Western's Caucus on Women's Issues

Essay Awards > Essay Award Winner 2000

Murrielle Gaetane Michaud  l  Erin Tolley

"Washerwomen and Whoremongers: The Personal Journal of Xanthippe"

by Murrielle Gaetane Michaud

Don't get me wrong - I love my kids. But the responsibilities of motherhood are becoming more taxing each day. Why I ever listened to Pericles when he asked the women of Athens to have more children (1), I'll never know. What was I thinking? The boys (2) are getting quite out of hand, and their father is never home to reprimand them for their behaviour. Yesterday, while passing through the marketplace on my way to the stream to wash some linen, I caught our oldest son Lamprocles carving "Euripides' mother is a vegetable-monger (3)" on the wall just below that beautiful new temple to Athena (4). (They ought to show a little more respect - I modelled for one of the sculptures on the metope! (5)) By the grace of Pallas Athena, where he developed such a bad attitude toward poets, and the gods, I will never know, but I suspect this is all because of his father. Naturally, I was loathe to punish the little charybdis (6), since one day I may be in his care and he may see fit to discipline me or force me to marry some old goat, who smells like the dregs of the wine cup. What with his father being so much older than I, it is certain that he will eventually be my guardian. So I must be kind to him in the hope he will return the favour to me in my golden years (7). Ha! My golden years - if I should live that long - I've been working so hard to make ends meet that my sandals are worn clean through. I've been taking in other people's laundry to try and make a couple of extra drachma, and all my darling husband can do is praise me for my ability to manage the oikos (8). He cannot be shamed into getting a job. Instead he goes out and makes big speeches to his friends about how a woman should work hard. Other men now quote his "wisdom" on this matter. If I hear one more man say, "The wife who masters the science of economics has so greatly improved herself that she then has a masculine mind," (9) I shall go straight to the source and short-sheet his tunic.

Being poor is a unique problem when your husband is famous but you don't have two oboloi to rub together. Socrates had a good inheritance, but he spent most of it on Hoplite (10) armour before I was even born. (How could anyone with military training become such a lazy mule?) Then when we were married, I brought a decent dowry with me, but that's all gone. I can't even blame it on him. Since he loathes financial affairs, I was the one who spent all the money to maintain the oikos and raise the boys. The law says the husband is supposed to maintain his wife's dowry, (11) but he didn't spend it, so he's not responsible. I have no one to blame but myself.

I've been thinking that maybe I just need a break from all this work and strife. I sure could use a few days off - maybe I could find a way to afford a few days away at the Thesmophoria (12) this fall. It would be nice to get my frustrations out of my system and be away from the Socrates and the boys for a few days... Thesmophoria, take me away!

Oh my - the day is wearing on. I had better get down to Alcibiades' (13) place and pick up that load of woollens for washing. He never tips. I'm thinking I might just let his perizoma (14) shrink in the sun. He deserves it. There's nothing like having your perizoma ride up on you in the heat of battle. I hope Hipparettea (15) gets a divorce from that prostitute-chasing degenerate soon.

Taking in washing isn't the most dignified thing for a woman to do, but at least I'm not a whoremonger or a vegetable-monger.


Today I talked to Socrates about attending the Thesmophoria. He shrugged his shoulders and told me that if I wanted to go, I should go. I told him that we didn't have enough money. He said, "Well, then, I suppose you won't be going." I said, "If you would get a job, we could afford to do a lot of things around here - and I wouldn't have to take in other people's washing to make ends meet." He complimented me on my resourcefulness at making money, and told me that I had been doing a wonderful job managing the modest inheritance he had received from his family (16). I told him it wasn't enough money to keep the family going. I don't understand why he refuses to get a job. He's a qualified stone cutter (17) and the Periclean public building program has been extended. (Thank Zeus for the Delian League! (18)) Why, there are temples going up all over town (19)! Or, with all that pontificating he does at the agora, he could be a teacher. I asked him why he doesn't charge money to teach. Well, you'd think I'd asked him to throw his mother's corpse to the dogs (20)! He became red in the face, telling me that the only people who charge money for teaching are the sophists, and that he is not, nor will he ever be, one of them. He said they were "morally subversive" and a danger to the people of Athens because they disparage the gods (21). He talks as if he's so pious - the only religious experience he likes to talk about is the fact that Apollo said that there was "no one wiser" than he at the oracle at Delphi. I wonder if that's true. He sure doesn't mind reminding me of that prophecy whenever I disagree with him. Anyway, then I asked him how he felt about pursuing a political career - he's always out in the marketplace, talking to people - everyone knows him. He said that he absolutely could not become a politician because he has this voice inside him called a "daimon" that would never allow him to do such a thing (22). I wonder if I have one of those voices too. Oh sure I do, it's the one that keeps me from clobbering that windbag once he's fast asleep after a hard day of talking and drinking with his cronies. One of these days that "daimon" business is going to get him into a lot of trouble.


Just when I am so angry I could scream, Socrates always comes up with a way to charm me and set things right again. He must have felt guilty about that fight we had yesterday. He took me to the City Dionysia today to see the comedies (23). I was so excited - I got all dressed up in my best outfit. I wore that gauzy saffron number (24) Aspasia (25) gave to me a few years back - Socrates loves it! And you can barely see the wine stain Aspasia got on it while playing kottabos (26) at Alcibiades' house years ago. Socrates says I look like those fancy women that attend the drinking parties he's so fond of (27). I had to put a lot of white powder on my face to cover up the tan I've developed from working outside - it seemed to make me feel a little ill, but I think it was just from all the excitement of going to the Dionysia (28). Anyway, I surely embodied the ideal of Dorian beauty last night.

