By Millicent McKay
Jan. 24, 2016
Tina Mundy recognizes the position she holds on politics wouldn’t be possible without the suffragette movement that took place almost a century ago.
“Today, we wouldn’t be anywhere without them,” said Prince Edward Island’s new minister of family and human services.
Jan. 28 marks an important day in Canadian women’s history. One hundred years ago, women in Manitoba were the first females to be given the opportunity to vote.
Fifty per cent of the population is women and less than 20 per cent sit around the political table, said Mundy.
“We need to acknowledge their contributions. And we owe them so much.”
Women see things differently than men and she is grateful to the women who figured it out so long ago, said Mundy.
“Not only did they say we are going to vote, they said we are going to run.”
In 1951, Hilda Ramsay was the first female candidate to run on P.E.I. and in 1968 Dorothy Corrigan became the mayor of Charlottetown, said Mundy.
“Thank you for being so brave.”
It’s their passion, dedication, strength and courage to overcome the obstacles they face that she admires, she said.
“They weren’t doing it for fame, they were doing what was right.”
However, it isn’t the 100th anniversary of aboriginal women getting the right to vote, said Ardath Whynacht.
She is a sociology professor at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B.
“In the West, we pride our democratic society synonymous with freedom, so for women, or half the population, to be able to choose their government is important without a doubt.
“When we celebrate these events, we have to be careful not to have the word women synonymous with a white middle-class women’s history.”
Every win has helped some women. But we would be foolish at this point in history to assume that a win for some women was a win for all women, she said.
“If you look at social revolution as a bit of a, thinking about it like the tip of a wedge, those smaller successes for certain groups can push the door open and make a path for other types of revolutions to happen.”
It is important for people now when they look back on those movements to critique them. Not just say the movement was all-bad, but instead be honest about the limitations of the struggles, she said.
If we want to honour the work of the suffragettes we want to be really honest about what some of failures are, she said.
“We can start addressing those and continuing to push and move in a direction that benefits all women, especially some of the women who may have been left behind in the earlier revolutions.”
What’s significant right now is celebrating it, celebrating what has been accomplished so far. As a sociologist, the question asked is why are people celebrating even if wasn’t the anniversary of aboriginal women getting the right to vote, she said.
“I think the reasons we celebrate things like this is because we now have a sense of pride. I think that the fact that we’re proud of that history, enough to celebrate it, says a lot about where we are now, and that’s the good news.”
The suffragette movement was ultimately a middle or upper class white woman’s movement and Whynacht would hesitate to give it credit for some of the other struggles women of colour have faced, but it is definitely inspiring.
“Part of identifying as a woman in contemporary life means taking lessons from each other’s wins and each other’s movements and trying to apply those to something that benefits us and helps us thrive.”