restricted access Transcendent Citizenship: Suffrage, the National Council of Women of Canada, and the Politics of Organized Womanhood

This essay analyzes the discourses on woman suffrage articulated at the annual meetings of the National Council of Women of Canada from 1894 to 1918. The essay argues that the women active in the National Council articulated a vision of transcendent citizenship for Canadian women. This “transcendent” citizenship was exercised through personal influence and moral suasion, through the election of men with strong moral character, and through raising public-spirited sons. This understanding of women’s citizenship valorized women’s personal, moral influence over and above their political equality. Literally and figuratively concerned with enfranchising White women, the woman suffrage debate in the National Council was influenced by a nation-building project that sought to establish Canada as a White settler nation. While the woman suffrage movement was important for extending the political rights of White women, it was also authorized through race-based arguments that linked White women’s enfranchisement to the need to protect the nation from “racial degeneration.”