Bodyscape: Isolation, Health, and the Woman’s Voice
voice in Saskatchewan’s governing are remembered in To Do and Endure by Gertrude
The play, written for the history series Festival ’80 Radio Theatre, tells the story
of Violet McNaughton, Patience Strong, and Norma McGarrity. These three women
fought for women’s suffrage in Saskatchewan in 1916. The women are hoping that the
ability to vote will raise the profile of “women’s concerns” such as access to healthcare,
especially in rural areas.58 The women also seek relief from oppressive and dismissive
property laws and dower laws.59 The women go head-to-head with then-Saskatchewan
Premier Walter Scott over women’s suffrage. Two weeks after Manitoba women win
the right to vote provincially, the Saskatchewan government reluctantly follows suit.60
The characters in To Do and Endure speak about the political powerlessness of
their situation as women within the existing social, political, and educational structures.
Patience Strong declares, “We women have got no way to help ourselves and that’s
God’s own truth.” According to Patience, the Homemakers’ Clubs stressed only
education, not politics, because they were operated by the university and funded by the
government. Patience dismisses the clubs as merely “a political sugar-tit to keep
women quiet.” This exemplifies Gilligan’s feminine ethic of care; the women are
expected to nurture and heal, but do so quietly. Even when Violet McNaughton does
57 Gertrude E. Story (b. 1929): Well-known Saskatchewan writer and broadcaster. Besides radio drama, Story has written fiction (for adult and children), non-fiction, and poetry. Story’s publications include major publications include: After Sixty: Going Home; Black Swan; Counting Two; How to Saw Wood With An Angel; It Never Pays To Laugh Too Much; and The Last House on Main Street.
58 McNaughton spoke often to such issues. She is quoted in the 29 December 1917 edition of the Regina Leader as saying "it is more dangerous to be a baby in Canada than a soldier in the trenches. We believe that each local association has a duty to the children of the community and the women should give special attention to this matter.”
59 Geo. F. Stirling or the Publicity Department, United Farmers of Canada, claimed in 1927 that “The Dower Law requiring the wife's signature before the husband can sell the homestead, was gained at the insistence of the [Grain Grower’s] Association” (Stirling, 17).
60 Manitoba officially granted women the right to vote on January 27, 1916, while Saskatchewan followed suit on February 14, 1916.