WS100OC Midterm Review
Be Able to Define the Following Term:
1. Gender - The assignment of masculine and feminine characteristics to
bodies in cultural contexts
- Gender refers to how we are socialised into particular male or
female roles in society. The process of socialization acts to define
particular responses or behaviours as being appropriate for each
sex; for example, that boys and men are more aggressive
therefore more able to shovel the snow, cut the grass, set the
garbage out for pick up, barbecue and drywall. This is a way in
which biology translates into a “natural” skill. The same is true of
girls and women who are seen as biologically more nurturing
(because they might have a uterus) and therefore better equipped
than men to raise children. Gender includes the traits we learn
daily that identify us as men or women. We tend to be unaware of
the countless ways we observe others in their performance of
gender and how we incorporate those behaviours into our
2. Patriarchy - Defined at a system where male dominate because power and
authority are in the hands of adult men
- Being supporter of women’s right does not necessarily translate
into men understanding how everyday privileges associated with
masculinity maintain entitlements in a patriarchal society
- It is one thing to feel indignant about inequality or compassion for
marginalized people and another to recognize that your privilege
is connected to the oppression of others
3. A Vindication of - English philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft book
the Rights of - Seen as the first important expression of the demand for women
Women (1792) equality, although the beginning of the women’s movement in the
United States is usually dated to the Seneca Falls Convention of
4. Lesbian feminism - Focuses on how compulsory heterosexuality (the cultural norm
that assumes and requires heterosexuality) and heterosexual
privileges (the right to legal marriage and being intimate in public)
function to maintain power in society
5. Lesbian baiting - Many people have attempted to discredit feminism in other ways
- Feminists are accused of being lesbians in effort to discredit
feminism and prevent women both from joining the movement
- Considerable fear associated with being a lesbian are to keep
women apart – and hate men
6. Third-wave - Feminist activity influenced by postmodernism and multiracial
Feminism feminism which problematizes the universality and potential
inclusivity of the term woman
- Its origins in the 1990s and reflects the thinking, writing and
activism of women and men who tended to come of age taking for granted the gains of second wave feminism, as well as the
resistance or backlash to it
- Shaped by material conditions created by globalization and techno
culture and focus on issues of sexuality and identity
- Through musical and art forms various “rages or “zines”
- C.V. Harquail writes about social networking “Facebook for
Women vs. Facebook Designed by Feminists”
- Foster opportunities for communication and networking in an
increasingly globalized world
7. Transnational - Recognizes opportunities associated with the development if
Feminism international alliances and recognizes opportunities associated
with the development of international alliances and networks for
the emancipation of women worldwide
- Educates about the problems of claiming a “universal sisterhood”
that ignores differences of women
- CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women) UN in 1979- 186 countries
8. Compulsory - The notion that everyone should be heterosexual and have
heterosexuality relationships with the opposite sex- ableism
9. Ableism - Susan Wendell, “The Social Construction of Disability”: makes the
case that “ableism” discrimination against the mentally and
physical disabled, is a direct result of social factors that actively
create standards of normality against which ability/disability is
- Discrimination in favour of able-bodied people, prejudice against
or disregard of the needs of disabled people
- Physical and mental ability
10. Privilege - The hierarchical ranking of difference is constructed through social
processes such that patterns of difference become systems of
privilege and inequality
- Defined as advantages people have by virtue of their status or
position in society- earning a degree or responsibility
- Invisible package of unearned assets: “white privilege and male
privilege”- Peggy McIntosh
11. Horizontal hostility - Aspect of internalizing oppression
- When individual direct the resentment and anger they have about
their situation onto those who are of equal or lesser status
- “divide and conquer”- group are encouraged to fight one another
to avoid alliance that might collaboratively overpower an enemy
- Women might do this when they are in competition about each
other’s looks or put women down with verbal and/ or nonverbal
12. Gender swapping - Internet and other virtual technologies have facilitated
transgendered identities through a disruption of the expected
relationship between self and body
- Technologies remove physical, bodily cues- creation that attempt
the binaries of “femininity” and “masculinity” - Supports the postmodern view of gender as performativity and
identity as multiple and fluid
13. Homophobia - The societal fear or hatred of lesbians and gay men, functions to
maintain this as an insult
14. Internalized - Means we not only police ourselves but also police one another,
oppression encouraging compliance with institutions that may oppress-
related to horizontal hostility
15. Lifestyle feminism
16. Gender - We are taught and learn the appropriate thinking and behaviours
socialization associated with being a boy or girl in any given society
17. Transgender - Who claim a gender identity or expression different from the one
assigned at their birth by their family and community
- Involves resisting the social construction of gender into two
distinct binary categories, masculinity and femininity and working
to break down these polarized categories
- Refusing to identify in any distinct category
- About gender performance and might involve any sexual identity
18. Gender queer - A person who are nonconformist in challenging existing
constructions and identities
- Focuses on the integration of gender and sexual identities
19. Tombois -
20. Androgyny - One performance of transgendered identity
- Lack of gender differentiation or a balanced mixture of
recognizable feminine and masculine traits
- The trapping of femininity seem to be the first things that are shed
when a body tries to redo itself
21. Transvestism - Is the practice of cross-dressing, which is wearing clothing
traditionally associated with the opposite sex or gender
24. Gender ranking - The valuing of one genders over another
- gender are ranked, the devalued genders have less power,
prestige and economic rewards than the valued gender
25. Hermaphrodites - A person having male and female sex organs or other sexual
characteristics, wither abnormally or naturally
26. Intersexual - Variation in sex characteristic including chromosomes, gonads and
genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctive identified
as female and male sex binary
- Genetic testing
27. Female masculinity
28. Sexual scripts - Guidelines for how we are supposed to feel and act as a sexual
- Shaped by the communities and societies in which we participate
and socially constructed
29. Sexual identity - One aspect of sexual self-schemas that can be defined as person’s
attraction to, or preference for, people of a certain gender
- Romantic or sexual identity and behaviour 30. Emotional - Sharing aspects of the self with others with the goal of mutual
- Expressing emotions
31. Bisexuality - Implies a sexual identification with both women and men
- Hyper sexualized
32. Cult of true - (Perkin, 1983; Welter, 1966) a notion of womanhood that
womanhood emerged for White (middle-class) women in mid-1800s
- Emphasize modesty, purity and domestically for White women
and identified wife and mother as their primary and most
- Historically black women were viewed in contrast to this norm for
middle-class white women
- Black women not seen as “true” women, rather animalistic and
hyper sexed- justify enslavement and rape
33. Women’s Christian - Devoted to social reform with a program that “linked the religious
Temperance Union and the secular through concerted and far-reached reform
strategies based on applied Christianity”
34. Suffragists - Suffragist is term for members of suffrage movement
- The right to vote
35. The Famous Five - Five Canadian women who asked the Supreme Court of Canada to
answer the question, “Does the word Persons” in Section 24 of the
British North America Act, 1867, include female person
- Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung,
Louise Crummy McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards
36. Simone de - (1908-1986)
Beauvoir - was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher,
political activist, feminist, and social theorist. While she did not
consider herself a philosopher, Beauvoir had a significant influence
on bothfeminist existentialism and feminist theory.Beauvoir
wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography, monographs
on philosophy, politics, and social issues. She is best known for her
novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, as well as
her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women's
oppression and a foundational tract of contemporaryfeminism. The Modules
Lesson 1: Introduction
To really comprehend women's subordination in Western culture, it is critical to travel back into history
where we find that women's status in society has long been linked to how their bodies have been
interpreted and valued.
