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Social Life Of Canadian Women During 1920s

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World War One was a depressing and horrific event that took place during the years 1914-1918. Many lives were taken over the span of the war and countless changes took place during and after the war to adapt to the situation at hand. Canada gained recognition globally after plenty of courageous acts during the war, giving them a chance to be taken seriously, and solidify themselves as an independent country. Many people had huge roles that contributed significantly to Canada during this challenging time in history. One important group that sacrificed their lives for the safety back home, and for soldiers, were women. This was a difficult time for them because they had little power and no voice towards voting, and having a job. In the aftermath of the war, women still had to face the same problems with rights, but eventually, this changed. Many women took a stand towards society’s rules at that time and strived for change within the political, economic, and social aspects improving throughout the decade. For these reasons, the lives of women in Canadian society improved in the 1920s politically, economically, and socially.

The lives of women in Canada improved significantly during the 1920s politically. In August 1920, women became eligible to vote in federal elections when they were 21 and above. This was the first big step that Canada took but this did not satisfy women as they continued to strive for equal rights. In the year 1921 where women first voted in an election, four women candidates ran for political office positions. Nellie Mcclung, Irene Parlby, Agnes MacPhail, and Mary Ellen Smith all won in their elections being the first woman to do so (Canadian History of Women’s Rights). The last big political decision that Canada made that improved women’s lives in the 1920s was all thanks to the “Famous Five”. In 1927, a group of five women by the names of Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Edwards, Louise Mckinney, and Emily Murphy got together and considered going to the Supreme Court to clarify that women were allowed to be appointed by the Senate. They went this far because the Canadian Constitution stated that all “persons were allowed to run for political office”, so women looked to enter politics but men insisted that the word “persons” referred to men and not women preventing them from running. In 1928 the Supreme Court rejected them insisting that “persons” refer to men only so they moved on to the Privy Council in Britain. In 1929 The Privy Council ruled in favor of women allowing them to run in office. “The Persons Case was a significant moment in the history of women’s rights, even though the struggle for equality continues almost 100 years later” (Persons Case). Therefore, the lives of women in Canada improved during the 1920s politically.

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The lives of women in Canada enhanced undoubtedly during the 1920s economically. During WW1, women were introduced into the labor force due to men leaving their jobs to join the armed forces. Most women found jobs such as secretaries, clerks, typists, and factory workers. In spite of their wages increasing during the war years, women’s wages were still 50-80% of men’s meaning they were still being underpaid for the same job as men (Status of Women). Sadly, after the war women were sent back to domestic service, making it the most typical female occupation. The unemployment rate of women increased right after the war, but by the 1920s women had reconstructed their wartime levels of labor-force participation. Some new ‘female’ professions were popularized, such as library work, social work, and physiotherapy, but the most rapidly growing occupations were clerical. Domestic service remained the most common paid occupation of women, but for the first time in the century, the percentage of women working as domestics fell below 20% (Status of Women). “Women were applying to universities in large numbers and by 1930, 23% of all undergraduates and 35% of all graduate students were female” (Status of Women). Unfortunately when the Great Depression hit in the 30s men took over most of the women’s jobs but after this tragedy, things went back to the way it was and eventually got better.. For these reasons, women’s lives in Canada got better throughout the 1920s economically.

Women’s social lives evolved unquestionably during the 1920s. Many boundaries were broken by females this decade, proving that women are capable of doing the same things that men can do. Before the 1920s, women were expected to wear clothes that showed little to no skin, and have long hair. When the 20s hit, women were fed up with clothing that gave them little to no freedom and came up with a new fashion look, called “Flappers”. They were described as “Young women who were proving they’re different and a ‘new breed’ of women. They mostly wore short skirts, boots that were left undone, cut their hair short, listened to Jazz and generally partied constantly.” (Watson). “Flappers” broke society’s image of what a woman should look like and gave them control over themselves without having to be told what to do. Another boundary that was broken was the first female broadcaster. Anna Dexter, known as “Queen of the airways” was the first female Canadian broadcaster and achieved a respected audience with her morning programs where she would talk about the local news and events (Jane Carli). Without Anna Dexter, it would have taken many more years before people would see a Canadian female broadcaster. This act proved that any women are as intelligent and entertaining as men. A big change happened in 1925 when the federal divorce law was changed allowing women to attain a divorce on the same grounds as men. Previous to this, women had to prove “bestiality” on the part of their husbands (Canadian Women’s History). The last big social event that impacted the uprise of Canadian women’s lives was the 1928 Olympics. For the first time, women were able to represent Canada in the 1928 Olympics, held in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Six females competed in track and field, while one competed in swimming. Altogether, they won two gold medals, one silver, and one bronze medal. This was huge for females because to this day, “On the Canadian team, women are dominant-in both numbers and medals” (Catherine Porter). This was a big deal because these women set a great example that females have the same athletic abilities as men do. Because of these reasons, women’s lives in Canada got better throughout the 1920s socially.

In conclusion, women’s lives got better in Canada during the 1920s politically, economically, and socially. Politically, women won the right to vote in federal elections and gained the right to be appointed by the Senate. Economically, women started to specialize in new jobs other than domestic, they started to apply and get into university, and wages slowly started to increase. Socially, women didn’t listen to others and took control of their own bodies, they broke barriers by having the first Canadian broadcaster, they were finally able to file a divorce without having to prove “bestiality” and displayed their athletic talent by competing in the Olympics for the first time. This topic is significant to the part of the unit that we are studying because women during this time were finally able to find a job that has good pay so they can support their family instead of depending on her husband who spends half his check at the bar. Also, women now had the power to file a divorce if their husband was getting abusive towards them and their children.

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Social Life Of Canadian Women During 1920s. (2022, February 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
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