Nellie McClung- the most famous of the Canadian suffragettes- is hardly a household name (Although she does have a heritage minute).

McClung was instrumental in the Winnipeg Mock Parliament of 1914- a theatrical event where women posing as politicians debated the question “should men vote?”. In addition to her support of women’s suffrage, McClung was a writer, mother and (concerningly) a eugenicist.

Her work In Times Like These provides great insight into the philosophy of maternal feminist suffragettes, who believed that the “inherent and natural” differences between men and women were precisely why women should vote. In her book, McClung picks apart anti-suffrage sentiments and expresses frustrations still echoed by the intersectional feminists of today:

“MADAM,” said Charles XI of Sweden to his wife when she appealed to him for mercy to some prisoner, “I married you to give me children, not to give me advice.” That was said a long time ago, and the haughty old Emperor put it rather crudely, but he put it straight. This is still the attitude of the world towards women. That men are human beings, but women are women, with one reason for their existence, has long been the dictum of the world.”

Just a few excerpts reveal a woman with an impressive wit:

“Why, Uncle Henry!” exclaimed one man to another on election day. “I never saw you out to vote before. What struck you?”

“Hadn’t voted for fifteen years,” declared Uncle Henry, “but you bet I came out today to vote against givin’ these fool women a vote; what’s the good of givin’ them a vote? they wouldn’t use it!”

Fortunately for the 21st century researcher, the entire text has been digitized- here.

Nellie

A more in-depth examination of the relationship between Canadian suffragettes and eugenics can be found here: http://womensuffrage.org/?p=22106

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