Alberta women gained the right to vote in provincial elections 101 years ago

Postcard of a woman on horse jumping over a car

More than 100 years ago—on April 19, 1916—Alberta women got the right to vote. We weren’t the first province to grant women the vote; that belongs to Manitoba, just three months earlier. Women in Québec were not able to vote until 1940.

Women’s suffrage in Canada was a decades-long struggle for equality and justice to improve the lives of women and children, and Canadians in general. A grassroots movement, it included the Famous Five (or the “Alberta Five” at the time), along with women from across the nation, who determinedly fought for women’s rights, including the vote.

The farm movement was key to the success of women’s suffrage in the Prairie Provinces, similar to the U.S., where many rural Midwestern communities were the first to enfranchise women. The United Farmers of Alberta officially endorsed women’s suffrage as early as 1912. Why? The feeling was that women had heroically helped settle the land alongside men, and therefore should have a voice and rights under the law. Staid establishment ideas about rights and roles had less sway in the West than in places where the politics were more entrenched.

This voting victory did not apply to all women, however. Many minorities—men and women—were excluded from the right to vote until after the Second World War. Indigenous peoples in Alberta were not granted the right to vote in provincial elections (without losing their status rights) until April 12, 1965. Twenty-eight years later, Kim Campbell, became the first—and only—woman to date, to serve as prime minister of Canada.

Want to learn more?

Read Inspiring Women: A Celebration of Herstory by Mona Holmlund & Gail Youngberg, Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada by Catherine Cleverdon,  and In Times Like These by Nellie McClung. We also have an extensive Local History clippings file on Women's rights, and the Famous Five.

Graphic of #tbt150