Voices for the Vote group exhibit

Voices for the Vote group exhibit

Opening reception June 9, 2016
Exhibition Hours June 6 to August 14, 2016
Monday to Wednesday and Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 pm, Thursday: 10 a.m. to 8 pm, Weekends and Holidays: 10 a.m. to 5 pm

Borealis Gallery, Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre, Edmonton Federal Building 9820-107 Street

Exhibit description

Two of my paintings are in the Voices for the Vote exhibit at the Borealis Gallery in the Alberta Legislative Assembly’s Visitor Centre housed in Edmonton’s beautiful and historic Federal Building.

Voices for the Vote exhibition explores how the places, people and culture of the Prairies (and Alberta specifically) combined to create an atmosphere where women’s suffrage campaigns of the early 20th century could succeed.

The opening reception for the exhibit featured a re-enactment of 1914 Suffrage Rally. Costumed heritage interpreters from museums such as Fort Edmonton Park, John Walter Museum and Rutherford House performed the roles of Premier Sifton and the delegation that petitioned the province of Alberta for the women’s right to vote. We marched with the suffragettes, from the Federal Building to the steps of the Legislature, bearing banner and signs and petitions.

Marlena Wyman artist’s statement:

One of my paintings in the exhibit, No Homesteads for Women, is about land rights for women.

The 1872 Dominion Lands Act prohibited single and married women from obtaining homesteads. Georgina Binnie-Clark, a single woman from England, came to the Canadian prairies in 1905 to farm, and had to purchase her quarter section of farmland for $2,400, whereas her male neighbors were able to file for a quarter section homestead for a $10 entry fee.  She and other like-minded prairie women started the “Homesteads for Women” campaign, but Canadian homesteads were not opened to women until 1930, an inauspicious time for homesteading.

Georgina farmed for several years and wrote her book to provide women with information about how to farm and prove that this could be a means for single women to gain financial independence.

She may be the best farmer in Canada, she may buy land, work it, take prizes for seed and stock, but she is denied the right to claim from the government the hundred and sixty acres of land held out as a bait to every man. 

Georgina Binnie-Clark, Wheat and Woman, 1914

My other painting in the exhibit, Unsettled, is about the difficult adjustment to the lonely prairie.

The falsely advertised utopia of the prairies became a harsh reality for settlers upon arrival, especially for women who typically had no say in the move to their new life. In many cases, they left behind what was a comfortable, civilized life to find a new land that presented adversity and privation.

The gap between old life and new was not merely physical in form: isolation, loneliness, and lack of intellectual & cultural life created a daunting emotional hardship. However, most settler women, of necessity and of financial & legal dependency, set to work; they had no choice.  Remarkably, they also found time to fight for the rights that were denied them.

…my thoughts turned to the contrast between the pleasant life I had known in Europe and the struggle for survival on a bush homestead. Fate had played strangely with my life, plucking me out of a happy family and a wide circle of friends, transporting me across the Atlantic in search of I know not what, and throwing me into the arms of a husky western pioneer.

Quote from Margaret Charlotte Faulkson Thomson’s memoir, 1920. Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR1984.0156