Take for instance one of our earliest written legal codes dating back to the 18th century BCE, the Code
of Hammurabi as it was called (Hammurabi was the king of Babylon) dealt with women as men's
property. (Note: BCE is a non-Christian form of establishing time — it means Before the Common Era, CE
replaces AD and means the Common Era) This code established the standard on which jurisprudence
would operate down into the 19th century CE. The Code of Hammurabi and others like it, established
that non-slave women typically belonged first to their fathers and then to their husbands. Rape was
treated as a form of property damage — the rapist was required to pay compensation to the husband or
father. Even today, the traditional marriage ceremony is a reflection of women as the property of men.
The bride is delivered by her father to her future husband. While we no longer interpret this ritual as the
exchange of property, the tradition is rooted in the exchange of property.
Women's bodies were judged as inherently different (inferior) from those of men in both quality and
value. The normative body was the male; the female body by comparison was evaluated as both
dangerous (to men and their development toward perfection) and defective (lacking in the higher
virtues that men carried physically and morally).
Aristotle who lived during the fourth century BCE believed that only those embryos that received
sufficient heat could grow to human form and by human he meant male. Those embryos missing out on
the necessary heat would become female or a "misbegotten man". Aristotle's ideas were simply a
reflection of the society in which he lived and yet they permeated Western cultural and political
practises and thoughts until the 18th century.
Aristotle argued that women were physically weak, had a more fragile constitution and smaller brains
leaving them highly prone to immoral behaviours and of course unfit to participate in civic life. Women,
by his accounting, were not equipped with the mental capacity for rational thought that meant they
were less reliable when it came to moral decisions. He suggested women's potential for immorality
could entice men away from more virtuous behaviour. At a social, religious and political level these
negative ideas about women justified the limiting of their rights. We need only look to the early stories found in Judeo-Christian texts about Adam and Eve or in the
Greek myths like that of Pandora, to see how these ideas that tell stories of women causing harm to
men or to the world because of their lack of morals, have become powerful tools to justify control over
women first through religion and then through politics. Christian theologians like St. Augustine believed
women's purported weaker moral character made them subject to sexual passions that would endanger
men's souls. In the Middle Ages, thousands of women were executed as witches.
Up until 1871, Canadian women experienced what if often described as a "civil death" when they
married. They were not permitted to hold property, keep any wages they earned, make contracts or
maintain custody of children should their marriages or unions dissolve. In the 1870s, some rights in
terms of property ownership were extended to women only if they brought such property into the
marriage. Once divorced, it was men who held custody over the children and if a single woman gave
birth, she had no legal authority over the child. The situation was even more dramatic for Native,
Chinese, Indian and Black women who were all denied the right to hold citizenship in 19th and early
20th century. The scientific theories of the day contended that women of colour were less evolved than
both the men of their racial group and certainly less evolved than white women.
Charles Darwin in his 19th century proposals about evolution and natural selection argued that males
competed against other males for access to females. His theory indicated that it was the winning males
of this battle who would move evolution slowly toward the perfection of the male. According to Darwin,
the female human was situated outside the evolutionary process because her role was solely to
reproduce. In evolutionary theory, she lacked the necessary physical and intellectual energy required of
natural selection. Like earlier thinkers, Darwin pictured women as frail, overwrought emotionally, more
inclined to nurturing capacities and child like.
Ideas that justified women's capabilities determined women's access to the world of decision making
(politics, work, education, marriage and reproduction). The manipulative power of this message, that
women were less competent, was women's own acceptance of its truth value. So many women did see
themselves as less intellectual and more emotional than men which left men in control of making
decisions, voting, serving in public office, owning businesses, making financial decisions, dominating the
professions. (See Rosalind Miles. The Women's History of the World London:Paladin Grafton
For Your Consideration
The example above of women coming to believe they were more emotional than men is a process we
call today the "internalization of oppression". When we believe what the dominant group says about us,
we have internalized our oppression. For instance, if as a society we believe women are weaker
emotionally than men, then relationships are set up where women believe that men must take care of
The 18th and 19th centuries saw the enslavement of both Black and Native women in the United States
and in a different form here in Canada. As late as 1822, we have records of small numbers of native
women being executed in the United States as witches. Their crime was struggling to keep traditions in
place against the powerful colonizing powers of the United States government and religious groups like
the Quakers. Some of the traditions that threatened early colonizers were native women's position in the family as
farmers. Research today informs us that these women often experimented with seed development
ensuring that their communities would be fed throughout the harsh winters. The skills of these women
were passed on to early European settlers who knew little about the land, the weather or the crops. And
when Native women generated surplus crops, they were known to have shared them with these new
When Native groups refused to alter their traditions and move onto less arable land or into reservations
after the American Revolution, they found their crops and communities destroyed by fires. The
reservation system made previous traditions of farming and large game hunting less viable. And
Quakers, for the most part, saw it as their duty to "instruct" native peoples on civilizing practises that
included the redefinition of male and female roles. Men were given the position of farmers (taking this
away from women) and women the housekeepers.