Unfortunately, the plays were foolish - and Socrates even deigned to appear in one himself. He is no Thespis, (29) I can tell you that. He appeared as himself in Ameipsias' comedy, "Connus", which won second place overall (30). Everyone cheered and laughed when he was brought on stage at the very end of the play. I think he looked stupid - he didn't even have a mask on! Because the war is on, there weren't as many plays as there usually are, which probably worked in the favour of that sand flea Aristophanes (31). What an upstart! He's only 21 years old and he thinks he's the greatest thing since red-figure pottery (32)! His play, "The Clouds" was utter nonsense. The whole story makes fun of Socrates. The actor who played him was nothing like my Socrates - Aristophanes wrote his character as though he was a money-grubbing troublemaker (33)! (Well, I wish the money-grubbing part were true!) It is no wonder that play came in last place - it is a shame that last place means 3rd prize this year. Socrates says that the play makes him appear to be a sophist and that it could lead to problems for him if people choose to believe that portrayal of his character. He said he despises the sophists as much as Aristophanes does (34). After the awards were given, Aristophanes came over to say hello to Socrates. (I can't believe that a young upstart like that would come and talk to us after that terrible play!) He said that the Archon who licensed the play forced him to change the head sophist (35) in the story from a fictional character to Socrates because of a personal vendetta. (It seems Socrates was pestering this very same Archon with questions one day at the marketplace while he was waiting to purchase some beans and a fish head.) When the arrogant little maggot finally left, Socrates said that Aristophanes was a decent fellow whom he had spent some time with, and that they quite like each other (36). It's not bad enough that Socrates is seen with those fellow layabouts Crito and Plato, not to mention that egomaniac Alcibiades, now he spends time with poets who slander him in plays full of excremental humour. Back when Pericles was running things, playwrights weren't allowed to make fun of prominent citizens (37). But that time of propriety didn't last long. Cleon once sued Aristophanes because of one of his terrible plays (38), though the dim-wits in the Dikasteria (39) wrongfully allowed a shifty poet to win a law case over an upstanding military man with a long history of bravery. After that, well, there was no stopping that degenerate Aristophanes. After he wrote "The Acharnians", he turned around and penned another nasty play called "The Knights". It continued the terrible attack on Cleon.

The evening wasn't a complete loss. We won the door prize for attendance and took home a lovely chunk of goat's cheese with some laurel leaves stuck in it. This means I won't have to take in any laundry tomorrow, and I already know what we'll be having for supper!


It appears that things are heating up in the war with those hicks, the Spartans. You would think they had had enough after our fearless leader Cleon, under the guidance of Athena, pummelled those Spartans at Pylos (40). I think we've really got them on the run now. The war will be over soon and we will all have big, strong, Spartan slaves to milk our goats and wash our chitons. Thucydides, that great cry-baby, now calls Cleon "the most violent of the citizens" (41). I think he just suffers from sour grapes because he can barely defend Amphipolis in his capacity as general (42).


I went down to the stream to wash a few things of my own out and catch up on the latest gossip with the slave girls from town (43). They told me that Pythagoras' house had been burned down overnight (44). Well, I said, nobody likes a godless know-it-all. Crito's slave girl said, "That's right - your husband had better watch his step too." I asked her just what she meant by that, and she just laughed and walked away. The impudence! I shall make certain that she is punished I hurried home to find Socrates "resting his eyes" after a long day of being a gadfly. I woke him and told him what Crito's slave had said. He explained a few things to me. It seems that everything is changing around here. Ever since Pericles invited those "natural thinkers" (45) to Athens, people have been getting steamed about these new ideas they brought with them which mock our gods. Protagoras' house was burned down because he opened a sophist school in the city (46). And the people of Athens have grown to hate sophists. I didn't even know what sophists were until today. And I had no idea that people hated them so much. I think I hate them too. Socrates explained to me that some people actually believed that stupid play by Aristophanes, and thought that it was based in truth (47). People are talking about it all over town, claiming that Socrates is a godless atheist. They're saying that his impertinence to the gods has caused the war to go on for the past eight years (48). Not only that, but he's being blamed for that plague at the beginning of the war, the failure of that stupid Sicilian expedition, and the loss of radical democracy (49). I know he's not crazy about radical democracy, but that's only because he thinks the leaders aren't always fair (50). It's all the fault of that Gorgias of Leontini (51) - he started it all with his "Rhetoric" classes! I'm surprised his house hasn't been burned to the ground, too! Now lots of people are questioning the gods and their stories. It's not right - and Socrates is being blamed for the whole thing!


That tears it! I'm feeling sorry for Socrates because half the city hates him right now, and then I find out about the other woman in his life! I think I'm pretty open minded about things, but this time he's gone too far! I didn't say anything about the hetairai that he messes around with at those symposia. I looked the other way when he had young boys around. But this is the last straw! He's been flirting with some woman named Myrto and he came home to tell me he's been thinking about having children with her (52) - just like his friend Euripides (53)! He never spends any time with me, he won't get a job, and now he wants a second wife. Well, if he thinks I'm taking in more washing to feed his new girlfriend and those extra kids he wants to have, he's the stupidest gadfly in town! That's it! I'm going over to Aspasia's place for a few days. Things will fall apart around this place pretty quickly without me. I don't care. He can drink hemlock for all I care...

