Tag Archives: Women’s-Rights

I am Woman — Hear Me Roar? Linda Knight Seccaspina


Robert McDonaldRobert McDonald Photography–From the Mississippi Mudds – Aladdin Jr production on February 18, 2017–Phototaken on the mezzanine of the town hall.

I am Woman — Hear Me Roar? Linda Knight Seccaspina

In 1911 Sir Wilfrid Laurier came to speak in the grand hall of the small hamlet of Carleton Place situated in Lanark County, Ontario. This was an important event for those voting in Carleton Place and the local women worked for days preparing the hall and the luncheon. Some women wondered if they could also hear the words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and were soon told that they would be allowed to sit on the upper floor as long as they remained quiet.

For women today this notion seems incredible, but you have to remember that in 1911 artist Emily Carr abandoned her love of painting in British Columbia because Canadian critics and buyers were not ready for her work. A woman could not use the term ‘martial abuse’ in 1911 and would be condemned to life imprisonment for any harm done to her husband, even if she was not at fault.

In 1974 iconic Ottawa Valley writer Mary Cook wrote that there was one area in which Lanark County was completely backward and that was in electing or appointment of women to municipal or community office. Have times changed since 1974 when Mary wrote that article in the Ottawa Citizen?  I was curious, and when the North Lanark Age Friendly group asked me to write an article about the subject I had an inkling of the answer I was going to get.

I asked a few female politicians if they felt they were treated less by men and all of them answered yes. Yet, no one really wanted to give me their names for exactly the same reason Mary Cook received in 1974. Anyone she queried asked her that they remain anonymous so it would not jeopardize their chances of ever becoming appointed to a committee or being elected to public office.

The documented fact is that women are still underrepresented in politics. When I ran for office as a councillor a few years ago; I was asked by some if I should not consider my age or my health. Honestly, I would rather drop dead representing my community than sit on a chair and watch reruns of The Crown. The fact that I am in my senior years doesn’t make me any less effective, nor am I too delicate to lead. Once baby boomers, we are now aging in a society that celebrates beauty and youthfulness and our opinions sometimes become invisible.

In the early 1960s I was passionate, not by politics, but by the incredible social change led by the youth movement.  I told my father that anyone over the age of 30 should be sent out to farms. I really drank the Kool Aid blaming the older generation for the VietNam war and the condition the world was in. In 1981, I turned 30 and the first thing my father asked me was: “When are you leaving for the farm?”

By then I realized that being a woman in the current world was going to be more difficult. Trying to get a job and being discriminated against for wearing avant garde fashion and my strong opinions were my worries now. In my grandmother’s case in 1981, they were still being treated like 1911 and had to listen to a speech by the Bishop from the confines of the church kitchen after organizing complete events.

We as women, and as senior women, are still invisible to some and when we stand up for something we are not acting “like your mother” or having “a hot flash”. After speaking with these women in politics this week I realize we still have issues with female authority, and women are still the most underused resource. While it is no longer the mentality of 1911 I understood these women’s concerned comments of continuing gender bias despite their great performances.

In 1974 one civic minded female from Carleton Place summed up the situation this way to writer Mary Cook. “Women have a lot to offer, but for some reason men are terribly afraid they might lose some of their prestige if they open their doors to women in public office”. Why do women still have more to prove than men when it comes to politics and other issues?

It doesn’t matter where you live–women belong in all places where decisions are being made. As Shirley Chisolm once said: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own folding chair”.

Lady Aberdeen and Lady Taylor
Lady Aberdeen (at right), first president and founder of the National Council of Women of Canada with Lady Taylor (at left), her successor as president, Ottawa, Ontario.
(Mrs. John H. Acheson. Library and Archives Canada, PA-057319)

How many women have been in Carleton Place government? Only 7 since 1901 when Dr. Preston became the first mayor (before that there were reeves)

Linda Seccaspina

Theresa Fritz

Wendy LeBlanc (mayor)

Linda Schmidt

Melba Baker (mayor)

Barbara Walsh

Trudie Dickie

It’s Hard for Women to get into Office in Carleton Place — 1974 –Mary Cook

Till Death Do Us Part in Lanark County?