Reformers in 19th century North America saw the family as the civilizing nexus of nation building that
stressed individualism, and private ownership. All of these concepts in the way they were defined by
reformers (politicians, religious leaders) were antithetical to the way in which Native communities
In Canada, many Native girls and boys were taken from their families in the 19th century and placed in
residential schools where, as we know now, they were physically and sexually abused. These young girls
were taught little in terms of reading, writing and mathematics and instead were trained to sew and
wash clothes for middle class white families.
The United States and Britain were early participants in the slave industry that took peoples from their
homelands primarily in West Africa to the new land where they were bought and sold as commodities.
What you may not know is that we had slaves here in Canada as well.
On these voyages from West Africa to Britain, the Caribbean and North America, thousands died under
conditions that certainly demonstrated that these lives had little value on a moral human level, for those
who were transporting them. On arrival, people were sold to the highest bidder quite literally in
auctions held in port cities. Their teeth, buttocks, and other parts of their bodies were examined in
meticulous detail in the same way that cattle today might be examined before going on the market.
Women were shackled, beaten, raped and resold regularly. For the work men, women and children
performed for their slave owner they received no monetary compensation. Women did the housework;
they cleaned and raised their slave owners' children. They carried manure on their backs, spread it with
their hands, cleared lands, planted and tended the crops and the animals. They did the ploughing and
worked on the roads. They bore children that were also commodities particularly after the trade in
humans became illegal. Their children were not legally theirs to decide a future, but a product that could
bring more wealth to the owner who saw them as new and valuable labour. All slaves were denied
education. And when women's reproductive lives were finished, all they could expect was intense hard
labour often accompanied by cruel beatings or other forms of torture.
The 19th century saw the transformation of Canadian society from one that was primarily agrarian to
one that became urbanized through industrialization. The factors that led to the spread of industrialization are undoubtedly complex. For our purposes, we
need to focus on the ones that best relate to gender. While still living in agrarian communities, fathers
traditionally expected their male children to continue to work under their tutelage as adults, but on land
that would be given to them once married. The identity of the father was one that held him in high
esteem and as the ultimate authority in the extended family. Eventually though, fathers had less and
less land to pass onto their sons. Sons, for their part, saw opportunities opening up in larger more
commercial sectors. As sons left their fathers’ farms for a new life in urban settings the relationship that
once determined roles was threatened. The authority of the father was compromised by the
independence of sons who sought their economic and social lives away from their families. In this
process, sons learned about a new way of living of which their father had little or no knowledge. (This is
like my children knowing more about computers than me and therefore having access to a life not
open to me – a life beyond my authority over them.)
In the early stages of industrialization, small factories dominated the urban landscape of Canada. Over
time, these small industries were bought and submerged into larger factories requiring the labour of
more and more people. This growth into corporations, by the late 19th century, issued another blow to
the traditional identity of the male – who became simply a “cog in the industrial wheel.”
Having large families was no longer an asset with no or little work on the farm to support all members.
And because of this, the ownership of land no longer defined manhood.
The Separation of the Private and Public Sectors:
Beginning in the 1870s and lasting well into the 1920s, we see the emergence of large corporations in
Canada. Small industries were bought or merged with other ones developing into large companies
employing hundreds of workers. In order for families to survive, children, women and men all had to
work. Under this new economic reality, that dismantled the old features of male and female identity, a
new division between men and women emerged.
The differences between men and women were detailed by religious and political leaders who were
engaged in the process of building Canada. It began with talk about the frailty of white middle class
women who needed to be protected by "their" men from the immorality of what became defined as the
As industrialization took on more economic importance, as nation building became more of a rallying
point for governments, a greater emphasis was placed on dividing the world into the private spaces
where women were to remain, and the public spaces where men were free to roam. At the core of this
discussion was a strong emphasis on defining how men and women were different from one another.
The result was an artificial divide between the "private and public." The private sphere was the home —
the only dignified or acceptable space for women to operate in, the public sphere was the place of work,
politics and recreation — in other words all places where "good women" should not be. The home was
represented as a sanctuary for men who toiled relentlessly during the day in a "jungle" of immorality.
The home was the place of upright Christian values. Here, as the ideology claims, relationships were in
their correct order. Of greatest importance in the rhetoric of Canada's earliest politicians and
theologians was the need to save white women from the horrors of work in the public sphere where
morals were side stepped in the dirty struggle to gain the economic upper hand. Not all women were included in this picture perfect image of womanhood. Only white middle and upper
class women were given the prestige of embodying this idea. They were the only ones who could
actually live what we know now as the "cult of true womanhood."
The cult of true womanhood claimed:
1. The division of society into the public sphere where men worked and the private sphere where
women raised the children and prepared the home as a sanctuary for men.
2. White men and women were differentiated from one another with the allocation of distinct
virtues and roles. This, they were told was determined by vastly different biological natures.
3. The home as the only proper place for women.
4. White women's moral superiority including her idealization as a mother.
Even though women were placed for a brief time on a moral pedestal that emphasized their role as a
mother, women were removed from doing many of the tasks considered the mandate of a good mother
today. In the 19th century "good" women were not to clean or to change diapers, or to make meals,
they were instead to act as managers of their households while they employed other women, often
women of colour or immigrant women to do such chores for them. Having domestic workers established
the higher standing of the family in the community while also framing the "mistress of the house" as one
of superior "breeding."
While the restrictions on women were harsh (remember into the 20th century a husband could beat a
"disobedient" wife legally), women were fighting back. Mary Wollestoncraft had published in Britain "A
Vindication of the Rights of Women," in the 18th century. At the time of her writing this essay, she
found herself shunned by those who continued to believe women were weak and incapable of making
political and social contributions. It was not until the middle of the 19th century, that her work began to
hold important influence for women in North America and Britain. Wollestoncraft was not convinced
that women were incapable of rational thought or less able to lead political parties or work or any of the
prevailing notions of women that rendered their status of one of second class citizens. These statements
held sway over women who knew they were good thinkers and political actors.