Notes and bibliography:

1. Pericles made a speech in 430 BCE asking women to have more children so a large pool of conscriptable young men would be available for future wars (Pomeroy, 66).

2. Xanthippe and Socrates had three sons, named, from eldest to youngest, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus (after Socrates' father), and Menexenus (Anderson).

3. The mother of Euripides the poet was in fact a vegetable seller. Only a very poor woman would be out selling produce in the Acropolis of Classical Athens (Pomeroy, 105).

4. The Parthenon was completed in 432 BCE (Hornblower, 1116).

5. The east frieze of the Parthenon features a Panathenaic procession dedicated to Athena. It displays women with baskets of gifts for Athena (Fantham, 84).

6. The Charybdis was a huge monster in Homeric epic, which had twelve feet, six heads, and big, pointy teeth. It lurked in a cave and ate sea creatures and unwary sailors (Odyssey, book 12, line 85).

7. In Classical Athens, a woman who was widowed was returned back to the eldest male kinsmen, along with the remains of her dowry. If a widow's father were dead, and the deceased husband's family all dead, it is likely that she would become the responsibility of her sons (Pomeroy, 61).

8. The oikos is the household, the management of which is the responsibility of a classical Athenian wife(Pomeroy, 73).

9. Socrates, in "Oeconomie" by Xenophon, 9-10.1 (Ibid.).

10. The Hoplites were greek soldiers who used a revolutionary type of phalanx warfare in battle. Socrates was a hoplite briefly – it is posited that he developed a great deal of his thought on virtue and the good life during his service in the army (Anderson).

11. The law stated that the husband must maintain his wife's dowry and use it to support her (Pomeroy, 63).

12. The Thesmophoria was a three-day festival honouring the goddess Demeter. It was held in the autumn before sowing time, and was a highly secretive ceremony for women only (Pomeroy, 77-78 & Finnegan, 143-144).

13. An Athenian politician and general who was raised by Pericles and tutored by Socrates. He enjoyed a brilliant military career in the Peloponnesian War, and died at the hands of mercenaries on behalf of the Thirty Tyrants (Radice, 53).

14. Underwear (Hornblower, 497).

15. There are only three instances of women ever attempting to get a divorce in the ancient world; the most daring was that of Hipparettea. Hipparettea, wife of Alcibiades, left him for bringing prostitutes to their home. She was the only woman to ever attempt to get a divorce on her own. When she went to register her divorce at the tribunal, Alcibiades appeared and physically carried her home. She remained married to him until his death (Pomeroy, 90).

16. Xanthippe did in fact make do with Socrates' small inheritance (Leon, 187).

17. Anderson.

18. Funds from the Delian League (an alliance of Greek states, formed to face the threat of invading Persians) were collected to maintain the league, but in 454 when the headquarters was moved to Athens from the Isle of Delos, Pericles began re-routing funds to finance his Athenian building program (Moscovich).

19. The building program begun by Pericles in the 440s and 430s was still going strong after his death in 429 BCE from the plague (Hornblower, 1139, Radice, 189).

20. An important aspect of Ancient Greek life was the proper inhumation of family members. To throw the body of a family member to the dogs would be considered the greatest blasphemy (Hornblower, 433). Also, even in war, the bodies of men were returned to their families when possible (See "Iliad", Book XXII, 301-321 ff.).

21. Sophists were philosophers who were interested in the pursuit of "inquiry into nature", and techniques of persuasion in argument. They often charged large fees to teach their disciplines. They were viewed suspiciously by the conservative people of Athens for their naturalistic views on religion and morals, and for their deceptive techniques in rhetoric – concepts that young people seemed to embrace while casting aside the old tenets of social, moral, and religious life in Classical Athens (Honderich, 839-840).

22. Carr.

23. After much debate over whether women did or did not attend festivals, the consensus of research seems to point to the fact that women did in fact attend festivals (Pomeroy, 80).

24. Saffron coloured gauze dresses were worn by prostitutes – not usually worn by Athenian wives (Pomeroy, 83).

25. Aspasia was a hetaira, or prostitute, who rose to public prominence in Athens as the consort of Pericles. Aristophanes said (perhaps not entirely in jest) she was the one who started the Peloponnesian War, not Pericles (Pomeroy, 89).

26. Kottabos, was a game played at parties, where the dregs of wine in the bottom of a cup are flicked at a target (Fantham, 116).

27. Hetairai were often present at symposiums which were otherwise exclusively male. Decent female Athenian wives never attended these banquets and parties (Fantham, 116).

28. It was fashionable for women to powder their faces with a white cosmetic made from lead. The whiteness of a woman's face was considered attractive because it proved their husbands were so rich that they did not have to work outside. Therefore, a wealthy woman would have a pale skin tone from remaining indoors, hidden from the tanning rays of the sun (Pomeroy, 83).

29. Believed to have invented tragedy and added speech to what previously were only choral performances. Our modern word thespian, meaning actor, comes from this name (Hornblower, 1510).

30. Marianetti, 112.

31. Because of the Peloponnesian War, in 432 BCE, only three comedies were staged instead of the regular five (Aristophanes/Bailey, 5).

