The second attempt at conferring the right to vote upon women (for more on the first proposed law in this regard, see Women's Suffrage: Act One) was made during Mackenzie Bowell's short tenure as Prime Minister.

 Sir Bowell was 70 years old when he took office in 1894, an emergency and compromise choice of a staggered Conservative caucus, having suffered the deaths of two of its leaders in four years.

With the Manitoba school question threatening the unity of his Conservative caucus, Bowell was undoubtedly none too pleased when, on May 8, 1895, his own backbencher Nicholas Flood Davin (pictured) stood up in the Chamber to table a most simple resolution.

Flood Davin was an Ireland-born Canadian, who had espoused the territory later to be known as Manitoba. The 52-year-old bachelor moved "that in the opinion of the House, the privilege of voting for candidates for membership thereof should be extended to women possessing the qualifications which now entitle men to the electoral franchise."

women suffrageThe proposal would not allow women to be candidates; but simply to vote.

Nicholas Flood Davin (Assiniboia West): Mr. Speaker, last century, and even, in fact, to within the memory of men only past middle age, the educational condition of women was simply deplorable. And a movement took place in England and in France almost simultaneously in favour of an emancipation of women, far greater and far more important than giving them the franchise - their emancipation from a ukase that had gone forth from society decreeing that, with very few exceptions, ignorance should be their lot - ignorance of literature, ignorance of history, ignorance of science, in fact, almost complete ignorance of everything except what would fit them to be useful in the house.

In Wyoming, something like a quarter of a century ago, they were given the electoral franchise; they are given it in South Australia, in New Zealand and in Austria. The great names in politics, in literature, in science, in the leading countries of the world are in favour of my proposition. Look at what women have done in politics. We need not go beyond our own gracious Queen. If they can discharge the highest of political duties, how can they be unfit to discharge one of the smallest duties they can be asked to discharge in the political sphere, namely, to say for whom they may vote to be a member of Parliament.

The hon. member for Bothwell (the Hon. David Mills) says that woman is an aesthetic product, and that we would interfere with her aesthetic character if we gave her the right to vote. I do not admit that. If we look into history, we find that those gifted women who have been great politicians and great rulers did not lose their fascination by taking an active part in politics. Will politics degrade women? I hold on the contrary, that this reform would give women such a position in the world that man would regard her as something more than one of the supreme objects of beauty to be admired and desired.

Nicholas Flood DavinThe enfranchisement of women would elevate the tone of politics. Women are quicker in their perceptions than men. To include them among the electorate would quicken the intelligence and perceptiveness of the constituency. If the House shall sanction this proposition, and so justify me in bringing in the Bill that shall translate it into law, I believe this Parliament will take a wise step.

Mr. Laurier: For my part, speaking personally, I agree in a large measure with everything that has been said by the hon. member for West Assiniboia (Mr. Davin). The days are long since passed by when it was supposed that women was an inferior being. There was a time indeed when the question was discussed whether woman had a soul; but these times are so far remote that it is hardly worth while recalling that fact.

Though I acknowledge that the intellectual equality of women, and in many instances, the intellectual superiority of woman, can be easily granted, I am not sure for my part that the granting of the franchise to women would be altogether an unmixed evil. I am not sure that it would tend to the harmony or to the improvement of domestic life, which after all is the proper centre of woman's influence. There is an objection on that ground. But to my mind there is another consideration which should prevail. Whether the suffrage is applied to women is largely a question of education, of habit and of social disposition. On this side of the House, we have maintained that the regulation of the franchise is a matter which more especially concerns the provinces.

As to the province from which I come, I must say that it is not prepared for woman suffrage. There is no feeling in favour of it, there is no necessity felt for it, and we are satisfied to leave things as they are. Speaking for the province of Quebec, I am certainly right in saying that women do not feel it an injustice that they have no right to vote on any political question. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move an amendment that all the words after "That" be struck out and the following substituted therefor: the question of women suffrage is more properly belongs to provincial jurisdiction.

James McMullen (Wengton North): I have not seen, during the present session of Parliament, a greater exhibition of weakness and lliindecision from the government than I have noticed in connection with this motion. Here is a proposition of the hon. member (Mr. Davin) which would virtually double the number of the electorate of this Dominion.

I would not be at all surprised to find, in the mover of such a motion, a member who had shown his great appreciation of the fair sex by proposing to one of them and linking his fortunes with her. But to find a confirmed bachelor propose such a motion is, I confess, a surprise.

I will state some of the reasons why I cannot support the resolution. I think, Sir, that it will take away from the real charm and womanliness of women if they were given the franchise and allowed to mix in politics. I can imagine that I might go home some evening and find, instead of my being expected, with tea on the table, nothing was done, because the absorbing question of the hour was politics. I might find a very nice-looking politician sitting in the parlour soliciting a vote. I am afraid that a good many married men might get tired of the situation.

But seriously, I believe it would take away a great deal of the charm of woman. I believe that woman's proper sphere is the home. I believe that there she has enough room to exercise all her powers and faculties, and there she has an influence that cannot be overestimated, over her husband and her children. This influence, I believe, would be lessened if women mixed up in political contests. The hon. member for Assiniboia referred to the picture of the model woman in the Book of Proverbs; but I defy him to point out a line in that chapter which shows that that woman engaged in politics. All through the chapter, I find that the great characteristics of that woman was that she was looking well after the affairs of her house - after the girls in the house and after her husband's welfare, and seeing that everything was made comfortable for him. I think that is a very good thing for woman to do.