Wollestoncraft's criticism of Western society reviewed the reigning ideas that defined white women as
needy and emotional and therefore requiring protection from men. She argued that if women were
denied an education that it would, of course, restrict what women could then choose to do in their lives.
She addressed attitudes and laws that kept women from acting in the public sphere and in the private.
Not only did Wollestoncraft's work generate important ideas for women contesting their second class
citizens in North American society, but religion also played an important role in how women learned to
organize politically. Traditional Christianity depicted white women as either temptresses leading men
away from a moral life with God or as virgins with little or no sexual appetite. For a brief period in the
mid 19th century as men left religious life as pastors or priests to join the work world of commerce,
middle class white women found they had more leisure time on their hands that allowed them to make
change not only in terms of the church itself, but in the communities where they lived. Through the
church and in the absence of men, women created committees to address social issues, they reframed
the identity of Jesus (Protestant Christianity being the most prevalent of religions at the time in Canada)
to make him more accessible — his attributes were more "feminine". They emphasized his meekness
and sacrifice. Women began linking industrialization to poverty, poor housing, hunger, and illness among the poor. They identified themselves as Christian reformers with a moral duty to alter the
conditions they saw around them. They organized a wide array of charitable organizations that included
houses where women who were being beaten by their husbands could seek refuge. They set up houses
for prostitutes and soup kitchens for the poor.
As women engaged in these activities, they came to the realization that they were actually very
competent at thinking and acting politically the very skills they had been socialized to believe they
They grew to realize they could:
1. Analyse a situation and design a strategy for addressing it;
2. Organize and get a job done;
3. Speak publicly.
As always, whenever a dominated group experiences a short interlude of some freedom, the dominating
group returns to reclaim the space they had previously vacated. This was true in terms of women in the
church in Canada. The brief moment of freedom in the last third of the 19th century came to an end as
men returned to reclaim full control over theology. In no time, the image of Jesus was re-conceptualized
into a soldier battling evil. But as this door of opportunity closed,women opened a new one for
Independently from the church but still as reformers, women in the last part of the 19th century began
demanding further and better education for girls. Some women argued that it was human right for girls
to have access to higher education; other women based their defence on girls need for an education to
be better wives and mothers.
One of the first places where women gained a political voice was on school boards in Canada. They
convinced men in their communities that if they were charged with raising their children as moral
beings, they should be able to serve on the boards that made decisions about their children's education.
The battle to sit on school boards was one that had to be won in each and every community across
The Federal Vote:
The battle for the vote (the franchise as it was called) here in Canada had a distinctly different flavour to
it than the struggle that took place in the United States.
In this country, suffragists did not organize mass demonstrations or hunger strikes as they did south of
the border or in Britain. And yet, very interestingly, information and support crisscrossed borders.
Activism was spurned by women's anger at how they perceived industrialization caused terrible social
problems like poverty, and violence in the family. For some women, it began with their witnessing of
how alcohol which was more easily available and cheaper than milk could destroy lives particularly
those of children and women who were less able economically and socially to defend themselves
against fathers and husbands who used the family wage to fund their drinking excesses. Women like
Letiticia Youmans who, as a school teacher, dealt with the affects on alcohol on the lives of her students
and their mothers formed the first Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in Ontario. The aim
was to move governments to prohibit the sale of alcohol. The WCTU took their campaign not only to politicians but to doctors hoping to convince them of medical reasons to demand prohibition. In the
end, their efforts to influence doctors and politicians failed to bring about the results they demanded.
Youmans, like many of her colleagues in this struggle, grew frustrated with the realization that the only
way they could really make a difference would be if they had political influence in the form of the vote
to force legislative decisions in their favour.
Youmans and others advocated a new vision for thinking about charity one that, instead of treating the
problem with safe houses, or soup kitchens as examples, would attack the root causes of social
problems. These early 19th century reformers figured out that if they were to address social inequalities
at their root, women would need to have political clout and this meant having the right to vote.
Women's struggle for the vote was fought on several fronts:
1. Recognition of the deep social problems brought on by industrialization and that political
influence was the only way to have those problems addressed.
2. Recognition of the unjust subordinate position of women in society.
3. Recognition that it was a Human Right and not simply a male privilege to vote.
The fight for the vote in Canada took decades beginning in the last third of the 19th century and was not
won until 1918. The process was slow with women in various provinces earning the right to sit on school
boards, on municipal councils and even in their provincial governments long before they received the
right to vote federally. The struggle for the vote at a national level was won when women were able to
convince politicians they could benefit from women's franchise at election time. In the end, the
achievement of the franchise at a national level was an inevitable but less than triumphal achievement.
When I review the history of the vote in Canada, I am astounded by the dogged determination of several
generations of women working furiously and at risk to their reputations for the right to vote.
As you can well imagine, suffragists were vilified as man haters and as too emotional to hold the right to
vote much less to serve in parliament. They were attacked as neglectful mothers for "leaving their
children and husbands" to forge a political struggle while sacrificing their family. Newspapers cartoons,
editorials, politicians, doctors and just community people called them poor examples of mothers, wives
The suffragist movement in Canada was made up of women who politically were very different from one
another. They brought to the struggle these differences that helped to identify stronger arguments in
favour of women’s right to the franchise but also kept women divided from one another. Some women
believed the fight should be fought on the grounds that women’s franchise was quite simply a Human
Right. While others argued that the vote should be fought on terms that would convince men that
access to the vote would help to improve women’s ability to be mothers and wives.
Like any movement where people gather to work together, there were many internal tensions. Flora
Denison, for example who wrote for the magazine Saturday Night, argued for the Canadian movement
to become more militant in its approach in much the same way she saw American women fighting.
Denison saw value in the street protests and hunger strikes of her American and British suffragist colleagues. Very interestingly, she developed a well articulated critique of capitalism as the basis for
attacking social problems.
Women also brought to the movement their own prejudices. Some were racist and others believed in a
clear separation between classes. For instance, Denison tended to be marginalised in the movement
because of her working class roots. But Denison also held views about immigration and race that today
would be seen as racist. Her conception of democracy did not include male immigrants from parts of
Europe other than Britain, who she viewed as genetically inferior. She lobbied to have the government
put a cap on the number of male immigrants entering Canada. Still Denison could deliver a well
formulated platform that women’s right to the vote was a “natural right”. She believed Canada’s
development as a democracy was hinged directly on women’s participation in its political growth.