32. Red Figure pottery was a recent development in the painting and firing of Greek pottery. This style began circa 525 BCE (Hornblower, 1236).

33. Indeed, the character of Socrates in "The Clouds" has been proven to be nothing like the real man (Aristophanes/Bailey, 22).

34. Bailey/Aristophanes, 16.

35. It appears that the Archon who did in fact license the play may have forced a change in the role of the head sophist to coincide with his personal views against the new philosophers who were challenging the traditional Athenian religion, morality, and values (Aristophanes/Bailey, 8).

36. In fact, Socrates and Aristophanes were friends. They would often be the only two awake and sober at the end of a long banquet (Marianetti, 108).

37. Pericles instituted a ban against plays that attacked public persons. It was short-lived (Crane, 12.2.6).

38. Cleon and Aristophanes endured a legal and political battle that lasted for four years. Cleon fought from his end through repeated legal actions, and Aristophanes fought back with constant personal attacks in his plays (esp. "The Knights" in 424 BCE) (Crane, trm ov 12.2.6).

39. The popular court which presided over public actions. These were presided over by approximately 6,000 jurors and between 201 and 601 judges (Hornblower, 452).

40. It was the first time Spartan soldiers had ever surrendered in war. As a result, the Spartan leaders offered peace in exchange for the captured soldiers. Cleon advocated that the Athenian assembly refuse this offer of peace. They did (Crane, Perseus, trm ov 12.1.7).

41. Thucydides' "Histories", 3.36.6

42. Thucydides was a strategoi during the Peloponnesian War. He lost a battle to Brasidas, which led to his exile in 424 BCE (Hornblower, 1517).

43. Poor women exchanged gossip with slaves and prostitutes at a fountain or stream where clothes were washed (Ehrenberg, 1962: 401).

44. Marianetti, 129.

45. As part of the vast growth of Athens during the classical period, Pericles invited Herodotus, Protagoras, and Anaxagoras to bring their new ideas to Athens. They contributed to the Athenian "Enlightenment" which challenged traditional concepts of religion with emerging science (Pomeroy, 17).

46. Aristophanes/Bailey, 9.

47. In Plato's "Apology", Socrates complains that "The Clouds" prejudiced his fellow Athenians against him, which led to his prosecution and ultimately his death (Marianetti, 108).

48. Common people had confused Socrates with the sophists (though he was not one of them), and Athenians began to blame him for bad fortune, especially the prolonged Peloponnesian War (Marianetti, 118).

49. See previous (Marianetti, 199-120).

50. Socrates was critical of democratic government because he thought that public opinion was based in ignorance, and he believed in the philosopher king ideal for leaders – that they have no vested interest in governing and be intellectuals and decision-makers (Carr).

51. Gorgias was probably the first teacher of rhetoric – brought to Athens by Pericles at the beginning of this period of "new thought". Other "new philosophers" who were challenging the traditional myths of nature and cosmogony were the pioneers of natural science (Aristophanes/Bailey, 8).

52. Myrto was Socrates' second wife. They had two sons together who were still small children in 399BCE, the year of his death. It is alleged that the second marriage occurred so that legal citizen offspring would be available for conscription in times of war (Pomeroy, 67).

53. Euripides also had a second wife. Both marriages were alleged to have occurred so that legal citizen offspring would be available for conscription in future wars (Pomeroy, 67).


Books: Aristophanes. "The Clouds." Translated by Cyril Bailey and A.D. Godley, edited by Cyril Bailey. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1952.
Aristophanes. "The Acharnians, The Clouds, The Knights, The Wasps." (The Loeb Classical Library) Translated by B.B. Rogers, edited by T.E. Page, E. Capps, and W. Rouse. London: William Heinemann Ltd. 1960.
Ehrenberg, Victor. "From Solon to Socrates." Methuen & Co. Ltd.: London. 1973.
Ehrenberg, Victor. "The People of Aristophanes." Schocken Books: New York. 1962.
Fant, Maureen, and Lefkowitz, Mary. "Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A Source Book in Translation." 2nd Edition. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore. 1992.
Fantham, Foley, Kampen, Pomeroy, and Shapiro. "Women in the Classical World." Oxford University Press: New York. 1994.
Finnegan, Rachel. "Women in Aristophanes." Adolf M. Hakkert: Amsterdam. 1995.
Hawley, Richard, and Levick, Barbara, eds. "Women in Antiquity: New Assessments." Routledge: New York. 1995.
Honderich, Ted. "The Oxford Companion to Philosophy." Oxford University Press: New York. 1995.
Hornblower, S., and Spawforth, A., eds. "The Oxford Classical Dictionary," 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press: London. 1996.
Jaeger, Werner. "Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture." Basil Blackwell: London. 1965.
Leon, Vicki. "Uppity Women of Ancient Times." Conari Press: Berkeley. 1995.
Marianetti, Marie C. "Religion and Politics in Aristophanes’ Clouds." Olms-Weidmann: Hildesheim, Germany. 1992. Pomeroy, Sarah B. "Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity." Schocken Books: New York. 1975. Radice, Betty. "Who’s Who in the Ancient World." Penguin: London. 1973.

