When something becomes commonplace, it is easy to forget the reason how and why it came into existence. Over time, even the most radical ideas can become routine and lose all sense of the controversy that might have existed when introduced. It is surprising to realize how many ordinary things that we experience today started as a result of the First World War. Like today, issues in the past did not appear out of nowhere. Many of the events that started in the First World War had been in the making for decades. However, the total upheaval that the War had on Canadian society made it easier to implement new and often controversial things.
Some things that are considered unquestionable today, such as women having the right to vote, were considered radical in the First World War. Other actions such as the adoption of Daylight Savings Time and the changing of the name of Berlin, Ontario to Kitchener were very controversial during the War, but have become more accepted over time. Perhaps income tax, introduced by the Dominion Government as a temporary wartime measure stands alone in being as hated now as it was 80 years ago.
A Voice Through Voting: The Franchise for Women
Before the outbreak of the First World War, a hard-fought battle was already being waged by women in countries such as Canada, Great Britain and the United States of America. Although women in these countries were bound by their nation's respective laws, they were denied any direct voice in changing them. Those who supported the idea of universal suffrage, or the right for both men and women to vote, were known as suffragists. The suffragettes, or female suffragists, of this era were unprecedentedly organized, vocal, and at times, disruptive in their efforts to protest the inequality that women faced.
The large suffrage demonstrations and marches, characteristic of the first decade of the twentieth century, declined with the upheaval of the Great War. Women, such as Albertan Nellie McClung, who were leaders in the fight for the franchise, became leaders in women's relief and voluntary organizations. As more men left for the battlefields, women successfully stepped into the breech in all manner of employment. It wasn't long before the disparity between women's obligations and rights became apparent.
At the beginning of 1916, Manitoba led the way with the enfranchisement of women in Canada, followed next by Saskatchewan and then Alberta and British Columbia. This was a limited victory for Western Canadian women, however, for the enfranchisement applied only to provincial elections. The Western Canadian example was not enthusiastically adopted in other provinces. Provincial suffrage for women extended across Canada at a slow pace with many provinces not passing enfranchisement legislation until after the Great War. The last province to adopt legislation for provincial women's suffrage was Quebec in 1940.
The franchise for women in federal elections was achieved, on the other hand, by the end of the Great War. The first step in legislating the federal franchise to women was reached in September 1917, when the Military Voters Act and the War-time Elections Act were given Royal Assent. The Military Voters Act, gave women on active military service, such as Nursing Sisters, the right to vote in federal elections. The War-time Elections Act, further extended the federal franchise to all women who were British subjects, over the age of 21 who were the, "wife, widow, mother, sister or daughter of any persons, male or female, living or dead" who was serving, or had served with the military forces. While the legislation gave the vote to more women in Canada than ever before, some believed that the Unionist government of Robert Borden only expanded the franchise so that new potential Unionist voters could be gained. On January 1, 1919, the franchise was further expanded to all non-Native Canadian women being British subjects and 21 years of age.
Library and Archives Canada, RG 9, series III, vol. 5081
Directions for the Guidance of Voters
Information leaflets, like this one, were distributed amongst Canadian military personnel to inform them of the changes brought into effect by the passing of the Military Voters Act of 1917. Arguably, one of the greatest changes implemented by this act was the expansion of the franchise to Women and Native Canadians serving with the military.
Library and Archives Canada. MG 26 H, vol. 141, reel C-4358, p. 74766
Enfranchised Women, Vote Union Save Canada!
It has been argued that the expansion of the franchise to Canadian women during the First World War had more to do with gaining new Unionist voters than true electoral equality. Indeed, the same legislation that granted the vote to Canadian women removed the franchise from thousands of "alien" Canadians of Austro-Hungarian and German origin. This Unionist poster, found in the Sir Robert Borden fonds, informs Canadian women on their newly acquired rights while proclaiming which party is for the "Boys at the Front."
Library and Archives Canada, NMC-28559
Dominion Electoral Districts -- Saskatchewan 1919
In 1916, Saskatchewan became the second Canadian province to pass legislation enfranchising women for provincial elections. One year later, the franchise was extended to Canadian women in military service, or who had relative who was serving, or had served in the Canadian military forces. In 1919, the year of this federal electoral district map, the vote was extended to all non-Native women 21 years of age, or older.
A Temporary Wartime Measure? Income Tax
The First World War placed an unprecedented drain upon the financial resources of the Dominion of Canada. To better utilize Canada's finite resources, every aspect of supply was regulated by the Dominion Government. Rationing was introduced for everyday items from building materials to gasoline, to food. The government, limited in the ways that new revenue could by gained, also issued wartime savings bonds, raised import tariffs and levied new wartime taxes.
