By Fred Baumann
On March 8, International Women’s Day, a new commemorative stamp honoring one of the first steps in the historic achievement of women’s suffrage in Canada is being issued with a simple message in black and gold: “VOTE.”
The nondenominated (85¢) domestic letter-rate “P” permanent Women’s Suffrage stamp is being sold in self-adhesive 10-stamp booklets by Canada Post.
Designed by Tetro Design Inc., the 32-millimeter by 24mm stamp uses the familiar Venus/Aphrodite symbol of womanhood to form the letters “O” and “T” in the word “VOTE,” with added text noting the dates of the centennial.
In all, 1.4 million stamps have been printed by Lowe-Martin, available in 140,000 10-stamp booklets.
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The women’s suffrage movement had strong roots in the late 19th century, particularly in the growth of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Movement, which held that women at the polls would be indispensable to the success of alcohol prohibition.
However, the arrival of World War I, in which women in great numbers first had the opportunity to show what they could accomplish in Canadian offices, factories, and hospitals, greatly strengthened the call for sexual equality in the home, on the job, and at the ballot box.
Before suffrage became national, it was provincial, beginning in Manitoba where the right for women to vote had been proposed as early as the 1870s.
The Canadian suffrage movement’s earliest success took place on Jan. 28, 1916, when the women of Manitoba became the first to have both the right to vote for and the right to hold provincial office.
Manitoba’s neighbors to the west, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta, followed suit on March 14, April 5 and April 19, respectively, and women in Ontario could vote in provincial elections beginning April 12.
In May 1918, federal suffrage for Canadian women was granted under the Act to Confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women. The new law took effect on New Year’s Day 1919. However, it was not until 1960 that all women regardless of ethnic or indigenous status were eligible to fully participate in Canada’s political process.
One of the keys to Manitoba’s success as the first province to endorse votes for women was Nellie McClung.
This Canadian feminist, satirist, author, and social activist is featured on Canada Post’s official first-day cover for the Women’s Suffrage stamp.
On this FDC, McClung’s youthful portrait is superimposed on an image of the 1915 petition to the government of Manitoba that helped secure the right to vote there, accompanied by a black and gold “Votes for Women” pennant, one of the artifacts currently on display in a women’s suffrage exhibit titled “Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote” at Winnipeg’s Manitoba Museum.
Winnipeg is also the source of the first-day cancel depicting a ballot and ballot box. It was in that city in 1914 that McClung and her colleagues from the Manitoba Political Equity League staged a satirical performance of a female-only mock parliament at Winnipeg’s Walker Theatre.
McClung also appeared on an 8¢ commemorative in 1973, celebrating the 100th anniversary of her birth (Scott 622).
As noted previously (Linn’s, Dec. 21, 2015, page 53) in an article about the 2016 program, Canada’s 1967 5¢ Votes for Women stamp (Scott 470) marked a different anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the first time some women were permitted to vote in Canada’s federal elections.
However, this stamp commemorated the narrow and inarguably paternalistic Military Voters Act of Sept. 20, 1917, which enabled only women who were British subjects and had close relatives in the armed forces to vote on behalf of their male relatives in federal elections.
The booklet of 10 Women’s Suffrage stamps is Canada Post item 414003111.
Canada Post will service 9,000 of the official FDCs, Canada Post item 414003131.
Canada Post products are available at its online shop. Stamps and FDCs will be available by mail order from the National Philatelic Centre, Canada Post Corp., 75 St. Ninian St., Antigonish, NS B2G 2R8, Canada; or by telephone from the United States and Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550.
Canada’s stamps and stamp products also are available from many new-issue stamp dealers, and from Canada Post’s agent in the United States: Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.