Internet Sources:

Anderson, K. and Freund, N. "The Last Days of Socrates." (Clarke College, Iowa). November 11,1998.
Crane, Gregory R. (ed.) "The Perseus Project." November 22, 1998.
Carr, K.E. "Socrates." (Portland State University).


Moscovich, Dr. M.J. "The Pentekontaetia". Classical Studies 275E Lecture, University of Western Ontario, London. November 30, 1998.


"The Influence of Political Culture on the Political Participation of Women in Two Provinces: A Case Study of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan"

by Erin Tolley

Observers of Canadian governance tend to paint a homogeneous portrait of women in politics, but region has a significant impact on the political participation of women. Indeed, the presence of women in provincial politics is as varied as the provinces are diverse, which is illustrated by the cases of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. In Saskatchewan, women tend to seek political posts and as a result, several females hold key posts in their Legislative Assembly. In New Brunswick, women appear to be reluctant to abandon conservative traditions in favour of feminist ideals, and largely remain outside of the political realm. There are common barriers that may discourage women's political participation or limit their electoral success in both provinces,(1) but this is not the focus of this paper. Rather, using empirical data, this paper will illustrate, first, that there are significant variances in the political participation of women in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. Second, using three theories of political culture, namely the staples tradition, the fragment theory, and the formative events approach, it will argue that differences in regional political culture have contributed to this disparity among the two provinces.

Historically, women in Saskatchewan have had a greater presence in provincial politics than women in New Brunswick and, in general, Saskatchewan's political arena appears to be more receptive to the inclusion of women than New Brunswick's political arena. The citation of several statistics illustrates this. First, Saskatchewan women were enfranchised and could stand for election in 1916 while women in New Brunswick were not enfranchised until 1919 and could not stand for election until 1934.(2) The rights to vote and to stand for office are significant in countries, such as Canada, where voting and running for office are integral components of democratic governance.(3) Provinces that denied women access to the most primary forms of political participation fostered the belief that women do not belong in politics and should not have a voice.

Moreover, women in Saskatchewan ran for office 16 years before women in New Brunswick, and electors in Saskatchewan sent a woman to provincial office some 48 years before electors in New Brunswick did the same.(4) As a result, women in Saskatchewan have had a presence, albeit not continuous, for 81 years, while women in New Brunswick have occupied the Legislative Assembly for only the past 33 years.

Interestingly, however, the first woman was selected to New Brunswick's cabinet in 1970, while Saskatchewan did not follow suit until 1982.(5) While it would appear that women in New Brunswick, once having entered the political arena, were more successful than women in Saskatchewan in achieving positions of power and influence, this is an oversimplification. As Don Desserud reveals, "[Although] women have been appointed in unprecedented numbers to [New Brunswick's] cabinet, they have, more often than not, been appointed to positions best associated with the ‘woman as nurturer' role, such as Education, Childhood Services, Income Assistance, and now, Family Affairs, and seldom to key decision-making posts, such as Finance."(6) In Saskatchewan, however, the portfolios of female cabinet ministers have included prestigious ministries such as Government Services, Social Services, Status of Women, Liquor and Gaming, as well as Finance.(7) An examination of the portfolios of female Cabinet Ministers in the current governments of both provinces affirms this observation.(8)

In this way, the appointment of women to cabinet positions in New Brunswick has reproduced, in the political arena, the social division of labour based on gender. Heather MacIvor argues that the gendered division of labour has existed "throughout human history" and specifies "a narrow range of tasks that women may legitimately perform, all of them domestic."(9) Electing more women to office will not significantly improve their representation if female politicians are not placed in key Cabinet posts. The segregation of women into traditional policy areas only fosters their tokenism.

The possibility of women transcending this tokenism in the political arena is influenced by a number of factors, region being one of the most commonly overlooked. While observers of women's political under-representation have tended to focus on institutional barriers, economic impediments, and social influences as the causes of the dearth of women in politics, very few have examined the effects of regional differences. Thus, it is the intent of this paper to do so.

A region is a geographical territory whose boundaries encompass a single political culture. Canada is typically divided into the Western, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic regions, each of which can be distinguished by their different political cultures. Nelson Wiseman writes that a region's political culture is based on "deeply-rooted, popularly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes about politics. Culture is pervasive, patterned, cross-generational, enduring, and relatively stable."(10) Although political culture is, in some ways, a subjective entity, Wiseman provides us with three ways to examine political culture. These are Wiseman's own staples tradition, Louis Hartz's fragment theory, and Seymour Martin Lipset's formative events approach. We will look at each of these in turn, focusing specifically on their application to Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Wiseman's staples tradition posits that the political, social, and economic institutions of a province are defined by the raw resources which are extracted from that region.(11) Wiseman writes, "From a political economy perspective, provincial political cultures reflect the interplay of economic forces which envelop them." He thus believes that "differences in provincial economic cultures may be said to drive differences in provincial political cultures."(12) According to Wiseman, differences in staples production between New Brunswick and Saskatchewan will contribute to differences in political culture and, more importantly for our purposes, differences in the political participation of women.

