On October 23, a film will appear that I’m excited about seeing – in contrast to the wretched cinema of the superhero that spews out of Hollywood these days. The film is “Suffragette,” a British production directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan. Starring Meryl Streep, Helene Bonham Carter, and Carey Mulligan, the film explores the suffrage movement in Britain prior to World War I. Sadly, few people today know the courage with which British women agitated for the vote or how entrenched were the forces that denied it, facts which, judging from the trailer for “Suffragette,” the producers of this film seek to bring alive.
A few days before the movie’s release, Canadian women will vote in the federal election of October 19, only because suffragists here had an advantage unavailable to British women. Making all the difference was the pioneer experience. In spite of isolation and extreme weather, Canadian women on the frontier reared children, mended and washed clothes, and prepared food at a time before mass production when people had to produce everything from scratch. Canadian frontier women performed much of this labour in sod or log houses with little artificial light. As a result, a stubborn hardheadedness became common among them. They needed it for when, in response to their mass action, reactionaries toodled the “delicate creature unsuited to politics” horn out their rear ends. A frontier settler herself, when Premier Roblin of Manitoba patronized Mrs. McClung with his “Nice women don’t want to vote,” passage of wind, she and the other women answered him with their famous mock parliament. This great moment in peaceful protest resulted in women in Manitoba securing the franchise on January 28, 1916. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC followed. The endless toil of the women who settled the frontier brought every woman in Canada the vote and the citizenship that comes with it.
Therefore, barring a car wreck giving me brain damage, I will vote. True though it is that they’re all politicians, I’ll still vote. Although I agree completely with the concept that if voting ever changed anything, it would be illegal, even still, every election I walk to the polling station. I do so because when my grandmother was a toddler, women went to jail so that I could. So as soon as I can, I’ll watch the film “Suffragette” and in October honour my grandmothers by voting.
- S. Noël McKay, author of Stony Point