We are honoured by this recognition: on the anniversary of the beginning of Women’s Suffrage in Canada, Senator Mary Coyle stood on the floor of the Senate and issued the following statement:
Today I rise to speak to you of two freedoms.
“Oh my sisters, rise together
Raise your voices do not rest.
Make your dreams from hope and passion
Set your sights on nothing less”
Enter Premier Fontaine to address the legislature.
“Ladies I submit to you that Man is made for something higher and better than voting. Giving them the vote will only serve to emasculate them. No manly man wants to settle a question by any other means than fighting.
A man’s place is on the seas, in the factories and fields. If men were to get the vote, who knows what would happen? They’d think too much, become slaves to reason. Who’d run the farm.
Politics unsettle men, and unsettled men mean unsettled bills and broken vows. Giving them the vote is simply not in anyone’s interest.”
Two days ago, our colleague, Senator Jane Cordy, spoke of the event she had attended to mark the 100th anniversary of most women getting the right to vote in Nova Scotia.
On May 24th, 1918, an Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon most Canadian women was passed by Parliament .
Last summer I attended Ami MacKay and Ken Schwartz’s brilliant play – Nothing Less- on women’s suffrage, performed by Two Planks and a Passion Theatre, at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, in Canning Nova Scotia.
The Petticoat Parliament scene I quoted earlier was inspired by Nellie McClung who had rented the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg in 1914, staging a mock parliament, casting herself as premier and putting men in the role of having to beg for the vote.
In January 1916, Manitoba- the first Canadian province to do so – passed into law the right of women to vote.
Women and men of Asian origin in Canada had to wait until 1948 for that same right.
First Nations men and women waited until 1960.
The people of India won their first freedom – political freedom – in 1947.
Last evening our colleagues, Senators Cools, Andreychuk and I attended the South African Freedom Day celebrations marking 24 years since that country held its first democratic election.
As we meet, Reemaben Nanavaty, of India’s Self Employed Women’s Association, SEWA– an organization of 2 million poor women- is speaking at St. Francis Xavier University about the future of work.
SEWA’s founder Ela Bhatt, is a Gandhian who speaks passionately about Doosri Azadi, the second freedom – access to and ownership of economic resources by poor women.
Last night, South African, High Commissioner, Madame Dlamini-Mntambo was expressing the same refrain – political freedom is critical but for a healthy democracy South Africa also needs the second freedom for its people – economic freedom and participation.
Colleagues I leave you with the final chorus from the play Nothing Less
Oh my sisters gather round me,
On this new and shining morn
We have won a glorious victory
But the struggle still goes on.