down to negative ads in the end.-Every candidate says they won't do it but it works so they do it anyway. That is so interesting to see an old B&W photo like that with people wearing binoculars and being on a birding trip.-Cool photo!

  5. That is definitely all the reason you need to get out and vote. I loved the pictures. Nice way to honor women like your grandmother.

  6. Your grandmother sounds like she was an amazing woman Ruth..thank you for sharing these stories..it is important to exercise your right to vote..it was hard fought and won..

  7. Wow! did these pictures bring back memories. Grandma outlived all her close friends. They were serious birders and never missed Pt. Pelee in the spring.
    When Grandma came to South Africa in 1961 at 61 years she took several trips with the professional birders from the University of Natal in Durban. She was fascinated because they used bird calls formed from their voices, sat still and the birds came to them in the jungle. On that trip of 4 months she added more than 100 birds to her life list.

  8. Sorry, Grandma was a youthful 65 at that time.

  9. Anonymous7:36 am GMT-4

    I find the whole election and the politics very boring. I struggle with my right to vote. Not that I don't want to, I just don't know who is the better candidate that can lead this country. To me they act like little children fight, throwing names at each other, I'm better then you are, etc. It sicken's me so I don't pay any attention to it. I don't pick a party I pick a person. Who will bring the most to this country and have the best interest of it's people at heart. Unfortunately, I don't think any of them do. They are more concern with how they can put more money into their own pockets. Maybe I shouldn't even have an opinion about this because I do not follow it and have no interest in it. Shame on me, but there are just some things I cannot bring myself to do.

  10. This election was pretty boring (and a waste of time, since it's still a minority government), but I went ahead and voted anyway after women fought for a long time for the right to vote, and also considering that we're very lucky to have the right to vote without the fear of getting shot at (like in some countries).

  11. Jayne- She continues to be an inspiration...

    AC- I hope I can keep her memory alive for my children.

    Cheryl- I think the suffragette movement in England was livelier than the one in Canada. Good for those ladies.

    Larry- Your election takes the cake when it comes to bashing. It will be interesting to see the outcome. Those ladies were avid birders!

    NCMW- Our voter turnout was very low;- the lowest ever. People do feel their individual ballot is meaningless.

    RW- History is forgotten so quickly. It is good to remember what we have gained in the past 100 years.

    Mom- I have Grandma's African bird diary here. I will have to go through it sometime.

    Cheryl D- I hear you! This election was so boring (and unnecessary!). I wrote the post as I was contemplating a reason to vote.

    Becka- I am glad you voted.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.