Canadian Suffrage Association letterheadLetterhead of the Canadian Suffrage Association. Image from the City of Thunder Bay Archives, TBA 5-25.

West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association

  • Date of formation: 1900
  • Accomplishments related to: Women’s voting rights in the Thunder Bay region
  • Major affiliations: Local Council of Women of West Algoma, Ontario Woman Franchise Association, and the Canadian Suffrage Association

 

Formed in 1900, the West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association was an organization that lobbied for the voting rights of women in Port Arthur and Fort William. They were an affiliated society of the Local Council of Women of West Algoma and worked with the Ontario Woman Franchise Association and the Canadian Suffrage Association.  

Mrs. L. L. Peltier was president of the organization from 1910 to 1911 and was secretary in 1915. She was also president of the Women’s Patriotic Auxiliary, an organization that aided Canadian soldiers. From 1914 to 1916, Dr. Clara Todson was president of the West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association and a vice president in the Ontario Woman Franchise Association.      

In late 1914, Dr. Todson wrote to the mayor of Fort William asking if women could vote for school trustees. The mayor passed the question to the Department of Education, which referred them to the Public Schools Act, which defined a voter for school trustee as someone who was 21, a tax payer, and assessed as a school supporter. This meant that women in Ontario were allowed to vote for school trustees, if they met the criteria outlined in the Public Schools Act. Women were then encouraged in the local papers to vote for school trustees. Mrs. H. Sellers became one of the first female school trustees of the Port Arthur Board in 1915.

The West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association had the cities of Fort William and Port Arthur hold plebiscites to gauge the public acceptance on women’s franchise. Positive results were presented to the provincial government to show that the voters of the cities were in favour of women’s franchise. On December 8, 1914 the City of Fort William passed By-law No. 1551, which authorized the question of women’s franchise to be voted on in the next city election. Port Arthur passed a similar By-law, No. 1317, on December 29, 1914.  During the January 1915 elections, both cities voted in favour of extending municipal franchise to women. Similar plebiscites were held in municipalities across the province, and in April of 1917 franchise was granted to women in Ontario.

Submitted by the City of Thunder Bay Archives

Mrs. Harry Sellers

Mrs. Harry Sellers, one of the first female School Trustees of the Port Arthur Board in 1915. Image courtesy of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society

Mrs. L. L. Peltier

Mrs. L. L. Peltier, President of the West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association 1910 to 1911 and Secretary 1915. She was also president of the Women’s Patriotic Auxiliary. Image courtesy of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society.

Ontario Woman Franchise Association

Letterhead of the Ontario Woman Franchise Association. Image from the City of Thunder Bay Archives, TBA 5-25.

 West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association stamp

West Algoma Equal Suffrage Association Stamp and Clara Todson’s Signature. Image from the City of Thunder Bay Archives, TBA 5-25.

 

Information Sources:

  • Thunder Bay Historical Museum
    • Anne J. Barrie fonds, Scrap Book of Mrs. A. J. Barrie Port Arthur, Ontario dated March 20, 1914, A 35/1/2
    • West Algoma Council of Women fonds, Miscellaneous records, E11/4/1 and E11/4/5
  • City of Thunder Bay Archives
    • Fort William City Clerk’s Files, Series 4, TBA 5-25
    • Fort William Council Minutes, Series 1, TBA 13
    • Fort William By-Laws, By-law # 1400-1498, 1500-1599, 1600-1699, No. 1551, Series 3, TBA 0150-01
    • Port Arthur Council Minutes, Series 17, TBA 75
    • Port Arthur By-Laws 1301-1400, Series 19, TBA 0108-04, No. 1317

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