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December 15, 2019

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Remembering Manitoba’s suffragettes

Manitoba Museum looking for artifacts from women's rights movement

Pictured above is the Executive of Political Equality League of Manitoba, snapped after witnessing the passage of Suffrage bill and originally published in the Grain Growers Guide in February 1916.

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Pictured above is the Executive of Political Equality League of Manitoba, snapped after witnessing the passage of Suffrage bill and originally published in the Grain Growers Guide in February 1916.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/1/2015 (1790 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On Jan. 28, 1916, women in Manitoba were the first in Canada to have the right to vote at the provincial level.

The unprecedented decision was the culmination of activism, dedication, and creativity of women who lived in Winnipeg, such as Nellie McClung, E. Cora Hind and M.J. Benedictssen.

To celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the right to vote, the Manitoba Museum is gathering items for an exhibit featuring  the women behind the movement called "Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote," set to open in November.

Roland Sawatzky, curator of history at the Manitoba Museum, said thousands of women participated in the movement but much of the historical artifacts have disappeared.

"There’s nobody around with direct memories of that event; it’s done. And even the grandkids might not know that much anymore, so I thought that this might be a nice way to get the public involved," Sawatzky said.

"There might be stories and artifacts out there that they know about but don’t know the importance of necessarily, so this is something that we can do together."  

The idea for the exhibit was sparked by a call from a lady in Ontario who had previously donated ceramics to the museum made by her mother in the 1910s. The mother was May Irene White, a suffragette in Winnipeg who marched with Nellie McClung to the Manitoba legislature.

"We have these great photographs of (White) in a nice dress from the period holding a dog on a porch with big hair, and then there’s another photograph from the same time when she’s dressed in men’s clothing smoking a cigarette with her brother at the inaugural Calgary Stampede," Sawatzky said.

Sawatzky is hoping similar possessions will be loaned to the museum, including items connected to everyday women who were involved in the movement as well as personal stories that may have been passed down through the generations.  

"I am looking at what happened here in Manitoba, what led up to it, why it was important to people and really focusing on the Manitoban story behind it. Of course it had repercussions throughout the country afterwards but looking at that period right before 1916," Sawatzky said.

For more information, or to loan your item, contact Sawatzky at rsawatzky@manitobamuseum.ca or call 204-956-2830.

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