(Maple Ridge Museum) Emily Trembath, the first woman to vote in a municipal election in Mapel Ridge, was a school teacher who became superintendent of elementary education for the Vancouver school district later in her career. She was known to be formidable.

Looking Back: Suffrage in a corset

Emily Trembath was a school teacher and first woman to vote in a municipal election in Maple Ridge.

As of 2018, it has been 100 years since most Canadian women got the right to vote, bringing to fruition the lifetimes of work and sacrifice by dedicated suffragettes.

On May 24, 1918, white women across Canada were given the right to the vote. But it was not until the late 1940s that Asian Canadian women got the vote. And it wasn’t until 1960s that indigenous women who were willing to give up their status were allowed to vote.

With election season upon us, we would like to reflect on two historic trends that you may not think of as being strongly connected: women’s suffrage and corsets.

In any time period, clothes often reflect the culture around them.

In the century leading up to women getting the vote, women’s clothes were tight, restrictive, and had severely limited mobility.

They limited the ability of women to do much physical activity without the help of a man. While corsets had been in fashion for hundreds of years, and remained popular after 1918, tight lacing, the practice of tying the corset in order to get the smallest waist possible, was popular.

The Victorian ideal was an 18-inch waist. Tight lacing was not practiced by everyone, but those that did often suffered side effects and ill health.

Suffragettes used many tools to get their message across during the early 1900s: signs, banners, leaflets, as well as the very clothes they wore while campaigning and marching.

Many of the women involved in the suffrage movement were also outspoken against the wearing of tight figure-altering corsets. Not only were tight fitting corsets ditched, some suffragettes ditched them entirely. Dresses with wide and higher hemlines were also preferred, allowing for more movement.

One of the greatest tools of the suffrage movement was the bicycle. Cars were rare and expensive, only affordable to men who had higher paying jobs, and walking could only get activists so far. The bike was less expensive and simple, but required shorter more flexible dresses and no tight corset to be able to ride.

When women took to the streets in the 1910s to call for equal rights in voting, they were wearing the symbols of their emancipation –looser fitting clothes that allowed for more freedom of movement, as they demanded their own political and social freedoms.

Here in Maple Ridge, the first woman to vote in a municipal election was school teacher Emily Trembath of Hammond. According to historical records, she was known to be a well-educated and formidable woman who never married, a requirement for women who chose to pursue teaching as a career.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of corsets and modern day corset making, join us for our “Speaking of Art and History” talk by Melanie Talkington on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at the ACT Studio Stage.

Shea Henry is

curator at the Maple Ridge Museum and Archives.

Just Posted

Being Young; Tackling the ‘second-week slump’

Defeating the slump is difficult.

Along the Fraser: A flawed made-in-B.C.-plan for wild salmon

‘The greatest value B.C. places on wild salmon is cultural.’

Marauders to play in championship Saturday

Pitt Meadows hosting senior boys basketball tournament

Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows part of speculation and vacancy tax

Watch the mail, fill out the form, or you’ll be taxed

Another Burrard wins a field lacrosse scholarship

Cooke playing for Newbury Wolves in South Carolina

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Lower Mainland-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Most Read