UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"As women and as citizens" : clubwomen in Vancouver 1910-1928 Weiss, Gillian M.


In the thirty years prior to 1910, an active minority of women, not only in British Columbia, but across Canada and in Britain and the United States, had increasingly used their organizations to move outside the traditional sphere of home and family and into a more public and political role. Concurrently, they developed and propounded a philosophy to support this move into public life. It was based on the notion of woman's traditional function of physical, emotional and spiritual nurture, but was widened to include not just the individual home but the entire community. Maternal feminists, as these women have recently been termed, were determined to use and extend their womanly skills and influence throughout society for what they perceived to be the betterment of all. By 1910, maternal feminist ideology had developed to a point where promotion of its tenets was no longer the major goal of organized clubwomen., These women now turned their attention to convincing society that their role was not simply as auxiliary workers in-reform but as full partners; not as mere helpers dispensing charity to those in need but as citizens influencing the working of society in much broader and deeper ways. In the eighteen years to 1928, their attention was concentrated on attempts to extend their citizenship powers, to gain both the right and the opportunity to influence legislation that would in turn convert the goals of maternal feminism into reality. In this they achieved a considerable amount of success. The winning of suffrage was followed by a spate of legislation that gave women greater control over their own lives and those of their chidren, more personal and financial autonomy within marriage, that affected their treatment in the work world and that provided health and support for themselves and their children in times of need. They also worked hard at educating themselves and their non-organized sisters in parliamentary procedure, public speaking and current events in order that they might have the skill and confidence to adequately play the more public role that they envisioned for themselves. But within a few years of gaining the legislation they sought the organizational momentum that had been building since the last decades of the previous century died away and clubwomen were left without any clearcut goals to pursue and in a state of confusion as to why they found themselves in such a position. This thesis examines six Vancouver women's organizations which played a leading role in the quest for reform in British Columbia in the years from 1910 to 1928. It considers the structure and operational methods of each as well as their specific reform goals, with particular reference to mothers' pensions and minimum wage legislation. It clarifies the image and aspirations that Vancouver clubwomen had of and for themselves in their dual roles as women and as citizens. It examines in some detail the characteristics of rank and file clubmembers as well as a core of thirty-three women who are identified as forming a network of leadership within and between the five organizations during the period 1910-1928.

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