Forestry is New Brunswick's leading industry, contributing more than $2 billion annually to the economy and employing more than 16,000 people.(13) Indeed, the government of New Brunswick views forestry as "the backbone of New Brunswick's economy."(14) According to Wiseman's staples theory, the economic significance of forestry in New Brunswick will be politically significant. Forestry is traditionally viewed as a man's occupation and as a result of this masculinization, women are generally absent. In 1998, Canada's forestry industry employed 77,000 people; only 9,000 of these, or 12 per cent, were women.(15) We can assume that women would make up a similar proportion of employees in New Brunswick's forestry sector. As a male-dominated industry vital to its province's economic prosperity, forestry, according to Wiseman's staples tradition, transposes masculinity onto the political culture. That is, the staples tradition posits that the subordination of women in forestry, New Brunswick's principle staple, impels their subordination in politics.

On the other hand, Saskatchewan's staple, farming, has fostered an egalitarian and cooperative political culture. Today, Saskatchewan has "42 per cent of the arable land in Canada," but in its early days the land was new and unharvested and thus, there was much work to be done.(16) Through agriculture, women were given a significant role in the Prairie economy from the outset because their labour was needed to cultivate and harvest the land.(17) Agriculture is now the province's largest resource industry and it employs more than 14 per cent of its population.(18) While data are not available on the proportion of women employed in Saskatchewan's agricultural sector, Canadian women as a whole compose 33 per cent of those employed in agriculture in the country.(19) Women are therefore more visible in agriculture than in forestry. The staples theory suggests that the visibility of women in, and their importance to, the farming industry will be transposed upon Saskatchewan's political culture thereby encouraging their presence and success in politics.

The fragment theory, developed by Louis Hartz, is another method for analysing political culture and as Wiseman observes, it hypothesizes that "the politics of new societies are shaped by the older societies from which they come."(20) In this way, the political culture of a region is determined by the ideological backgrounds of its settlers. Hartz has identified five waves of immigration, each bringing people of different backgrounds and ideologies to the country.(21)

As a result of its pivotal coastal location, both the first and second immigrant waves brought settlers to the area which we now call New Brunswick. The first wave brought "quasi-feudal conservatism" from France to New France and Acadia, while the second wave brought Americans who were British Loyalists and who tended to espouse Toryism and elitism.(22) These two waves of immigration, which brought staunch conservatives and Tories to New Brunswick, have had a lasting influence on the province which continues to retain an unmistakably conservative political culture, enveloping "localism, tradition, caution, stability, social order, hierarchical religions, and elitism in the economic and political realms."(23)

Conservatism, as an ideology, has been somewhat inhospitable to women's political participation. Indeed, Conservative parties in Canada have committed themselves to a policy of "equal treatment of all citizens"(24) and thus, make few provisions to encourage female candidacies.(25) This is problematic, given the historical disadvantages which women have faced in the political arena. This is significant in New Brunswick where Conservative parties have had much success. Indeed, since 1952, the Progressive Conservative Party has held office more than any other party, forming a government for 25 of the last 48 years. The current government is also Conservative.(26) According to Hartz's theory, New Brunswick's conservative roots pervade its political culture and will affect the political participation of women. This effect is often negative.

The fourth wave of immigration brought settlers to Western Canada in three parts. The first of these "ripples," as Wiseman refers to them, came from Britain and brought many immigrants who subscribed to "Britain's emerging labour-socialist politics . . . who were open to . . . promises of socialism."(27) The second ripple came from the United States, bringing populist-loyalists who settled largely in Alberta.(28) The third ripple saw the immigration of Eastern Europeans, most of whom could not speak English and who, "in order to avoid suspicion and to gain acceptance, . . . deferred ideologically and . . . bred a second generation that assimilated some of the prevailing values."(29) As a result, Eastern European settlers tended to adopt the socialism of British immigrants or the populism of American immigrants, firmly establishing these ideologies on the Prairies.

These foundations are visible today in Saskatchewan where social democratic ideology is firmly entrenched in its political culture. Social democratic ideology espouses cooperation, planning, and equality and is the cornerstone of the New Democratic Party. The NDP's predecessor, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, has firm roots in Saskatchewan as its founding document, the Regina Manifesto, was drafted there.(30) Indeed, the CCF/NDP has held office in the province for 32 years of the last 48 years and is currently in government.(31)

While inequality was present in the early CCF, the party permitted women to play a more active role than the Liberal or Conservative parties.(32) Gradually, the few feminists within the CCF forced the party "to address some crucial questions of gender inequality" and by the second World War, the CCF had increased its involvement in women's issues, promoting the concerns of female wage-earners and encouraging discussion about the role of women in postwar reconstruction.(33) Moreover, the provincial women's committees had become well-organized and highly skilled fund-raisers. As a result, a small number of women were given jobs as party organizers and increasing numbers of women ran for provincial office under the CCF banner with some success.(34) Today, the NDP in Saskatchewan carries on the egalitarianism of the CCF, introducing day care initiatives, equal pay legislation, policies on domestic violence, and pushing for healthcare reform.(35) Moreover, the NDP is said to be "the party most strongly committed to increasing the presence of women in party and elected offices."(36) Hartz's fragment theory posits that Saskatchewan's social democratic roots will deeply influence its political culture. Coupled with the historical success of women in the CCF/NDP, this has had a positive impact on women's political participation in the province.

The final framework for examining political culture is Seymour Martin Lipset's formative events approach. Lipset hypothesized that there are events within a culture's history that define its political culture.(37) While Lipset's analysis looked at events that defined entire nations, his approach can be used to describe the formation of political cultures in provinces. Two formative events that are pertinent to an examination of women's political participation in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are New Brunswick's existence as a pre-Confederation entity and the immigration of domestic workers to the Prairies. We will look at these in turn.

