“If there’s one thing [my husband] can do alone, for goodness’ sake, let him do it!” 
This “why bother” attitude illustrates the indifference in a region that was long considered a “stronghold of conservatism” among the Canadian provinces . The uphill battle for women’s suffrage against conservative, Victorian-era attitudes is understandable. That said, when suffragists met strong opposition west of the Maritime provinces, they gained publicity and support. The suffrage movement in the Maritimes faced greater struggles due to the general apathy in both men and women in the late 19th century, despite concerted efforts by suffragists . Today’s post discusses indifference as a barrier to suffrage in the Maritime provinces. Check back tomorrow for “Pyrotechnic Eloquence”, which discusses conservative Maritime attitudes that opposed suffrage .
In her detailed and heralded study, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada, Catherine Cleverdon cites several theories for the “weight of indifference” to women’s political rights in the Maritimes . One theory is that the “leaders of all organized work among women in those days were all women of outstanding intelligence and social leaders. It was never in any true sense ‘a popular movement’” . Therefore, although pro-suffrage groups repeatedly presented signed petitions to legislators, their attempts failed to represent enough of the population for the legislators to be swayed. Politicians simply contended that not enough women wanted the vote, so they saw no reason to grant it .
A second theory relates to the Maritime provinces’ isolation from the rest of Canada and the United States. Conservatives in the Maritimes felt no need to follow the same course as the more radical, large provinces to the west. As well, although many prominent British suffragists visited the Dominion of Canada to rally support, they “generally by-passed the east coast [even though they travelled all the way to] Victoria, on the other side of the continent” .
Third, New Brunswick tended to follow in the footsteps of Nova Scotia’s political and legal culture. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick delayed enfranchising women until after the First World War, even though both provinces were aware of recent changes in voting rights in the rest of Canada. Moreover, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador exhibited further conservatism as a result of geographic isolation .
Fourth, in many Maritime municipalities women were granted the right to hold office in local school councils long before the right to vote. Many legislators considered this to be a sufficient concession for women’s political equality. Governments viewed it as a right granted to women, but it was also based upon, and further reinforced, a traditional gender stereotype - that women know what is best for childhood education .
A fifth theory is rooted in the fact that although women had been entitled to vote and hold office until the mid-1800s, there is virtually no record that any women took advantage of it . From Nova Scotia’s first General Assembly in 1758 until 1851, and from New Brunswick’s first council in 1784 until 1848, the respective provincial statutes did not expressly restrict voting rights to men . In both cases, the legislation “had been so worded as to make it appear that women had both the rights of voting and office-holding” . This was yet another reason for lawmakers to avoid giving women express voting rights, as they claimed that there was no need for it.
When looking back at the history of any suffrage movement, it is easy to imagine that ultra-conservative attitudes presented a major barrier to those vying for progress. However, the history of women’s suffrage in the Canadian Maritime provinces demonstrates that the “weight of indifference” can be just as difficult to push through.
Check back tomorrow for “Pyrotechnic Eloquence” which discusses conservative attitudes during the women’s suffrage movement, as well as which year each Maritime province granted women voting rights.
 Catherine L Cleverdon, The Woman Suffrage Movement in Canada (Toronto: The University of Toronto Press, 1974) at 156 [Cleverdon].
 Ibid, at 157.
 Ibid, at 156.
 Ibid, at 157, 180.
 “Women’s Right to Vote in Canada” (15 February 2016), online:<http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/Compilations/ProvinceTerritory/ ProvincialWomenRightToVote.aspx>.
 Cleverdon, supra note 1 at 161.
 Ibid, at 157.
 Ibid, at 181, 186.
 Ibid, at 158.
 Ibid, at 178, n 58.
 Ibid, at 158, 178.
 Ibid, at 177.