North America

This region is taken here to include Mexico, which may otherwise be considered as part of ‘Latin’ America. We have included it because of the increasing ties of Canada, the United States and Mexico. Indigenous women have been long time activists but they remained disadvantaged in all three nations.  The matrilineal traditions of some Indigenous peoples such as the Iroquois Confederation nevertheless remain an inspiration to women of all origins. The European empires of Spain, France, and Britain fundamentally shaped legal regimes, sometimes as in Quebec offering early enfranchisement for some propertied women that ‘progress’ later removed. While the United States has always had greatest prominence in international organizations, Canadians and Mexicans prize their own social movements and connections to campaigns for justice elsewhere. Of the three nations, only Canada has had both female heads of state (the Governors General as representative of Queen of the British Commonwealth; Jeanne Sauvé became the first woman GG in 1984) and of the senior government (Kim Campbell in 1993). In the United States, Victoria Woodhull of the Equal Rights Party was the first female presidential candidate in 1872 but neither the Republicans or the Democrats has yet nominated a woman for president, though the former came close in 2008 with Hillary Clinton.  The first Mexican woman to run for the presidency was Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, a human rights leader, in 1982. Despite evidence of real progress on some key fronts—for example Canada became the first country in the Americas to legalize same sex marriage in 2005—all three countries report high levels of male violence, limited availability of abortion and birth control, and the special vulnerability of Indigenous, migrant, and poor women.  It is especially dangerous to be a women’s rights activist in Mexico as the 2011 death of Susanna Chavez, a longtime campaigner against the unsolved murders of hundreds of women in the northern part of the country suggests. There is no doubt, however, that women of European and Asian origin are now reaping many advantages of the 19th and 20th century feminist campaigns and that, while sometimes judged ‘dead’, feminism continues to contest injustice and inequality for all.

North America Suffrage Timeline

Right to Vote
Right to Stand for Election
Antigua & Barbuda
December 1st, 1951 December 1st, 1951
The Bahamas
February 18th, 1961 February 18th, 1961
Barbados
October 23rd, 1950 October 23rd, 1950
Canada
September 1917*/
May 1918**
July 1920
Canada Notes
*”Women who had close male relatives serving in the military were granted the right to vote at the federal level” (p. 61). **Most women won the federal vote, but most Aboriginal women excluded.
Canada (Aboriginal)
1950* 1950
Canada (Aboriginal) Notes
Right to vote extended “only if they waived their tax exemption under the Indian Act. In August 1960, the unqualified extension of federal voting rights…” (p. 69). “Quebec in 1969, became the last province to extend franchise rights to all native Indians at the provincial level” (p. 69).
Cuba
January 2nd, 1934 January 2nd, 1934
Dominica
July 1951 July 1951
Grenada
August 1951 August 1951
Haiti
November 25th, 1950 November 25th, 1950
Jamaica
November 20th, 1944 November 20th, 1944
Mexico
February 15th, 1947* October 17th, 1953
Mexico Notes
“Women were permitted to vote in some local and state elections at an earlier date”. “Yucatan and San Luis Potosi were the first states to extend the franchise, in 1922 and 1923, respectively” (p. 255).
Saint Kitts and Nevis
1951 1951
Saint Lucia
1924 1924
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
May 5th, 1951 May 5th, 1951
Trinidad and Tobago
1946 1946
United States of America
1920 1920

Resources

Aks, Judith. 2004. Women’s Rights in Native North America: Legal Mobilization in the US and Canada. NY. LFB Scholarly Publishing.

Brant, Gail Cuthbert, Naomi Black, Paula Bourne, and Magda Fahrni. 2011. Canadian Women: A History, 3rd ed. Toronto: Nelson.

Cano, Gabriela. 2001. “History and Feminism in Mexico.” Radical History Review. 79. 85-86. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/radical_history_review/v079/79.1cano.html

Cleverdon, Catherine L. 1974. The Woman Suffrge Movement in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Collectif Clio, 1987. Quebec Women: A History. Toronto: Women’s Press.

Dicker, Rory. 2008. A History of U.S. Feminism. Berkeley: Seal Press.

Epp, Marlene, Franca Iacovetta, and Frances Swyripa. 2004. Sisters or strangers? Immigrant, Ethnic, and Racialized Women in Canadian History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Foppa, Alaide and Helene F. de Aguilar. 1979. “The First Feminist Congress in Mexico, 1916.” 5:1. Autumn. 192-199.

Freeman, Estelle. 2002. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. N.Y.: Ballantine Books.

Iacovetta, Franca and Marianna Valverde, eds. 2002. Gender Conflicts: New Essays in Women’s History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Kerber, Linda and Kathryn Kish Sklar. 1995. U.S. History as Women’s History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Levesque, Andrée. 2010. Eva Circé-Côté: libre-penseuse, 1871-1949. Montreal: Les éeditions du remue-ménage.

(Levesque, Andrée. 2011. Making and Breaking the Rules: Women in Quebec, 1919-1939. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Newman, Louise M. 1999. White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States. N.Y.: Oxford University Press.

Olcott, Jocelyn. 2005. Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico. Durham: Duke Univeristy Press.

Olcott, J., Mary K. Vaughan, and Gabriela Cano, eds. Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexco. Durham: Duke Univeristy Press.

Osten, Sarah. 2007. “The Implications and Legacies of Chiapas’ 1925 Women’s Suffrage Decree.” Revista Pueblos y fronteras digital. Tierra Y Población en el Chiapas Decimonónico. 3. http://www.pueblosyfronteras.unam.mx/a07n3/misc_02.html

Sanger, Joan. 2011. Through Feminist Eyes: Essays on Canadian Women’s History. Edmonton: Athabasca University.

Wolbrecht, Christina. 2001. The Politics of Women’s Rights: Parties, Positions, and Change. Princeton: Princeton University Press.