New Brunswick was a founding province of Canada, but predated Confederation. New Brunswick's provincial constitution was defined in Letters Patent to Governor Thomas Carleton in 1784.(38) However, as Wiseman points out, constitutionalism may also be defined as "the date of ‘reception' of British laws," in which case, New Brunswick's courts have ruled the year 1660 "as the reception point for English statutes."(39) Thus, some 200 years before Confederation, New Brunswick had an entrenched system of laws, political institutions, and social practices, as outlined in its formal constitution.(40) In this system, the role of women was marginal. They were expected to adhere to rigid social expectations, had few legal rights, and could not vote or hold office. By Confederation, these practices had existed for centuries and were not likely to change easily. Thus, when women were formally enfranchised in 1918, they faced, in New Brunswick, centuries-old traditions and ideas about women, an obstacle that was not encountered by women in newly federated provinces.

Saskatchewan, for example, was created as an act of Parliament in 1905, just 38 years after Confederation and thus, in comparison to New Brunswick, is a very young province.(41) Most of the province's inhabitants had arrived during a massive wave of immigration that had begun some 15 years earlier. As Wiseman points out, "The prairie population exploded from about 100,000 in 1881 to two million in 1921."(42) As a young, newly populated province, Saskatchewan did not have established political institutions or traditions. Moreover, it was created just nine years before women were given the franchise and at a time when women's issues were gaining influence.(43) Saskatchewan did not have to overcome the impediment, which New Brunswick has encountered, of erasing centuries of tradition to embrace a more equitable attitude toward women.

A second formative event is the immigration of domestic workers to Canada. Between 1911 and 1921, more than 54,300 domestics immigrated to Canada from Britain, Ireland, and France. Of these, 4 per cent were employed in Atlantic Canada, while 32 per cent were employed on the Prairies.(44) While most domestics worked in deplorable conditions and their contributions tend to be overlooked, their impact on women's political participation, particularly on the Prairies, was significant.(45) First, domestics were different from many Canadian women because most were unmarried and therefore had relative independence. This was not the case for married women who were considered their husband's property and had few rights independent of him.(46) Unmarried women, on the other hand, were financially and legally independent, and they often enjoyed many of the same rights as men.(47) Given the number of domestics who immigrated to the Prairies and their relative autonomy, these women would have had a significant role in the emerging discussions on the role of women in politics.

Second, with a domestic to assist her with her household tasks, the woman of the house was able to occupy herself with other pastimes, such as political activism. As Jean Cochrane points out, middle and upper-class women, who often had more than one servant, would frequently participate in political meetings in the afternoons, an impossible luxury for women who did not have domestic workers.(48) Thus, in areas, such as Saskatchewan, where there was a considerable influx of domestic workers, women were given the time to pursue political activism. In areas, such as New Brunswick, where the presence of domestics was not as visible, many women would not be afforded this opportunity.

Using three different analytical approaches to political culture, namely the staples tradition, the fragment theory, and the formative events approach, this paper has illustrated how differences in the political cultures of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have contributed to differences in the political participation of women. For women, merely possessing the desire to participate is insufficient. Indeed, as this paper has argued, women must overcome the barriers of history, of tradition, of attitudes, and of culture. In New Brunswick, these barriers are comparatively greater than in Saskatchewan and thus, the political participation of women in that province has been significantly hindered.