A luxury tax on tobacco and alcohol was the first of many taxes to be introduced during the Great War. By 1915, a Dominion tax had also been imposed on transport tickets, telegrams, money orders, cheques and patent medicines. Even staple items, such as tea and coffee, were taxed by the end of the War. After initial goods and services taxes were introduced, the Dominion Government moved to tax the incomes of businesses. The Business Profits War Tax Act of 1916 required all Canadian corporations having $50,000, or more, in capital to file a yearly tax return.
Personal income tax, introduced under the Income War Tax Act of 1917, was conceived -- like the other wartime taxes -- as a temporary measure. This act both expanded the scope of the Business Profits War Tax and introduced a tax based on yearly income to most Canadians. Those individuals who were exempt from the tax included the Governor General, foreign consuls, and those who were on active service overseas.
Married Canadians with an income below $2,000, or unmarried Canadians with an income below $1,000 were also exempt from filing a tax return. Under the Income War Tax Act, eligible tax payers that did not submit a tax return were fined $100 per day with a maximum penalty of $10,000. This was an incredible fine considering, for example, that an annual married income of $3,000 was only expected to pay $20 in income tax!
Not Enough Hours in a Day: Daylight Savings Time
"Spring Forward" and "Fall Back" are two phrases that almost all Canadians from school-age are familiar with today. While there are some who take issue with this bi-annual ritual, for most Canadians the extra summer daylight is worth the minor inconvenience of the changing clock either ahead, or back one hour. Over eighty years ago, however, the federal legislation introduction of Daylight Savings Time created a temporal tempest across the nation.
The addition of an hour to extend daylight during the summer months was not a new idea to Canadians. In the decade leading up to the War and in the early years of the conflict, various Canadian provinces experimented with Daylight Savings Time. Generally, urban Canadians who were employed in factories and offices enjoyed the idea of having an extra hour of daylight for chores or relaxation. On the other hand, rural Canadians felt that the change disrupted their daily routine impacting negatively on the habits of both farm workers and their livestock. Executives of railway companies, who were advocates of the well-regulated efficiency of Standard Time, also were not too enthusiastic over changing the clock twice a year.
The Act to Provide for the Time in Canada Being in Advance of the Accepted Standard Time During the Summer Months, passed in the spring of 1918, was an attempt to standardize the piecemeal adoption of Daylight Savings across the country. The act affected all provinces, Dominion Government offices and Dominion parliamentary proceedings. Furthermore, the act gave the Board of Railway Commissioners the power to implement an advance of one hour to the Standard Time for the nation's private and government railways. Many fascinating letters condoning and criticizing the Dominion Government's legislation exist in the holdings of Library and Archives Canada providing an aperçu of the eclectic pursuits and concerns of Canadians during the Great War.
Library and Archives Canada, PA-179922. This image is used with special thanks to the Archivist of the Senate.
Parliament Buildings - Senate Chamber Clock
The Act to Provide for the Time in Canada Being in Advance of the Accepted Standard Time During the Summer Months passed in the spring of 1918, ensured that all offices and services of the Dominion government operated under Daylight Savings Time. This ornate clock, which still stands over the Senate chamber entrance, reflects the artistry of the carvings that adorn the Upper House. Many symbols relevant to Canada have been incorporated into the clock and its surroundings, including the maple leaf, the English rose, the French fleur-de-lis and the King’s crown which rests atop of the clock’s face.
Library and Archives Canada. RG 17, vol. 1285, file 255611
Letter from Mrs. C.W. Pocock to Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister, 12 April 1918
This letter highlights the popularity that Daylight Savings Time had in the cities and towns of the Dominion. Before the 1918 Dominion legislation, the addition of one hour to Standard Time had been at the discretion of the provinces and their respective municipalities causing much confusion amongst the public.
Library and Archives Canada, RG 17, vol. 1285, file 255611. Published with the permission of Keystone Agricultural Producers
Resolution from the Manitoba Grain Growers Association to the Department of Agriculture, 3 May 1919
Rural Canada, on the whole, was not as fond of Daylight Savings Time as Canada’s more urban areas. The addition of an extra hour in the summer months disrupted the highly-structured farming routine in many different ways. This resolution passed by the vocal and politically progressive Manitoba Grain Growers Association tells of the hardships faced by school children adapting to the extra hour of daylight.
