B.C. elected its first woman to provincial legislature 100 years ago

By on January 30, 2018

Dear Editor:

Last week marked a historic milestone in B.C. politics and maybe, just maybe, we’re on the cusp of another historic milestone.

On Jan. 24, exactly 100 years ago, Mary Ellen Smith became the first woman elected to the B.C. legislature. She went on to have a long career in politics, affecting positive change for women and children.

This year, in New Zealand, the newly elected young Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has just announced she is pregnant. The phrase, ‘You’ve come a long way baby’ takes on a whole new meaning, that is, to be born to a sitting female prime minister.

In 1917, after a decades long and enduring campaign, the suffragette movement finally triumphed to get women the vote at the provincial level. In BC, in 1917, 70% of men voted to grant women the right to vote.

As we celebrate feminism in its many aspects, as millions of us around the world participate in the Women’s March, it should not be lost on anyone that women are again leading in the current campaign to get a proportional voting system in BC and Canada. It is the next milestone to improve our democracy.

If you like numbers, you may enjoy these ones. New Zealand was one of the first countries to grant the voting franchise to women in 1893. A century later, New Zealand adopted a proportional voting system. BC voters granted women the right to vote in 1918. This year, BC is holding a referendum on proportional representation.

Perhaps it’s a good omen.

Ann Remnant

Nelson, B.C.

 

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