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Having lost the plebiscite for prohibition on Aug. He further noted that the same result could be achieved at the territorial level with a similar change of wording in the elections chapter of the Yukon Act. It was quite specific as to why the women of the Yukon wanted the vote.
Not being fluent in English, these aliens did not have a clear understanding of the issues upon which they were voting, they said. From Manitoba in the east, California in the south and Siberia to the west, these women were the only ones who were still disenfranchised.
Frederick Congdon, the former member of Parliament spoke about the progress of women in Britain, and attributed much success in industry to women. As a result of the war, the women of the Yukon were called upon to perform patriotic duties that gave them, in a territory quickly being depleted of men, a voice that they never had before, and they proved equal to the challenge. At the same time, they bridled at the restrictions that muted their voice at election time. As the war progressed, the forceful petitioning of the women in the Yukon was gaining attention, in conjunction with events affecting women across the nation.
It was the conscription issue that brought things to a head. The long, drawn-out, war, now in its third year, was draining the country of eager volunteers. In April of3, Canadians lost their lives and another 7, were wounded. If Canada was to sustain its commitment to Britain to supply a steady stream of volunteers, then drastic measures would have to be taken at home. Conscription, or the arbitrary enlistment of new recruits was highly unpopular among the citizens of Quebec and other parts of the country.
In addition, a growing of those left behind in Canada did not favour conscription. Many of those in favour of conscription had already enlisted were already serving overseas. One was the Military Voters Actwhich conferred upon any British subject, male or female, who was actively serving in the armed forces, the right to vote.
This included some 2, military nurses, with more than a dozen from the Yukon. Another law, the Wartime Elections Act gave the vote to spouses, widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of any person alive or dead who was serving — or had served — in the Canadian forces. The act also disenfranchised conscientious objectors or individuals born in enemy countries who became naturalized British subjects after March 31, Together, these acts were deed to tip the scales in favour of the Borden government.
This decision would have been well received by women in the Yukon. The federal election took place Dec. The Borden Unionist Party, which was a coalition of Conservative and some Liberal candidates, won one of the largest majorities in Canadian history. On April 3 of the same year, the Yukon Act was amended, entitling women to vote in elections for territorial council.
During the federal election ofwomen turned out in large s to listen to the issues in the coming vote.
A Mrs. McRae became the first woman to chair an election meeting in Dawson that November. The following evening, a Mrs. Walker presided over another public meeting at which more than 70 women turned out to hear what candidate George Black had to say. Women were eager to exercise their new found responsibility.
The Yukon also led the way with women being elected to Parliament: Martha Black was only the second woman elected to the House of Commons in Pat Duncan was the first woman to lead the territorial government that year, and Kathy Watson was just closing out her term as mayor of the capital city. I wonder where else in the country such a representation of women has been found in the seats of power?
Michael Gates is a Yukon historian and sometimes adventurer based in Whitehorse. His new book, From the Klondike to Berlin, is now available in stores everywhere.
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