7 Things Women Made Happen in the 1920's

The 1920’s were full of change for women in Canada. When gender roles in the workforce shifted as men went off to war, women’s rights advocates made strides to challenge norms on every front. The 20’s were filled with women who paved the way. As we head into the 20’s once again in a few weeks—one hundred years since the era that makes us think of flapper girls and Gatsby—here’s a look at seven major changes the 20’s brought, and the women that made them happen.

  1. 1. 1921: The First woman was elected to Parliament.

    Agnes MacPhail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons (women weren’t even allowed to vote yet) and she advocated for farmers, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. 

  2. 2. 1921: B.C. passed Canada’s first maternity leave legislation.

    This was a huge step in recognizing the rights of women in the workforce and allowed 6 weeks off before and after giving birth. 

  3. 3. 1922: The iconic “flapper girl” persona came to be

    Clara Bow became one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood and made the flapper girl an iconic symbol of the 20’s. Flapper girls were bold—they smoked in public, showcased new dances, and symbolized sexual liberation (all pretty taboo at the time).

  4. 4. 1925: Women got the same divorce entitlements as men.

    Canada’s Divorce Act was changed to allow both men and women to divorce for the same reasons and gave women access to family assets and property rights.

  5. 5. 1928: Women competed on the national Olympic team for the first time.

    Seven women competed on Team Canada in Amsterdam, and six of them won gold medals in their sprinting relay event.

  6. 6. 1928: Anna Dexter became Canada’s first female broadcaster

    They called her "Queen of the airways" and she grew a loyal audience with her morning news show, airing six days a week.

  7. 7. 1929:  Women were officially considered legal “persons”

    After the hard work of the “Famous Five”, the British Privy Council deemed women to be “persons” in the eyes of the law.

The 20’s were an era of struggle and change for those that advocated for the rights women in Canada benefit from today. This list is by no means inclusive of all the women and events that shaped what Canada is for women today. As we enter this new decade, let’s stay as determined, hardworking, and united as women have always been. Let’s make it happen like ladies in the 20’s do!