UBC Lectures, Seminars, and Symposia

Genres of Political Activism: The BC Suffrage Movement, 1900-1917 Thieme, Katja


The suffrage movement in British Columbia was not a political movement that garnered much international or even national attention. Unlike the hunger strikes of English suffragettes or the march on Washington by American suffragists, there is very little about the suffrage movement in British Columbia that is remembered by anyone other than academic researchers. In other words, this regional campaign seems to have stayed within existing conventions and expectations as they existed for middle-class women’s political participation at the time. However, to critique a movement for its lack of radicalism is to discount political work which uses discursive conventions to its advantage. It is because of its relative lack of radical discourse that the BC suffrage movement allows us to think carefully about the relation of suffrage activism to systems of discursive action. This presentation will particularly highlight the range of letters to M.L.A.s, petitions, and resolutions that were produced by suffragists within an expanding network of women’s clubs and associations. While these suffragists were in a disadvantaged position in relation to seats of political power, they acquired a high level of discursive skill—and, in relation to working-class women, privilege—through the political genres practiced in these clubs and associations.

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