"For years we agitated gently," but it was "surprising to find otherwise delightful people fly into terrific rages and order us out of their offices, when they learnt what our mission was" .
Today we continue the discussion on the suffrage movement in the Maritime provinces. In addition to the challenges that the “weight of indifference” presented, conservative opposition among the provinces’ legislatures delayed the vote for women, especially in Prince Edward Island, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick enfranchised women in 1918 and 1919, respectively. Women in Prince Edward Island, along with Newfoundland and Labrador, waited until 1922 and 1925.
The Nova Scotia Attorney-General, Honourable J.W. Longley, was the province’s most vocal opponent to women’s suffrage. His “force and eloquence” were “a brilliant pyrotechnic display” of his views on women’s traditional roles . During one legislative debate, Longley argued that voting would interfere with women’s four roles:
[F]irst, the bearing and bringing up of children, and this is the highest. Second, the creating of home and the beautifying of home life…. Third, to charm men and make the world pleasant, sweet and agreeable to live in. Fourth to be kindly and loving, to be sweet and to be cherished, to be weak and confiding, to be protected and to be the object of man’s devotion. 
Therefore, in the years prior to enfranchisement it was thought that a woman’s main purpose was to serve her husband, and her political opinion would be superfluous to that of his. In many regions, unmarried women were initially able to vote, only to lose that power upon marriage .
Voting rights for women were achieved in the Maritimes not because lawmakers considered women to be equal or to be deserving, but rather, they were able to “earn” the right to vote by helping the men in the war effort between 1914 and 1918 . Many male supporters of women’s suffrage, such as politicians and news editors, helped appeal to the legislature to give women the vote in order to repay them for their wartime work.
As in most of Canada, Maritime women’s voting rights were granted before the Persons Case and before modern ideals of equality between the sexes developed. During a time when some men did not consider women to be equal citizens, radical liberals presented a strong opposition by maintaining that women had worked hard, just like men, and for men’s benefit, and therefore should be reimbursed with greater political rights . The appeal to equality between the sexes was not as persuasive as it is today, and some men loudly voiced their disdain.
The Nova Scotia General Assembly finally acceded to calls for women’s suffrage in 1918. Catherine Cleverdon, in her seminal study “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada”, describes the movement as “sporadic” and as a “by-product” of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s campaign for prohibition . This is not surprising given the “customary link between prohibition and equal franchise”, as legislators who were opposed to prohibition tended to oppose women’s suffrage as well .
New Brunswick, who had separated from Nova Scotia in 1784, granted women the vote in 1919, just a year after Nova Scotia. New Brunswick has been compared to “a younger sister who often patterns her actions after those of an older member of the family, [and] frequently looked for guidance to the senior province lying eastward” . The women’s suffrage movement in New Brunswick struggled less than its counterpart in Nova Scotia for several reasons. First, the general apathy toward women’s suffrage was less of a “dead weight” than that of Nova Scotia’s because the New Brunswick legislature looked to progress in Nova Scotia with admiration. Second, New Brunswick women benefitted from more petitions and frequent delegations to the legislature, indicating that a significant number of women sought voting rights. Third, the Saint John Daily Telegraph provided public, male support for the suffrage movement. And fourth, the Enfranchisement Association in Saint John, New Brunswick, had a stronger public recognition than the same organization did in Nova Scotia. This was partially due to the fact that the women’s suffrage movement had finally gained better publicity by extending past western and central Canada to the conservative stronghold of the Maritimes .
Prince Edward Island’s geographic isolation and small population “built up a complete immunity to outside suffrage influences and was well content that no native variety of feminism root in its soil” . The Prince Edward Island press reported on suffrage issues including women’s federal enfranchisement, voting rights’ correlation with educational enrichment, and the public benefit to gaining women’s “advice on matters pertaining to health, morals, and the home” . Thus, although the newspapers brought attention to suffrage in Prince Edward Island, women continued to be siloed into customary roles. In 1919, the legislature promised that it would consider granting women the right to vote by 1922. Despite much opposition and rhetoric about women’s traditional roles in the home, the debt owed to women’s work during the war convinced conservative opponents to grant women the right to vote.
Finally, in 1925 Canada’s oldest colony, Newfoundland and Labrador, followed the other three Maritime provinces and granted women the right to vote. The active campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador lasted thirty-five years, starting with the formation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1890 . Conservative male attitudes resisted the campaigns for suffrage partially because they were coupled with prohibition campaigns. Temperance suffragists found a correlation between alcohol, domestic violence, and women’s lack of political rights, making prohibition a natural co-campaign. Likewise, women’s suffrage was a natural co-campaign for many clergymen . Many conservative men in positions of power contested the increase of women’s liberty which was coupled with a restriction on men’s freedom. After granting women the right to vote in municipal elections in 1921, the provincial legislature finally granted full voting rights to women in 1925.
The four Maritime provinces had long been considered more conservative than Ontario and the provinces to the west. At the same time, the low numbers of women actively involved in the suffrage movement exhibited an air of indifference toward attaining the right to vote. Politicians used this perception of indifference and the Victorian views on traditional gender roles to delay granting women full voting rights. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, with their stronger ties to the rest of Canada, granted women voting rights sooner. Prince Edward Island along with Newfoundland and Labrador retained their isolated, conservative cultures until the 1920s.
Political rights for women relate not only to a voice on a ballot. Political equality translates into being treated equal on an individual level. Stay tuned tomorrow and Friday for discussions on how women’s voting rights affect women’s personal lives under the law!
 Catherine L Cleverdon, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada (Toronto: The University of Toronto Press, 1974) at 161 [Cleverdon].
 Ibid at 211.
 Ibid at 161.
 Ibid at 169, 170, 176, 193, 206.
 Ibid at 158-159
 Ibid at 159.
 Ibid at 178.
 Ibid at 156.
 Ibid at 198.
 Ibid at 206.
 “Women’s Suffrage”, Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador (16 February 2016), online: <https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/politics/women-suffrage.php>.
 Cleverdon, supra note 1 at 210.