It was on this day in 1916 that Manitoba became the first province in Canada to grant women the right to vote and full political equality.
After the vote, on the next day Jan. 28, 1916, Manitoba’s newly installed Liberal government passed legislation.
Manitoba was quickly followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta, and in 1917, Ontario and British Columbia followed suit. A few years later, the three Maritime provinces also gave women the right to vote. It was not until 1940 that the last province, Quebec, came onboard largely because of the spirited campaign by Thérèse Casgrain against the combination of Union Nationale leader Maurice Duplessis and the Roman Catholic Church.
Women rejected out of hand the arguments against their proposal – that it was “unladylike” and that women would merely duplicate the vote of their husbands. Canadian women across the country, such as British Columbia’s Helena Gutteridge, Manitoba’s Nellie McClung, and Ontario’s Dr. Augusta Stowe-Gullen, inspired by their more militant American and British sisters, campaigned tirelessly for the right to vote for women. They employed more moderate tactics such as plays, petitions, and mock parliaments.
On October 13, 2004, the Bank of Canada unveiled a new $50 bank note on the theme of national building. For the first time in Canadian history, Canadian women were featured on the note. The bill featured images of the Alberta women known as the Famous 5 (Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards), as well as the renowned activist Thérèse Casgrain.
In 2011, the Bank of Canada began releasing a new series of polymer bills. The popular $50 bill featuring women from Canadian history was replaced by a new polymer depicting an icebreaker. None of the other new polymers feature female Canadian historical figures.
To date, more than 53,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the Bank of Canada to include women from Canadian history onto Canadian banknotes.