In the last third of the 19th century, numerous “undercover” clubs were created by women anxious to
discuss ideas about the franchise or rights but who feared doing so. Take for example the Toronto
Women’s Literary Association that was inaugurated by Dr. Emily Stowe in Toronto in 1876. With greater
confidence to fight openly for the franchise, committee members in 1881 embraced their political
mandate and renamed their group the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association. What is particularly
significant or daring about this organization aside from their activism was their refusal to admit men.
Their justification for men’s exclusion was their knowledge of how when women and men came
together, women were less likely to speak freely. Alone, without the presence of men, the association
believed women would learn to express their ideas.
Women of Colour Battling for Rights/ Survival:
In the 19th century there were many women fighting for one reason or another. Metis women, after the
Riel Rebellion, were struggling against the government to re-establish their communities. Native women
were fighting against the Indian Act that removed them from their lands and placed them on
Reservations absolving the rights they held previously. In fact, Native Peoples in Canada would not gain
the right to vote in federal elections until 1960.
Do you know who the first woman to own, publish and write a newspaper in Canada was? This honour
goes to Mary Ann Shadd Cary who was both an anti-slavery advocate and a suffragist. Originally from
the United States, she fled slavery to settle in South Western Ontario. She was widely respected as a
keynote public speaker here in Canada and the United States on issues of slavery and the vote. Like
other Black women of the 19th century, she tied both race and gender together in order to demonstrate
the particular oppressive complexities women of colour experienced in both debates. With the end of
the Civil War in the United States, Cary returned to the U.S. first to study law and then to work as a
lawyer. She was the first Black woman to obtain a law degree in the United States.
Why the vote was denied to women for so long:
While many women’s lives were difficult, it is remarkable that so many were willing to fight for change
even if it meant they risked public humiliation. Victorian ideas about women stated that the only
appropriate place for women was in the home looking after their children and establishing a sanctuary
for their husbands. Doctors stated that women were frail and would suffer physically and emotionally
should they enter any of the professions much less vote. These same medical professionals argued that
the reproductive strength of women was drained from them when they engaged in intellectual pursuits. Magistrates, into the beginning of the20th century, dealt out much harsher sentences on women than
men who were convicted of crimes. It was expected of some men to act dishonourably but not
acceptable of women. Good women were to be in the home and not out in the streets fighting for
rights. The Victorian image of women also envisioned them as asexual beings and morally more pure
than men. And really moral purity was translated into the complete absence of any sexual impulses. The
image of a good woman all led to a very restricted identity and very little freedom.
Of course, the only ideal woman could be a white woman of middle or upper class standing. And yet the
criticism or weight of this ideal was also felt by working class women and women of colour who because
of the economic stresses of their lives, were forced to work but who found themselves criticised by
society for doing so. They got the message that they were not really “good women”. (Sheila
Rowbotham, A Century of Women. New York: Penguin Books, 1997).
It was against this powerful image of the Victorian model of a woman, that suffragists of all colours and
classes fought. As they lobbied for rights, magistrates, clergy, doctors and politicians strengthened their
attacks against them. Clergy in particular took biblical passages and claimed that women who spoke in
public did so in direct opposition to God’s will. In every direction, suffragists found their arguments
argued against by the most powerful men of the times.
Women in Canada used wit, satire and mock parliaments to get their points across when arguing for the
vote. And yet women were fighting for much more than just the vote. Suffragists were breaking down
the restraints established by Victorian models, they argued against medical and scientific research that
indicated women lacked intellectual strength, they developed and demanded a broader practise of
liberal ideas and they fought to have virtually every institution in Canadian society opened to women’s
The United States
We need to look briefly at what the suffragist movement looked like in the United States because so
many of the ideas crossed the border.
The early suffragists in the United States merged the anti-slavery movement with the fight to gain the
vote for women. At least that is until Black men in the United States gained the vote before it was
granted to women. Because many White suffragists were offended by the U.S. government's move to
grant the franchise to Black men in advance of white women, the movement was split as Black women
felt maligned by the racist undertones of their so called White "sisters".
Still, the three most prominent and famous of the suffragists were Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott
and Susan B. Anthony.
The Women's Movement in the United States was launched at the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848
where the "Declaration of Sentiments" was established as the document that would serve as the moral
basis for the suffragist movement. The ultimate goal of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan
B. Anthony was to secure a constitutional change that would enshrine the rights of women once and for
all. They fought for a guarantee that women would be given full franchise rights alongside of men. A
similar crusade occurred in Canada but not until the 1920s when the "Famous Five" battled to have
Canadian women recognized as persons in the British North America Act. The starting point for the suffragist movement in the United States predated the Seneca Convention. In
the 1820s women like Fanny Wright were speaking about women's rights, the Grimke sisters were doing
the same in the 1830s. And like the Canadian experience, there were a wide array of ideas and
motivations under girding the movement as well as internal splits. Some groups sought to have the
franchise won state by state while others like the Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B.
Anthony looked for constitutional changes at a federal level. The Abolitionist movement and the Civil
War all added to the complexity. The difficulty of convincing white women to understand the particular
concerns of Black women led to a dramatic parting of ways. With little support from white women, Black
women were forced to begin their own groups combining race and sex issues.
The piece of writing that best epitomized the tone and reasons for the suffragist movement is found in
"The Declaration of Sentiments:. This document was signed by all the participants at the convention
held at Seneca Falls launching the suffragist movement. It would function as the corner piece of all
future documents. The form of the document mirrors that of the United States founding constitution --
the Declaration of Independence. However, the objective of the suffragist "declaration" was to detail
the profoundly subordinate status of women.
The following is an extract from "The Declaration of Sentiments":
He has never permitted here to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.
(Taken from The Feminist Papers, edited by Alice S. Rossi. Pp. 416-417. Bantam Books, 1988).
