The game is six degrees of Canadian history. Take two seemingly unrelated pieces of Canadian culture and connect the dots through various people, places and events to discover how they’re distantly — or maybe not-so-distantly — related. Along the way, we visit the quizzical and curious, the tragic and comic, and everything in between.
Women’s suffrage (or franchise) is the right of women to vote in political elections; campaigns for this right generally included demand for the right to run for public office. The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long struggle intended to address fundamental issues of equity and justice and to improve the lives of Canadians.
Mary Irene Parlby, née Marryat, Alberta MLA (1921–35), women’s rights advocate, activist (born 9 January 1868 in London, UK; died 12 July 1965 in Red Deer, AB). Parlby served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Alberta for 14 years and was the first woman in Alberta, and the second in the British Empire, to be appointed to a cabinet position. One of the Famous Five appellants in the Persons Case, Parlby was a compelling advocate for women’s rights. Her career in activism and legislation was especially dedicated to improving the lives of rural women and children. She was the first woman awarded an honorary degree from the University of Alberta.
Jane Vance Rule, CM, OBC, writer, teacher and activist (born 28 March 1931 in Plainfield, NJ; died 27 November 2007 in Galiano Island, BC). Rule was a ground-breaking novelist and essayist whose work explored the lives of lesbians, beginning at a time when homosexuality was still a crime in Canada (see LGBT Rights in Canada). Her first novel, Desert of the Heart, is perhaps her best known. It was adapted into the film Desert Hearts in 1986. Rule is the author of seven novels and several collections of essays and short stories. She was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1998 and the Order of Canada in 2007.
Ishbel Marie Marjoribanks Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of Aberdeen and Temair, vice-regal consort, author, philanthropist and women’s rights advocate (born 14 March 1857 in London, United Kingdom; died 18 April 1939 in Aberdeen, United Kingdom). As Vice-Regal Consort to Governor General John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen, from 1893 until 1898, Lady Aberdeen organized the National Council of Women in Canada, became first sponsor of the Women’s Art Association of Canada and helped found the Victorian Order of Nurses. Lady Aberdeen was the first woman to address the House of Commons and the first woman to receive an honorary degree in Canada.
Nell (née Helen Barham) Shipman, screenwriter, actor, director, producer, author (born in Victoria, British Columbia on 25 Oct 1892; died in Cabazon, California on 23 Jan 1970). Nell Shipman's first starring role in a major film was in the silent movie God's Country and the Woman (1916), which was an overnight success. Starring roles in 10 other films, mostly for Vitagraph, were followed by a seven-year contract offer from Samuel Goldwyn in 1917.
The Conseil du statut de la femme (CSF), or Council on the Status of Women, is a government consultative and review body that has sought to promote and defend the rights and interests of women in Québec since 1973. It reports to Québec’s Minister of Culture, Communications and the Status of Women.
Léa Pool, CM, filmmaker, director, documentarian, screenwriter, producer (born 8 September 1950 in Soglio, Switzerland). Through her introspective films, Pool offers an approach to female characters that is stripped of all stereotypes. Exploring themes of love, exile and uprootedness, she attempts to draw viewers into a reflection on their own condition, through their own individuality. Often compared with the films of Marguerite Duras, Pool’s films focus on intimate emotions and attract a multigenerational audience. The recipient of many awards in Canada and abroad, Léa Pool is the first female director to win Best Film at the Gala du cinéma québécois.
Manon Rhéaume, hockey player (born 24 February 1972 in Lac-Beauport, Québec). Goaltender Manon Rhéaume was a pioneer in women’s hockey. In 1992, she became the first woman to try out for a National Hockey League (NHL) team and to play in an NHL game. In doing so, she also became the first woman to play in any of North America’s major sports leagues. Rhéaume also represented Canada in international women’s hockey. She was part of the World Championship women’s team in 1992 and 1994, and helped Team Canada win the Olympic silver medal in 1998, the first year that women’s hockey was included in the Olympic Winter Games.
Bella Hall Gauld, labour educator, political activist (born at Lindsay, Ont 31 Dec 1878; died at Montréal 21 Aug 1961). Raised on a farm in Manitoba, Gauld qualified as a teacher before studying piano in Germany. Back in Canada (1905), she worked with German immigrants near Brandon and then joined J.S. Woodsworth's All People's Mission in Winnipeg (1911).