Notes and bibliography

(1) The most commonly cited barriers to women's political participation, regardless of region or level of government, are the single-member district simple plurality electoral system, the cost to run, the strain on family life, the intervention of parties, voter bias against female candidates, and socialization which discourages women from seeking elected office.
(2) See Louise Carbert, "Governing on the Saskatchewan Side of the Border," _In the Presence of Women_, Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds. (Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997) 154; and Don Desserud, "Women in New Brunswick Politics," _In the Presence of Women_, Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds. (Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997) 254.
(3) See Robert A. Dahl, _Democracy and its Critics_ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) 109-111. Dahl argues that effective participation and voting equality are necessary criteria in a democratic process. If people are unable to express their preferences or are not given "an equal opportunity to express a choice that will be counted as equal in weight to the choice expressed by any other citizen," democracy does not exist. By this standard, Canada's early system of government was not democratic because it did not give women the ability to express their preferences, nor did it give them an opportunity to express a choice that would be counted equally with the choices of others. See also Dahl, 221.
(4) In Saskatchewan, Sarah K. Ramsland ran in the 1919 election and won. While a woman ran in New Brunswick's 1935 election, she was defeated and it was not until 1967 that Brenda Robertson ran in a New Brunswick riding and won. See Carbert, 154; and Desserud, 254.
(5) Carbert, 154
(6) Desserud, 256.
(7) Carbert, 254.
(8) New Brunswick's 15-member Cabinet presently contains two women. One holds the Environment portfolio, while the other holds the Municipalities and Housing Portfolio. While women compose 18 per cent of New Brunswick's legislature, they compose only 13 per cent of Cabinet and are thus under-represented in the province's most powerful and prestigious positions. See Government of New Brunswick, "Executive Council," (18 March 2000). In Saskatchewan, there are 19 Cabinet Ministers, including five women who hold non-traditional posts such as Economic and Cooperative Development, Labour, and Property Management, as well as the traditional Health and Status of Women portfolios. Since female legislators compose 22 per cent of the Saskatchewan legislature, but 26 per cent of the Cabinet, women are slightly over-represented in Cabinet. See Government of Saskatchewan, "Cabinet," (10 May 2000).
(9) Heather MacIvor, _Women and Politics in Canada_ (Peterborough: Broadview, 1996) 24.
(10) Nelson Wiseman, "Provincial Political Cultures," _Provinces_, Christopher Dunn, ed. (Peterborough: Broadview, 1996) 21.
(11) Ibid., 22.
(12) Ibid., 23-24.
(13) See Rank Dyck, _Provincial Politics in Canada_ (Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1996) 168; and Government of New Brunswick, Department of Natural Resources and Energy, "Forests," (24 March 2000).
(14) Government of New Brunswick, Department of Nature Resources and Energy, "Forests." (15) Calculations by the author. Data founds in Statistics Canada, "Employment by Detailed Industry and Sex," (24 March 2000).
(16) Dyck, 432.
(17) Wiseman, 43.
(18) Calculations by the author. Data found in Statistics Canada, "Distribution of Employed People, by Industry, by Province," (24 March 2000).
(19) Calculations by the author. Data found in Statistics Canada, "Employment by Detailed Industry and Sex." We can assume that this composition would be roughly equivalent in Saskatchewan.
(20) Ibid., 30.
(21) Ibid., 32.
(22) Ibid., 33.
(23) Ibid., 41.
(24) While the Conservative Party is committed to equality of treatment, it does provide funding to assist female candidates with their campaigns. However, Janine Brodie argues that these funds merely scratch the surface of obstacles faced by female candidates. See Janine Brodie, "Women and the Electoral Process in Canada," _Women in Canadian Politics: Toward Equity in Representation_, Kathy Megyery, ed. Vol. 6 of the Research Studies of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1991) 37.
(25) In an interview with Gord Campbell, a field organizer for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, I asked what the Progressive Conservative Party was doing to encourage the success of women in politics. Mr. Campbell replied, "Nothing." When asked to elaborate, he stated that "the PC party believes in the equal treatment of citizens, groups and provinces." Telephone interview with Gord Campbell, Saskatoon SK, February 28, 1999.
(26) Frank Feigert, Canada Votes (Durham: Duke University Press, 1989) 160-161; and telephone correspondence with René Ouellette, Constituency Assistant to Marcelle Mersereau, Member of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly from Bathurst NB, May 14, 2000.
(27) Wiseman., 34.
(28) Ibid., 34.
(29) Ibid., 35.
(30) Joan Sangster, _Dreams of Equality_ (Toronto: McClelland Stewart, 1989) 91.
(31) Feigert, 278-279; Chief Electoral Officer, _Saskatchewan's 22nd General Election: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer_ (Regina: Chief Electoral Office, 1991); and Chief Electoral Officer, _Saskatchewan's 23rd General Election: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer_ (Regina: Chief Electoral Office, 1995).
(32) Sangster, 100.
(33) Ibid., 25; 194-197.
(34) Ibid., 206-208.
(35) Carbert, 157; and Jean Cochrane, "Women in Canadian Politics," _Women in Canadian Life_. Jean Cochrane and Pat Kincaid, eds. (Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1977) 64. (36) Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, "In the Presence of Women: Representation and Political Power." _In the Presence of Women_. Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds. (Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997) 7.
(37) Wiseman, 24.
(38) Ibid., 147.
(39) Ibid.
(40) See Ibid.
(41) Ibid., 149.
(42) Ibid., 35.
(43) Carbert, 154.
(44) Figures from Marilyn Barber, _Immigrant Domestic Servants in Canada_, (Saint John: Keystone, 1991) 4-7.
(45) Cochrane, 7.
(46) Ibid., 8.
(47) Ibid., 8.
(48) Ibid., 9.


Arscott, Jane and Linda Trimble. "In the Presence of Women: Representation and Political Power." _In the Presence of Women_. Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds. Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

Barber, Marilyn. _Immigrant Domestic Servants in Canada_. Saint John: Keystone, 1991.

Brodie, Janine. "Women and the Electoral Process in Canada." _Women in Canadian Politics: Toward Equity in Representation_. Kathy Megyery, ed. Vol. 6 of the Research Studies of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1991. 23 vols.

Campbell, Gord. Telephone interview. Saskatoon SK. February 28, 1999.

Carbert, Louise. "Governing on the Saskatchewan Side of the Border." _In the Presence of Women_. Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds. Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

Chief Electoral Officer. _Saskatchewan's 22nd General Election: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer_. Regina: Chief Electoral Officer, 1991.

—. _Saskatchewan's 23rd General Election: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer_. Regina: Chief Electoral Officer, 1995.

Cochrane, Jean. "Women in Canadian Politics." _Women in Canadian Life_. Jean Cochrane and Pat Kincaid, eds. Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1977.

Dahl, Robert A. _Democracy and its Critics_. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

Desserud, Don. "Women in New Brunswick Politics." _In the Presence of Women_. Jane Arscott and Linda Trimble, eds. Toronto: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

Dyck, Rand. _Provincial Politics in Canada_. Scarborough: Prentice-Hall, 1996.

Feigert, Frank. _Canada Votes_. Durham: Duke University Press, 1989.

Government of New Brunswick. Department of Natural Resources and Energy web page. "Forestry."


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