This early document demonstrates how removed Stanton and others were from understanding racism
and their own participation in devaluing Black women and men. It would be others like Harriet Tubman
the famous general of the underground railway, M. Anne Cooper, Mary Ann Shadd Cary and Sojourner
Truth who would integrate race and gender into the analysis into their participation within the
In both countries it took nearly a hundred years before women were granted the vote.
Lesson 2: The Struggle at the Turn of the Century
The Fear of Race Suicide:
As the 20th century began, more white middle and upper class men feared that the declining birth rate
among white women would lead to race suicide. In part, women caught in loveless Victorian marriages
were less disposed to have sex with their husbands many of whom (the husbands) were engaging in
sexual relationships outside the marriage. The double standard was an insult to women who were
expected to remain loyal to men they hardly liked. When abortion in the mid 19th century was rendered
illegal, women began to abstain from sex as an alternative birth control method. Really, for many
women, there was little motivation to get pregnant. In addition to the social reasons as to why women
were not anxious to get pregnant, many knew the risks involved with pregnancy and birth that could
quite likely lead to their and their baby's deaths. Other reasons for the decline in the birth rate among middle and upper class white women included
women's decision to seek advanced educations in the professions. Instead of marrying they chose
careers or waited until they were older before they married.
The concern about white women's lower birth rate came from the fear among politicians that Canada
would be over run by immigrants of lesser genetic "breeding". At the same time, immigrants were
desperately needed as labour in the massive industries growing in steel and textiles for example. White
men feared their eventual loss of dominance. And because of this fear, white women were further
encouraged, cajoled and threatened in efforts to force them to have more children. Threats about the
decline of the "white race" or in more exuberant terms, they were predictions about the end of
civilization if white women continued to advocate for rights, abstain from sex, and choose jobs over
marriage. The moral duty as they were told was to reproduce for the well being of the nation.
This was the social milieu in which a new generation of suffragists emerged in the 20th century. In the
sections that follow we examine briefly who some of the key figures were and what their ideas
Nellie McClung was born into a pioneering family in Ontario. Soon after her birth the family moved to
Manitoba where she lived until her marriage. McClung was a public speaker, a writer, a satirist and most
of all an activist. She advocated for laws that would protect women and children; she analysed through
her novels the particular struggles in terms of race, class and gender that immigrant women faced; and
she fought for the rights of workers, and women's ordination in the church. She believed in freely
chosen motherhood and marriage. In fact, McClung felt that legal marriage was second to the priority of
caring for children. She wanted all women, married or not, to have access to the resources (i.e. access to
education, a decent paying job) that would allow them to bring up their children in economically and
socially stable environments.
When McClung assessed the condition of women in Canada she found that women had no real legal
One of the reasons that she remains a powerful figure in the history of women's suffrage is her own
commitment to action. Words without action she realized were not about to change the status of
women, she would have to act. McClung's line, "Never Retreat, Never Explain, just get the job done and
let them howl" is, I believe the quote that best exemplified her energy and drive regardless of the
obstacles that were placed in her way.
Unlike other suffragists of the time, McClung tied together class, immigration, race and gender in her
analysis of women's subordination. And unlike other writers at the time, her novels always placed
women and often immigrant women as the core of her stories. Rather than depicting them as simply
victims her protagonists acted in the world to change society.
McClung knew how to survive. She understood the work and the potential of women from having grown
up in a pioneering family. She did not suffer well the inaction of middle class women. And she was
greatly distressed by the rising tide of commercialism seeing this as a way of convincing women to shop
rather than engage in real change. Pioneering life taught McClung that women not only had the skills (or could develop them) but had a
moral duty to participate in a process that articulated and built a just society. She was not impressed by
the efforts of men. In this early stage of her thinking, she believed women were more moral than their
male counterparts. She was adamant that if women had the vote and could serve in government they
would build a more equitable society for all Canadians.
Some of her most brilliant writing can be found in your course package in which she expounds her views
on war and its causes. The First World War was problematic for many early feminists including McClung
who saw war as strictly a male response to conflict. At the heart of her political and ethical stance,
McClung was driven by the desire to create a society exempt of war and where each and every person
had an equal say in the development of society. She believed in a country that was fundamentally
hinged on democratic practises. In her vision, women would not be subject to the piecemeal handover
of rights that seemed to be the current practise of male politicians.
Today, I find it stunning to read her words and then read Canada's Charter of Rights that in so many
ways enshrines the very values McClung advocated. Her writing aimed at eliciting activism among her
readers. Hers was a call to action as individuals — an act she saw as a moral obligation.
Her fictional stories were powerful testaments to the strength that women could exercise when they
chose. They were intended not simply to describe the world as it was but provide the impetus and the
means for changing it! In herPearlie Watson Trilogy McClung's objective was to demonstrate how
social, political, and economic conditions converged to affect women's lives differently from men's.
Then in Painted Firesshe added class, ethnicity, gender and religion as categories of analysis.
McClung also understood the difference between "well intentioned" charity and real social change. She
had little patience for well-to-do people who believed they knew how to take care of those who had less
economically. Her analysis told her that such problems like poverty, housing, employment, ailing health
etc... where the result of power imbalances. The cure in her mind was neither blaming the poor for their
own poverty or hand outs that did nothing to attack the root causes.
McClung wrote, spoke, protested and lobbied governments and courts. She also served in the Alberta
Legislature from 1921-1926. What did she learn from this experience? She learned that party discipline
that demanded members of one party to vote in unison over issues did not allow for women's voices to
be heard. Her solution involved encouraging women to flex their ballot in directions that would assure
the passage of bills more conducive to the vision of women.
