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Centennial events will mark women’s suffrage in St. John’s

Suffragist Armine Nutting Gosling will be highlighted in many of the commemorative events, including a statue of her likeness which will be erected in Bannerman Park. -CONTRIBUTED/THE DISTAFF MAGAZINE
Suffragist Armine Nutting Gosling will be highlighted in many of the commemorative events, including a statue of her likeness which will be erected in Bannerman Park. -CONTRIBUTED/THE DISTAFF MAGAZINE - Contributed

Suffragist Armine Nutting Gosling to be prominently featured

“The laws that so materially affect (our) lives are bound to be haphazard and one-sided without the aid of the counsel of responsible women.”

-Armine Nutting Gosling

Wednesday morning, nearly 100 years after women first achieved the right to vote in St. John’s municipal elections, a city council made up of 45 per cent women listened to a presentation about upcoming centennial celebrations to mark the occasion.

Jenn Deon, PerSiStence Theatre’s producing artistic director, explained the feminist theatre company’s plans for next year.

“By achieving the right to vote 100 years ago, that was really just ... the first step on a stepping stone towards equality. And I still think there are many steps to go,” said Deon.

“I think that it’s a great opportunity for us to kind of take measure of where we are now as women, and hearken back to our mothers and grandmothers.”

Organizer Jenn Deon said she hopes the events prompt people to realize there is still work to do when it comes to gender equality. “All you have to do is look at our political systems to see the gender balance in our ruling provincial government to see that we still have a long way to go,” she said. -TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO - File Photo
Organizer Jenn Deon said she hopes the events prompt people to realize there is still work to do when it comes to gender equality. “All you have to do is look at our political systems to see the gender balance in our ruling provincial government to see that we still have a long way to go,” she said. -TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO - File Photo

The theatre company is planning a full year’s worth of celebrations.

There will be Ladies Reading Room events held monthly from April to October, inspired by events of the same name in the early 20th century which were held in protest of the fact that women were barred from attending local debating societies.

These free events will start with a short theatrical performance in which audiences will “meet” a woman from 1921 and hear her story, then will jump forward to the present with an expert panel discussion on the same topic from today’s perspective. Topics will include women in politics, women and violence, Indigenous and multicultural women, and more.

In October, there will be a women’s march, a theatre production about the life of St. John's suffragist Armine Nutting Gosling, and a statue of her unveiled in Bannerman Park.

Deon said it’s “well past time” for such a statue, given that Newfoundland has only two statues of named women — Shawnadithit in Boyd’s Cove and Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace.

St. John’s councillor Debbie Hanlon: “I’m overwhelmed when I think about the shoulders of the giants that are lifting me up to get where I am.” -TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO - File Photo
St. John’s councillor Debbie Hanlon: “I’m overwhelmed when I think about the shoulders of the giants that are lifting me up to get where I am.” -TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO - File Photo

Women councillors reflect on changes

After Deon’s presentation to city council, Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary applauded the upcoming events, and said she is particularly excited about the statue.

“We will be able to raise our children so that they can see images of women who have made an incredible impact on our city and our society,” she said.

Coun. Debbie Hanlon spoke about the importance of commemorating this centennial. Hanlon is also one of the board members planning the Votes for Women 100 celebrations.

“Being part of this board has caused me to reflect and think back to when I was a young girl, and I’m overwhelmed when I think about the shoulders of the giants that are lifting me up to get where I am,” she told The Telegram after the meeting.

“There were so many great women that came before me, and to think just 100 years ago we had to use all our wits, and use the support of men, to get this far.”

Hanlon recalled memories of being a young girl in Chance Cove and witnessing elections.

“Being part of this board has caused me to reflect and think back to when I was a young girl, and I’m overwhelmed when I think about the shoulders of the giants that are lifting me up to get where I am. There were so many great women that came before me, and to think just 100 years ago we had to use all our wits, and use the support of men, to get this far.”

“I don’t remember any women running for any offices — I believe it was all men that ran in Chance Cove. But it was really the women ... who did all the work.

“Even with my mother and my father in business — it was my father’s business, but my mother did all the work. She would never appear on any of the official documents. It was always Mr. Hanlon’s business, but my mom ran it, really. And that was normal for women.

“So, I think to show the great advancements that these women helped make for women in politics, and women in general — it should be honoured.”

To learn more about the events, visit VotesForWomen100.ca.

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