If the franchise were given to women, the question would not stop there. The next thing would be that women would wish to be candidates for parliament, and some of us would be left out in the cold. I am hardly prepared to vote for that. But there is one argument against a resolution of this kind which I think is a very strong one: that the majority of women do not ask for this privilege. I am satisfied that if it were granted to them, the great majority would not exercise it. If they had the franchise, the best of them would not engage in political contests; they would be too disgusted with politics to do so; they would stay home.

Severin Lachapelle (Hochelaga): The hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Davin) made lengthy remarks in connection with his motion now before us. However, there is a most serious principle underlying it, one worthy of the most serious consideration, and which seems not to have been considered proportionately to its importance.

There was a time when a woman was a slave. Such was her condition in the ancient order of things which prevailed prior to modern civilization. After raising her up from an abject condition, some would now put her on a equal footing with man. They want to make a man of her with respect to the rights and privileges she ought to exercise. To put women on a footing of perfect equality with men seems to me to be an inadmissible principle.

We cannot expect from a political point of view, women could be as useful as men in the community. They are too liable to the inabilities of their sex. They are too much enslaved to their anatomical and physiological constitution, so to say, for them to be possibly put on an equal footing with men. It is in such a light that one ought to consider the part played by womankind. Otherwise we are exposed to false inferences which might induce us to make an improper legislation.

Moreover, Mr. Speaker, to allow women to vote is, without any necessity, to impose on them a new obligation, a new duty, in addition to those which they have already as daughters, wives and mothers, in addition, as I have stated, to the numerous obligations they have as women. I have too much regard for women - and this is my way to show them my respect - to impose on them a new function, to overburden their weak shoulders, which could not bear such a heavy burden. The greatest regard one can have for women is to leave them where they now are, to the part they play as women and mothers. Perhaps I am putting myself in opposition to history, which says the French people are essentially a most courteous people. I regret, I say, having to record such an opinion, but I think it is the conclusion to which the House should come.

William F. MacLean (York): While I fully admire that the emancipation of women is one of the great signs of the time, I am still disposed to think that politics is one of the last fields into which women should enter in the process of emancipation. Let her devote herself to literature, where success awaits her although I must say that the position taken in literature by the new woman is not creditable, and some of her work is a disgrace to literature. Owing to the physical limitations of her sex and to the emotional side of her nature being stronger than her reasoning power, she is not fitted for public life. If women had their say in politics today, the country would be ruled by emotion rather than reason.

Politics are not suited to the physical limitations which surround her sex; and although there have been women who were powerful in literature and politics, yet we find that these same women have also been obstructionists in politics and literature. Her Majesty Queen Victoria is held up to us as a great queen and one of the leading politicians of Europe, but there are many who think that even her position would have been better filled by a man.

Mr. Davin: A man like George IV?!

Guillaume Amyot (Bellechasse): The hon. member for East Assiniboia (Mr. Davin), during a long and brilliant career, always made a show of the utmost disregard for women by not even condescending to associate one of them with his life. Now he thinks that, before leaving the arena, he can atone for all his wrongs by kneeling before them and saying to them: you are worthy to lead. Women will not forgive him for the long suffering he inflicted upon them by his persistent single life.

I am opposed to the main motion. The main motion says to the wife of the family head: you can nullify the vote of your husband. They thus run the risk of sowing dissension, discord and rebellion into the family.

We all admit that they are the most beautiful part of humanity. They are, so to say, the point of connection between earth and Heaven. They assume something of the angel. The sooth and alleviate social evils. As a rule, the part they have to play is the part of kindness which springs from the heart. She is made for the house, for the home of which she is an angel. There would be much imprudence to make a voter of her, to entangle her in the acts of shoving and acts of violence which accompany our political contests. Let us leave them their moral purity, their bashfulness, their sweetness, which give them in our minds so much charm. That charm is due to a magnanimous devotion, to a spirit of self-denial, to a spirit of sacrifice which increase its value. Providence intended that it be so. A woman renders thereby a greater service to the social body than she could do by becoming a voter. It ill-becomes the community to change her sex and to degrade her by the exercise of the franchise. I cannot agree to put women on the same footing as men, not to change the part assigned by Providence to each of the sexes in the community.

On June 5, 1895, the vote was taken on Nicholas Davin's resolution calling for women suffrage. The resolution was defeated 105 to 47.

The exclusive club of male legislators still believed what their forefathers had taught them and also, perhaps, that the earth was flat.

As for Davin, he was married to Eliza Reid of Ottawa just one month after the defeat of his motion in the House of Commons. But, by 1895, he was tiring of politics. In 1888, he had been overlooked for a cabinet post. Three years later, he almost lost the Conservative nomination in Assiniboia West. Since 1893, Davin had been looking for an appointment. He had been denied the lieutenant governorship of the North-West Territories. By 1901, he was just another resident of Regina.

Disillusioned, he travelled to Winnipeg on October 9, 1901 and nine days later, he took his own life.

The body of this Canadian parliamentarian was found in the Clarendon Hotel, with the revolver still in his hand.