Perhaps the most articulate defence of the vote for women came in McClung's Mock Parliament in
1914. The satirical piece was called, "Why Should Men Have the Vote". As a performance piece it
captured with such intelligence the silliness with which the argument against women was organized. It
made a mockery of men's so called "rational" thinking processes when it came to denying women the
McClung had hoped that women would forge an independent voice against that of their husbands and
others if their ideas clashed. She hoped women would demand a higher moral standard for governance
through their exercise of the ballot. After McClung's many struggles and those of like minded women,
she was disappointed to discover that women did not treat the vote as a vehicle to create a better
Canada independently of the men in their lives. In the decades that followed the winning of the
franchise and later the Person's Case, McClung realized that women were no more moral than men. The Famous Five:
On Parliament Hill in Ottawa you will find a rather unique sculpture amidst the many powerful male
statues of leading Canadian figures. This piece of art is an interesting contrast in how power and
influence are created. On the one hand, you can visit our former Prime Ministers cast in iron standing
metres higher than any real human. They look down on us rather less important citizens. Their gazes are
severe and exude intelligence and immense power. However, off to one side of the Parliament
Buildings, still prominently placed, but on the ground level where children and adults alike can take
pleasure in their presence are the statues of five women. These are: Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney,
Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Irene Parlby. Unlike the statues of the men, this display is
at the viewer's height, some of the women are sitting others are standing. Unlike the men who either
gaze intimidating down from their perches or out beyond some undefined future, the women are in a
circle having tea. While at first, it might seem that this is too "quaint" actually to befit the importance of
these women, in fact, it rightly reflects five strong, intelligent, fierce women who organized themselves
against the most powerful figures and institutions of the day without the trappings of institutional
1. Emily Murphy:
-Suffragist and reformer
-First female magistrate in the Commonwealth
-Organizer of the "Person's" case
-Wrote books and articles using the pseudonym "Janey Canuck"
2. Louise McKinney
-Organizer of Women's Christine Temperance Union
-First woman to serve as a member of the Legislative Assembly in the Commonwealth in Alberta — 1917
3. Nellie McClung
-MLA for Edmonton 1921-1926
-First female director of the Board of Governors for the CBC
-Delegate to the League of Nations 1938
4. Henrietta Muir Edwards
-Published Canada's first women's magazine
-Established the prototype for the Canadian YWCA
-Artist, legal expert
-Founder of the National Council of Women (1893)
5. Irene Parlby
-Advocate for rural women in Alberta
-First female cabinet minister in Alberta, the second in the Commonwealth
-Delegate to the League of Nations (1930) These Western Canadian women worked with determination over the course of their lifetimes to ensure
women throughout Canada received decent pay, access to serving in government, human rights, decent
working conditions and much more. But perhaps in terms of their combined efforts, they are most
famous for the "Person's Case". In 1927 Emily Murphy gathered her four other friends together to send
to the Supreme Court of Canada a petition asking for clarification on the process to become a Senator.
The response from the all male judges with the Supreme Court said that women were not persons under
the British North America Act and therefore could not serve in Canada's Senate. Incredible! The five
women, with the backing the Alberta government took their case to the British Privy Council where on
October 18, 1929 the Council ruled that indeed women are persons.
Early 20 Century Feminists:
Many of the first feminists in Canada were suspicious of any definition that intimated that all women
shared the same attributes or that they should be contained to the private sphere. They despised the
double standard that allowed men to operate without restraint in both public and private locations
without any apology for behaviours considered immoral when women displayed them. They wanted an
end to the restrictions of identity and vocation and fought for “voluntary motherhood” so that women
could make choices about the direction they wished to take their lives without the imposition of false
social dictates on women’s “natural” roles. That women would have ideas different from those of men,
or that women wanted other things out of their lives than what men set up for them was a complete
surprise to men. The general assumption in society was that men could and should determine what is
best for women. Obviously, this perspective did not take into account any of the prejudices white men
in power embodied like sexism, racism and certainly also classism.
In all likelihood, men who fought against women gaining the vote feared a loss of control. If women
could be doctors, lawyers, politicians, in the minds of some of the men speaking at the time, what would
define their identity as men? Remember men for throughout the 19th and early 20th century had
framed their identity as a foil to what they decried as women’s identity. To maintain their masculinity
and through this their power and authority in both the private and public spheres as husbands, fathers
and providers, this distinction was critical.
Once again we need to cross the border into the United States to develop the ideas around biology, sex
and identity. At the beginning of the 20th century a number of women were working on ideas that
would radically alter how women thought about themselves and their right to a life beyond the
Emma Goldman, or as she was sometimes referred to as "Red Emma", was born in 1869 in Lithuania.
When she learned that her father had arranged a marriage for her at the age of 15 to a much older man,
she fled on a ship with her sister for the United States arriving in 1885. Here Goldman worked in
factories in Chicago learning first hand the brutality of industrialization. The event that propelled her
into a life of political and social activism was what would later be dubbed the Haymarket Riots of 1887.
Workers were on strike and surrounded by the police. In the midst of this volatile situation, someone
threw a bomb into the crowd killing a number of police officers. In the investigations that followed it
became apparent that the actual person or persons responsible for the act held little interest for the
police and the government who charged eight known members of an emerging anarchist group -- none who were known to be directly involved in the bomb throwing event. The police justified their position
by arguing that the views of the anarchists (a society organized without institutions that dictate who has
access to resources and in what measure) by nature of their political views incited the riots and bomb
throwing. The result was that eight men were arrested all of whom had no direct connection to the
bombing. Seven of the eight were condemned to death. In the end four of these men were hanged, two
had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment and one committed suicide. Goldman was outraged by
the miscarriage of justice but more powerfully she was also intrigued by a movement that looked to
dismantle political and economic institutions.
As an activist, Goldman campaigned for the rights of women. While women were her primary focus, she
placed less hope in the benefits of women achieving the vote. Unlike other women at the time, she
disposed of any idealism that claimed women as more moral than men. Her objective was to tear down
the social restraints and belief systems that divided women from men and disallowed women's access to
public and private institutions on equal footing to men. She rather accurately predicted that women
would use the vote to stay the political course of their husbands and fathers. So while she supported the
women who were fighting for the vote her concerns were philosophically different.
She advocated free love (no to arranged marriages) as well as voluntary motherhood. In her work with
women she had often seen how pregnancy could lead to death or how additional children increased
poverty. And like Nellie McClung, her thinking extended to all walks of life including struggling for decent
wages and work practises. It was however, her work to bring to women information on birth control
that landed her in jail several times.
The striking feature of both Nellie McClung and Emma Goldman was their commitment to live their
ideas. Imagine for instance Goldman literally perched on a soap box on a street corner delivering her
Within the anarchist movement, Goldman often fought to have the analysis examine gender and not
simply economics. She used gender to demonstrate how governance, social structures, economics,
religion and education were delivered differently according to ideas about masculinity and femininity.