Till Death Do Us Part in Lanark County?


(stock photo of a “happy” wedding)

On Friday I wrote two stories about local women and their dilemmas coping with life in early Lanark County. When I was reading Glenn Lockwood’s book on Beckwith this weekend he wrote that it was basically religious social control that attempted to shield women from scorn in that early society.

Local women were controlled to such a point that young women such as Dorah Smith from Carleton Place, who arrived in Canada as a orphan had to obtain a guardian to give their consent before she could marry. Home became the centre of virtue and the proper life for women and it was a matter of fact that one must be married by twenty-one, and expected to begin having children immediately. Those that did not marry were regarded as social failures and treated with pity and contempt.

I have published many Perth Courier ads that were in newspapers of engagements gone sour, not only because they found their future partner undesirable, but more so that their future partner might be a little lighter in the purse. This factor might guarantee their quality of life might go down a notch or two, and that might be not advantageous to either party. Seeing passion, lust and love were way down on the food chain one has to wonder how happy some were in marriage.

It was duty first, owning land and happiness later, and children were not exempt in these rules. Disobedient son?  You might want to think once or twice about that as another brother might inherit what was supposed to be coming your way. What you owned became a status symbol, and homes and property remained in the family for generations. It was important until about the mid 1900s that property remain in the family. In fact,  land could not be sold or mortgaged unless it was within the family.

I often thought it was strange that when my Grandfather died he had strong stipulations in his will and my father continued the same tradition. When my Dad died neither my sister or I could only share his estate until she turned 31. Disputes between siblings separated families. Between 1828 and 1851 only a fraction of wills left property to the wife, and wills that left property to their wives would only remain valid as long as they remained unmarried.

Married women were barred from making contracts, appearing as witnesses in court, and initiating lawsuits. A wife’s legal personality was subsumed under her husband’s and all her property automatically became her husband’s. Even if she had her own land, her husband received the income from it as she had no legal rights. Similar to the  court case between  Beckwith residents Selina Drummond and her husband, law mostly removed itself from marital relations.


Bathurst Courier, March, 1838

Notice, my wife Christian McQuarrie having left my bed and board for no just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her as I will pay no debits contracted by her on my account.  Daniel McQuarrie

Bathurst Courier, April 13, 1838

Notice, the subscriber forbids any person harboring or trusting his wife Betsey Markey (?) Mankey (?) Minielly, as she has left his bed and board without any just cause.  W. Minnielly, Elmsley

Bathurst Courier, June 1, 1838


Notice, Elizabeth Youll, my wife, having left my bed and board without any just cause, I prohibit any person from giving her credit in my name as I will not pay any such debt.  James Youll

Notice, Janet Anderson, my wife, having left my bed and board without any just cause, I prohibit any person from giving her credit in my name as I will not pay any such debt.  Joseph Anderson

Bathurst Courier August 9, 1839

Notice, my wife Bridget Connel Kenny having left my bed and board without any just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her on my account as I will pay no debts of her contracting after this date. John Kenny

As my wife Ann Horton McIntyre has left my bed and board for no just cause I hereby forbid any person from harboring her on my account as I will pay no debts contracted by her.  Peter McIntyre

Perth Courier, April 7, 1871

Caution—Whereas my wife, Elizabeth Ann Geary, has left my bed and board without any just cause or provocation, the public will hereby be cautioned against giving her any credit on my account.  George Geary, Bathurst


Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.





Taming of the Beckwith Shrew?

A Smith’s Falls “Frustrated Young Love’s Dream” Purdy vs Lenahan


Going to the Chapel? Hold on– Not so Fast!

Another Episode in Spinsterdom–The Armour Sisters of Perth

She Came Back! A Ghost Divorce Story

Slander You Say in Hopetown? Divorce in Rosetta?

Go Ask Alice – The Saga of a Personal Ad Divorce



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