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"Nice Women Don't Want the Vote" Nellie McClung Exhibit

Posted: August 2, 2017



The Pembina Manitou Archive Celebrates
the 100th Anniversary of Manitoba Women Winning the Right to Vote


Manitou, August 1, 2017:

Taking its title from a phrase uttered by Manitoba's Premier, Sir Rodmond Roblin, during a heated exchange with Nellie McClung, "Nice Women Don't Want the Vote," an exhibit developed by the Manitoba Museum opens at the Manitou Opera House Backstage Gallery on August 8, 2017, and runs until September 15, 2017. The exhibit outlines the historical context of the Suffragist Movement and commemorates the 100th anniversary of Manitoba women winning the right to vote.  The Pembina Manitou Archive is, of course, most proud of its own Nellie McClung, and has curated a second exhibit to complement the "Nice Women”.

The Manitou’s McClung Family exhibit will focus on the people and events which helped to support Nellie McClung as she came to understand the suffragist cause.  Her husband, Wes, was one of those important people.  Nellie came to know many suffragists while she and her family lived in Manitou and she is well remembered as one of The Famous Five.  We must, however, recognize that the movement spanned continents and peoples.  The Manitoba Museum exhibit takes this wider view.

"The "Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote” exhibit outlines the causes, the contradictions, and the people involved in the Suffragist Movement, emphasizing the fact that suffragists wanted real power in order to change society,” says Dr. Roland Sawatzky, Curator of History at the Manitoba Museum.  "Nice Women Don't Want the Vote” includes fascinating artifacts which prove that this was a real fight that had been brewing for 25 years – Annie McClung campaigned in Manitou in the early 1890’s for women’s right to vote, while also revealing the tensions within the movement. Through artifacts and photographs, the exhibit also explains why some Canadians, such as Indigenous people and immigrants, were often left out of the discussion.

The Pembina Manitou Archive exhibit is built on photos, documents, and artifacts which have been a part of the community for a century.  As there were very few artifacts related to Manitoba women achieving the vote in the collections of the Manitoba Museum, or any other Canadian institution, a call was put out to the public for items to include in the exhibit.  Manitobans responded enthusiastically and many items were donated or loaned to the Museum to better tell these very important stories.

"The Pembina Manitou Archive would like to thank the Archibald Historical Museum for their help in creating the "Manitou’s McClung Family” exhibit, and for their preservation of the Nellie McClung Heritage Site houses, which have just recently been placed on their new foundations in Manitou,” says Al Thorleifson, the local curator of the exhibits.

We must recognize the importance of grassroots efforts of women such as Annie and Nellie McClung in the achievement of social justice.  "Seeing the fragile nature of democracy at this moment in time reminds us that a vote is a form of individual power that needs to be used and protected.  On January 28, 1916, the Manitoba Legislature amended the Manitoba Election Act, making Manitoba the first province in Canada to extend the franchise to women, and we hope this exhibit will provide an opportunity for Canadians to deepen their knowledge of voting and women's rights," adds Claudette Leclerc, Executive Director for the Manitoba Museum.

The "Nice Women Don’t Want the Vote” exhibit has toured across Canada since 2016.  "This touring exhibition will inspire women and men and children across Manitoba and beyond to keep thinking about - and working for - justice and freedom, long after we mark the 100 years since the first Manitoba women received the vote," says The Honourable Janice Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, and Honorary Patron of the exhibit.

The exhibit includes an interactive audio component featuring a selection of oral history clips and a comment "ballot box", where visitors can add their voice to the conversation by writing to the suffragists of the past or commenting on the importance of voting today.

Special thanks are extended to the Honorary Patron, The Honourable Janice Filmon, CM, OM, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba; and the sponsors:  the Government of Canada, Wawanesa Insurance, Marion Kaffka, the Province of Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press and The Nellie McClung Foundation.  Special thanks to the local sponsors, the Manitou Opera House Foundation, the Pembina Manitou Archive, their staff and volunteers.

The exhibits will be on display at the Manitou Opera House Backstage Theatre from August 8 to September 15 from 1 pm to 5 pm daily.

For more information or interviews, contact:

Al Thorleifson, curator
204 242 4414