Baby Ernie is the only male on this Votes for Women campaign. This photograph was taken outside the Silver Creek Store by store owner and photographer C.E. Woodbridge. Identified are, back row, Louise Wright (Phil Wright’s aunt), Edith Alberta Reed holding Ernest Gideon “Ernie” and Blanche Woodbridge. In front, Elsie and Sadie (surnames unknown) and Kathleen Woodbridge. (Image courtesy of Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village)

Women, girls in Shuswap demonstrate a creative demand for the vote

One of the women, described as a ‘raging suffragette,’ is the aunt of resident Phil Wright

Votes for Women. The sign behind the women in the photograph above was in the window of what was then the Silver Creek Store.

The young girls in front holding another Votes for Women sign were likely students of teacher Louise Wright, standing at left holding an ax and what looks like an egg.

The photo was probably taken between 1910 and 1912, says Deborah Chapman, curator at the Salmon Arm Museum and Archives.

Why was everyone holding carpentry tools, except Baby Ernie? Possibly as a show of equality with men.

And the reason for the egg?

“I wonder if she’s going to egg a politician?” surmises Phil Wright with a laugh.

Phil is a long-time resident well known for his many years of work with the Salmon Arm Fall Fair.

Phil remembers Louise well as she was his aunt.

“We all knew her as a raging suffragette. She was quite adamant in her views,” he recalled.

“Aunt Louise was very much wanting the vote.”

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Louise’s name prior to getting married was Ivens and she married Ivan Wright, Phil’s uncle.

Phil said she would get teased a lot about her position on voting.

“We all knew that ladies didn’t have enough brain power back then to really make notable decisions,” he said, recounting the conventional wisdom of the day.

An Observer newspaper clipping from Nov. 5, 1914, refers to a debate on women’s suffrage held in Tappen by the Tappen Debating and Musical Society.

The ‘yes’ side on the women’s vote question were two men, while on the ‘no’ side was a woman and a man.

“Mrs. Moore, the first speaker for the negative, claimed that women had three ounces less brains than the men, and were therefore less competent to vote or make laws wisely. The affirmative claimed that quality and not quantity counted more where brains were concerned…,” states the 2014 article.

The ‘yes’ side won the debate, in what was described as a popular verdict.

Phil Wright knew Louise until he was a young teenager. He was born in 1941 and she died in the 1950s.

“She was very vivacious, bright and cheerful, very interested in politics all the time,” he remembered.

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Louise was involved in all the women’s groups available at the time – the Women’s Institute, the Lady’s Aid and the Red Cross.

“At those meetings they would get educated in all manner of things, even literature… lots of cultural activities…,” Phil said.

“She was very erudite in many ways, always up-to-date in politics, interested in everyone’s progress.”

He remembers how seriously the women’s vote was taken by his family and others.

His mother and her sister always made a point of voting, which was not always easy in the early days.

The polling station was a 12-mile trip by wagon.

“They said they couldn’t take it lightly, it was hard fought for.”

Phil’s mother died at 102, but voted into her late 90s.

And Louise, of course, did her part to make sure everyone voted.

“Aunt Louise was always asking, ‘Did you make the trip to the polling booth?’”

@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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Is this a softball team? asks the Salmon Arm Museum of this photo that includes Louise Wright. The archival record is choppy: “Group photo of women and children in field. Some names written in pencil on back: Mrs Jack (Teresa) Tweeddale, Ethel Edes, Irene Elgood, Louise Ivens, Agnes Thompson, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Brown.” Louise Ivens (nee Wright, Phil Wright’s sister) taught at the Silver Creek School. Tweeddale, Edes, and Thompson are Silver Creek names. Mrs. Wilson and Brown could be. (Image courtesy of the Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village)

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