Sisterhood of the secret pantaloons

Suffragists and their descendants: the long view from Joan Sangster, Christabelle Sethna and Steve Hewitt

At this point in history, women have governed six Canadian provinces; Beverley McLachlin presided over the Supreme Court for eighteen critical years; Chrystia Freeland serves as minister of foreign affairs and negotiator-in-chief to Donald Trump’s America; and the prime minister proclaims himself a feminist. It can be hard, then, to imagine—or remember—just how long Canadian women had to battle for that most basic of political rights, the vote. Joan Sangster’s One Hundred Years of Struggle jolts us back into women’s often grim historical reality, reminding us that the political rights that we often take for granted today were keenly opposed in years past.

Timed to coincide with the centennial of the 1918 law granting women the right to vote in federal elections, this is the first major study of women’s suffrage in decades, as well as the most comprehensive. The lead volume in a series on the subject, it...