What's In a Name? Berlin to Kitchener
Those who live in, or have the chance to visit, Kitchener, Ontario will be very familiar with the area's rich German culture and heritage. The original settlers of the region were of an agrarian, pacificist Mennonite background. By the eve of the First World War, Berlin, Ontario -- dubbed "the German Capital of Canada" -- boasted myriad German-language societies, German language instruction in schools, and a German-language newspaper. As the Great War continued, the loyalty of German-Canadians became more and more suspect. In August 1914, the bronze bust of Kaiser Wilhelm, proudly displayed in Victoria Park, was removed and thrown into the lake. Open mistrust of enemy aliens in the city led to the suspension of German-language instruction in schools.
In 1916, the Berlin Board of Trade made a suggestion that polarized the citizens of the city. The Board of Trade argued that the name Berlin hurt business and gave the impression that its citizens were sympathizers of the enemy cause in Europe. It was suggested that the act of changing the name of the city would be a tangible symbol of its citizens' patriotism and would boost the city's profile across the Dominion. Many Berliners supported maintaining the name of the city, as it reflected a proud tradition of growth and prosperity for German, and non-German, Canadians alike. Those citizens who supported the status quo were immediately perceived, by those who wanted change, as being unpatriotic and sympathizers with the enemy. Violence, riots and intimidation, often instigated by imperialistic members of the 118th Battalion, were not uncommon in the months leading up to the May 1916 referendum on the issue.
A majority of Berliners did chose to opt for a new name and by early summer the search for a new city moniker was on. A special committee was set-up by the city council with the express purpose to suggest possible names. On September 1, 1916, the name of Kitchener was officially adopted after the late Lord Kitchener.
Horatio Kitchener was appointed Secretary for War by the British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, at the beginning of the Great War. His image, beckoning recruits with an outward stare and finger pointed, was immortalized on Alfred Leete's dramatic poster "Britons Want You!" Kitchener had drowned earlier in 1916, when the ship he was travelling on hit a mine near the Orkney Islands. It would be next to impossible for citizens of the new Kitchener to be considered unpatriotic.
Nonetheless, some Canadians did not readily adopt the new name for Berlin. The Post Office had to issue memoranda, reminding correspondents that there was no city in Ontario named Berlin. The issue was so contentious that several Canadian municipalities petitioned the Dominion Government to force those who did not comply to use the name Kitchener. Although ludicrous to modern eyes, the whole issue of a name for Berlin highlights the effects that fear, hatred and nationalism can have upon a society in the face of war.
Library and Archives Canada, MG 30 C 54
Are you in Favor of Changing the Name of This City? No!!
This advertisement, originally found in the Berlin Record, was placed by citizens opposed to changing the name of Berlin. Arguments against the name of Berlin, such as it was bad for business and unpatriotic are refuted in this advertisement. Despite vocal opposition, the majority of Berliners voted in favour of a change of name for the city in May 1916.
Library and Archives Canada. MG 30 C 54
List of Suggestions of Names
This list of names offers us insight into the mentality of the era and of the special committee appointed by the city council of Berlin to find a new name for the municipality. Many names are patriotic such as "King George" and "Prince Edward." Other names reflect a desire to break from tradition with creations such as "Ontacan." Still other suggestions embrace industry and progress like "Industria," "Hydropolis," or "Hydro City." It is interesting to note that the list of proposed names does not include Kitchener the eventual choice for the city.
Library and Archives Canada, RG 3, series C-2, vol. 640, file "Asking that the name of the Berlin, Ontario Post Office be changed to Kitchener"
Memorandum Regarding Letters Addressed "Berlin"
Even after the highly-publicized changing of the name of Berlin, Ontario to Kitchener, mail continued to be addressed Berlin. In an attempt to end this problem, the Postmaster of Kitchener sent out a memorandum to inform clients of the change. This method was found ineffective and it was suggested that correspondents that continued to address their mail in this fashion were to be warned that their letters would be considered "dead mail" and not delivered.
Library and Archives Canada, RG 3, series C-2, vol. 640, file "Asking that the name of the Berlin, Ontario Post Office be changed to Kitchener"
Petition from Concerned Citizens of Kingston, Ontario to Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister 31 January 1917
The patriotic fervor that led to changing the name of Berlin, Ontario was found throughout the Dominion during the Great War. Even after the changing of the city’s name, some Canadians continued to address the city as Berlin in correspondence. Petitions were sent from various city councils condemning the "alien" sympathizers who continued this "disloyal" practice. The above petition is from the City Council of Kingston, Ontario representing its vociferously loyal citizens.