Thursday 19 November 2015

Nellie McClung's Should Men Vote?

"Man's place is to provide for his family, a hard enough task in these strenuous days." 
(Nellie McClung)

During the first half of the 1800's, alcoholism was rampant in North America, explained in W. J. Rorabaugh's book The Alcoholic Republic:  An American Tradition.  Men filled the taverns and brothels and lost their jobs due to alcoholism.  The women were left to pick up the pieces, to hold the family together.  In 1873 (Canada followed in 1874), the Women Christian Temperance Union formed to combat the use of alcohol.  Although the movement was the largest women's movement in North America, women still did not have enough political power as they did not have the right to vote.  A natural linking of the temperance movement and the suffrage movement was the result.  

Nellie McClung, born in Ontario and living in Manitoba at the time, campaigned for both Prohibition and Women's Suffrage.  AT the time, politicians claimed that a women's place was in the home, not in Parliament.  Nellie turned the tables on this opinion with her speech delivered at the Horticultural gardens in Toronto in 1896, supported by both the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Women's Enfranchisement Association.  Titled "Should Men Vote?", the speech was delivered as part of a Mock Parliament.  Filled with humour, it delighted the audience.  One member suggested an act to prevent men from wearing long stockings, knickerbockers and roundabout coats when bicycling".  Afterwards, guests promenaded around the plants of the Gardens, abuzz with Mrs. McClung's remarks.  The speech marked a turning point in the suffrage movement.  

Here is an excerpt from Nellie's speech:

"But my dear friends, I'm convinced you do not know what you are asking me to do; you do not know what you ask.  You have not thought of it, of course, with the natural thoughtlessness of your sex.  You ask for something which may disrupt the whole course of civilization.  Man's place is to provide for his family a hard enough task in these strenuous days.  We hear of women leaving home, and we hear it with deepest sorrow.  Do you know why women leave home?  There is a reason.  Home is not made sufficiently attractive.  Would letting politics enter the home help matters?  Ah, no!  Politics would unsettle our men.  Unsettled men mean unsettled bills -- unsettled bills mean broken homes -- broken vows -- and then divorce." (

Toronto's Horticultural Gardens courtesy 

No comments:

Post a Comment