Unlike other thinkers of the time, she knew that institutions and systems were patriarchal even though
the impulse was to imagine them as gender neutral.
At one point, she decided she would be of greater value to women if she were a trained a midwife
despite the illegality of this vocation in North America. Since no schools existed in North America,
Goldman travelled to Austria where midwifery was widely accepted. Her time in Europe offered her
more than just medical skills; she was also introduced to a wealth of new ideas including psychotherapy.
What she learned while abroad came to form the basis in her thinking on human sexuality and
ultimately human freedom. This thinking was critical in her understanding women's containment to the
private sphere, their treatment at the hands of the medical profession that claimed women were
asexual, women's role in marriage and in many other avenues of social encounters. Perhaps it was
because of this experience with new tools to analyse the world, that Goldman was able to raise the veil
on the family and examine its oppressive elements that left women often battered or silent.
Goldman was fiercely antimilitarist which meant as the United States entered the First World War she
opposed the draft that unquestionably sent young men off to their deaths. Many feminists (Nellie
McClung in Canada was one) held similar views but speaking out against the war and the draft could
land a resistor in the United States in prison and charged with treason. The fear of prison kept many people quiet about their opposition to the draft but not Goldman. By 1918 ironically as the war was
winding down she was imprisoned and then deported to the Soviet Union. (Wilfrid Laurier University has
a video on Emma Goldman's life made by a Toronto filmmaker -- if you happen to be on campus take
some time to view it). However the Soviet Union was neither a fan of Goldman nor she of it. After
witnessing the repression of rights, she loudly and vociferously spoke out against government abuses.
And soon she was deported once again. Her next few years were spent in exile in Britain, France and
later here in Canada. These were difficult years for Goldman who missed the activism she had known in
the United States. While she was permitted one last short visit to New York, she eventually died in
Toronto in 1940.
While many vilified Goldman for her ideas on freedom and rights others saw her as a "woman 5,000
years before her time." Her anarchism was not about chaos but about a society where mutual aid and
not competition framed the core of all principles.
She believed in freely chosen lives where harm to one another was minimized. In your Shaw and Lee
textbook you will find an article on marriage written by Goldman. Many of her ideas are still used by
social theorists so you may want to see if her ideas are useful to you.
In fact, here's a challenge:
Go to the library or onto the Internet and find some of the writings of the early suffragists and
reformers. Read what Elizabeth Cady Stanton said on religion (she revised the Bible at one point — the
Women's Bible), or Nellie McClung's book on war. While the language is not necessarily how we would
write and speak in these times, you may find yourself saying, "Yeah, these ideas still stand as valid
The other point perhaps you may want to think about is how feminists during the various waves (you
have an article in your course package on this) are really about creating a more just society for all
peoples not simply white women, or women in general, but a better world for men as well.
Margaret Sanger, like Emma Goldman, led the fight in the United States on access to birth control for
women. In your course package you have an extract of an experience that changed her life in terms of
her own profound sense of responsibility to ensure that women would cease to have lives of despair
burdened by unwanted pregnancies (too many women were unable to afford more children and women
continued to die in childbirth). Sanger’s experience as a nurse presented her with countless examples of
women attempting to end a pregnancy on their own; or through botched back alley abortions.
The social and economic conditions of the time meant that many women were expected to submit to
the sexual needs of their husbands, saying “no” was not an option for them. Men tended to refuse to
use condoms. Few women understood how their bodies worked, or what remedies they might use of
their own invention. Middle and upper class women had access to both information and pharmacists
who were willing to sell devices to them “under the counter”. Poor and working class women had no
recourse. President Roosevelt at the turn of the century believed birth control or women’s call for it was
an indication of the “decay, decadence and deterioration of the human race – those who avoided
pregnancy as criminal against the state.” Women were fed with an ideology that dictated that “superior stock women” (white women) should have at least a dozen children while those of lower stock (women
of colour, immigrant women) should have fewer. Remember white men feared the increasing numbers
of immigrants. The idea of motherhood was intimately wrapped into discourses on nationalism.
When Margaret Sanger opened her first clinic within hours she had hundreds of women at her door. As
quickly as she opened her doors, she was arrested forcing her to flee to Britain to avoid a prison
sentence. Her entire life was spent fighting for adequate birth control for women so by the 1950s when
she learned about experiments being conducted for a “pill” she connected researchers with an heiress
who could endow the study.
Like other suffragists (although not McClung or Goldman), Sanger held views that today we would see as
both racist and classist. For example, as the campaign for the Pill in the 1950s increased, she saw it as a
tool to control the birth rate of poor families globally – a form of population control. She was not alone
in this idea. Certainly as the Pill reached a mass manufacturing stage, much of the advertising
surrounded the benefits of limiting the birth rate of poor families in Third World countries. While the
mass availability of the Pill was a plus for pharmaceutical companies who had much to gain in profits,
Sanger’s ideas precluded the racism and classism inherent in suggestions that placed the blame of
poverty on women. She failed to consider that the issue was not one of birth rates but structural
imbalances that keep people poor in the first place.
In a later lecture, the history of the pill will be covered in greater detail along with its terrible problems
and the consequences of how research was being conducted that led to the death of many women.
The End of the First Wave Feminism
The first wave of feminism officially ended when women won the franchise. For Canadian women this
was 1918. The end of this era of activism coincided with the final days of the First World War. Canadians
were battle weary. They had seen a long and ugly war with thousands dead.
A younger generation of women wanted a different life that did not necessarily include the same kinds
of pitted battles women had been fighting in order to achieve the franchise. There are parallels to some
young women today, who view feminists as angry, not fun to be around, and ugly. These young women
would be advantaged by the work of this older generation but they would also be subject to the
prevailing popular notions of “man hating” suffragists. It is not surprising then, that this generation
sought to distance themselves from the ideas of the previous one.
The 1920s were a time of sexual experimentation, of fun of being female in a way that had not been
acceptable in the past during the dour restraints of Victorian marriages and families or during the war
period which demanded sacrifice. Young white women were in college, partying with young men,
engaging in bisexual experimentation and simply taking life less seriously at least at some level. Movies
were the rage and through movies young women were fed a different kind of image of life, sexuality and
being a w