Today I re-learned that in 1929 women were legally considered persons and that it’s acceptable to be late if the elderly lady beside you can tell you first hand accounts of Nellie McClung’s life. I am certain of this because I now have no recollection of where I was headed that day, but I do know that I have regretted getting off that bus for over 15 years.
Election Day has me thinking.
Memories are bubbling to the surface and reminding me of my university days.
As we were driving to the polling station I couldn’t recall any of the important dates relating to women and the right to vote. This bothered me because I should know.
I took an assortment of gender studies classes in university, so for me this business of having the right to vote has a great backstory. I am aware that I owe this right to many very cool ladies who pushed the limits and often embarrassed their husbands with their radical ideas.
The textbooks that my classmates and I poured over featured women who would roll over in their graves if I squandered my right to vote today. There were many women who fought and rallied, but the ladies who stand out most in my mind today are the Famous 5.
The Impact the Famous Five Had on Women’s Right to Vote
These five ladies are famous for challenging the government to allow women to be considered “persons”. They knew that only when they were legally considered to be persons would they be able to partake in public life. Up to that point the term persons exclusively referred to males, so they sought to have the definition reconsidered. In order for the government to take a petition seriously, it needed five signatures. The five women who put forth the petition were: Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, and Louise McKinney. I get goosebumps just typing their names. The government was unbending at first and shot down all their defences. In 1929, after two years of fighting and protesting, the Famous 5 were finally successful in changing the definition of persons to include women. The rest is history.
This Woman KNEW Nellie McLung
“Nellie was nice.”
One day after university I was waiting at my bus stop. An elderly lady sat beside me and we ended up in a conversation that we continued on the bus. Toward the end of the bus ride she asked me what I was studying and I told her about my gender studies classes and how interesting I found it all. She then told me that her husband was friends with Nellie McClung and that Nellie used to visit their home. I was gobsmacked. I asked her what Nellie was like and she said she was nice. Less than a minute later we were at my stop. Something in my head told me to stay on the bus with her but I was worried about being late so I bid her farewell. The moment my feet hit the sidewalk I knew I had made a mistake. I should have stayed and talked more with her. I walked around the rest of the day in a haze of regret. For weeks I went back to my bus stop looking for that woman. I hoped to see her and ask her to tell me everything about the suffragette, but I never saw her again.
Since I didn’t listen to my inner voice, all I could gather from my primary source was that Nellie McClung was nice. NICE. So I leave it to my secondary sources to tell me how amazing she was for her accomplishments. Gulp. Regret.
I vote today because my vote matters to my country. I also vote because I need to thank these ladies for all they did. Casting my vote is the simplest and most authentic way to show them my appreciation.