Pleasant Voices

by Teresa Veltman

Based on Portrait 2 & book title: Talks with Young Men

Toronto, November 5,1915.

The Toronto World Newspaper: Talks with Young Men
An interview series for gentlemen by gentlemen.

Mr. Bill Maclean, senior correspondent, interviewed Mr. Edward Campbell, aged 24, recent graduate of Osgoode Hall, School of Law.

Mr. Maclean: Mr. Campbell, you grew up in King township. There are rumblings of a women’s suffragist movement there. What are your thoughts on allowing women to vote in federal elections?

Mr. Campbell: Well, I believe that when women and men cross into each other’s spheres, there is a degradation of the moral fibre of our society. Men are naturally more logical; therefore, it stands to reason that men are the ones to delve into politics. Women are responsible for raising children and keeping the home a pleasant place.

Rose put down the newspaper and scoffed aloud, “…moral fibre … pleasant place.” She kicked her black, laced-up oxfords onto the table and crossed one over the other. She leaned back on her wooden chair, patted the pocket of her dress to find her pipe. She lit the tobacco and puffed thoughtfully.

“Talks with young men.” Rose repeated out loud, the words smoldering in the air like the smoke from her pipe.

Edward Campbell, only twenty-four years old, was asked his esteemed opinion about the state of the country. Talk about allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. Boys of twenty-four were granted the right to vote. Not so, the women and men from the reservations, the original inhabitants, who endured government agents prying their young children from their arms to live in schools far away. Not so, the mothers who waved at trains carrying their sons to the sea to board ships bound for a war on a different continent.

Rose exhaled slowly. She did not like to recall her last encounter with Edward Campbell. On that night, her mother had a high fever that Rose was unable to reduce with damp towels and a tincture. Leaving her sister in charge, Rose donned her scarf to fetch Dr. Anderson. In her haste to go directly to the doctor’s house, she did not take her usual precaution to avoid Hogan’s Hotel after dark. A lone figure stumbled out of the saloon.

“Where you goin’ in such a hurry?” slurred the young man. Rose recognized him as Edward, a boy she had known from her days at Kinghorn schoolhouse. Rose’s heartbeat increased rapidly. She kept her head down, changing course to make a wide arc around the intoxicated man.

“Hey, hey,” Edward chuckled, almost tripping as he lumbered towards her. “Not so fast, darlin.” He reached out to grab her arm but got a handful of scarf instead. When she tried to dodge him, he dove clumsily, clutching her legs, pulling her to the ground along with himself. He was laughing while holding her shins, face dangerously close to her feet. She seized the opportunity to kick with all her might. Her boot contacted teeth. He jerked his head back, mouth bloody.

“You bitch,” his fury on full display now. He shimmied up her body until he was sitting on her stomach, legs straddling her hips, rendering her immobile by pinning her hands beside her head. For a brief second that seemed to last an eternity, Rose considered all the women who had succumbed to a similar fate. This ancient knowing infused her with a strength that came with ferocity and power, enabling her to buck her hips with sufficient force to dislodge the drunk man. She scrambled to her feet and carried on her way to Dr. Anderson’s, fetching the doctor in time to save her mother’s life. Rose never told anyone about the attack. Edward moved to Toronto shortly after that.

The memory caused Rose to sigh deeply. She resumed puffing on her pipe when her thoughts were interrupted.

“Rosie!” a voice sang outside her door followed by a rhythmic tap on the door- one long, three short, one long. Their signal since they were children. Rose was amused and grateful for the distraction. She leapt up to greet her friend.

“Elsie Wilson, what are you doing at my house at this hour?” Rose quipped as she opened the door wide, pipe still in hand.

“Shouldn’t women be at home tending to their husband’s needs at this time of night?” she teased.

“Well, I would be doing just that if I didn’t have a friend wanting to challenge the government of Canada!” Elsie replied, beaming at Rose. They embraced as Elsie entered the house. Rose pulled out a chair for Elsie then set the kettle on for tea.

Since Nellie McClung, prominent women’s suffragist, had come to Toronto, Rose and Elsie had been planning a women’s suffrage meeting of their own in King Township. As they sat down, Rose brushed off the dirt on the table left by her shoes. “Never mind that,” said Elsie. “We have work to do.” They talked for hours as they planned how they would promote women’s suffrage in King Township.

The following month was filled with talking to as many women as they could, posting flyers, and securing speakers for each meeting. They were ecstatic to learn that Mrs. Nellie McCLung, the famous Canadian woman’s suffragist, agreed to speak at their first meeting.

As the day of the meeting approached, they learned of grumblings in town.

In response, Rose strode into the saloon of Hogan’s Hotel at noon, hoping at least half the men would be sober. She brazenly posted the flyer for the suffrage meeting. In their flabbergasted state, all the men ceased their banter. A few of them stood up from their billiard tables, leaned on their cues and regarded her, mouths agape. Rose, chin held high, spine straight, promenaded out the door in the silence.

Once she left, the men emerged from their shock and started murmuring, “The nerve!”

“The audacity!”

“Never gonna happen!”

Only one man did not participate in the backlash. He smoked contemplatively as he watched Rose Vos cross the street.

On the evening of the meeting, Rose, Elsie, and Elsie’s husband, Richard, were finalizing preparations at the community hall. Mrs. McCLung was to arrive in an hour. Suddenly, there was a loud commotion outside. They looked at each other, eyes wide, then rushed out to the street. Three men, who Rose recognized from the saloon, were preventing people from entering the meeting.

“No women are going to have a say about what I can and can’t do,” hollered the shortest of the three. Rose knew him as Ben, the son of the owner of the saloon. The other two crossed their arms with a wide-legged stance, creating a barrier.

Elsie volunteered, “I’ll get the constabulary.” Rose nodded in agreement while Richard stood his ground, matching the posture of the three men. The air was thick with tension. The hairs on the back of Rose’s neck stood up, but she had to stay calm.

“We won’t be having any of this, Ben. We have a right to meet, “ Rose stated loudly enough for Ben and the small crowd of mostly women to hear.

One man stepped out from the crowd.

“She’s right, Ben.” Rose looked in the direction of the voice. It sounded like Edward Campbell.

“They have a right to gather as people in the Dominion of Canada. It’s the law. If you don’t move out of the way you are liable to arrest for public disturbance.” It really was Edward Campbell. Both Rose and Ben were dumbfounded for different reasons.

Elsie came rushing down the road with two constables in her wake. The three antagonistic men looked from Rose to Edward to the police on their way. They weighed their options and left.

With the way cleared, the crowd proceeded to enter the community hall to hear Mrs. Nellie McClung speak about the importance of women getting the right to vote in Canada.

In 1918, white women were granted the right to vote if they met the same criteria as men. Non-white women and men had to wait longer. Asian Canadians were banned from voting until 1948. Finally in 1960, First Nations people were granted the right to vote without having to give up their treaty rights.


Elections Canada. A Brief History of Federal Voting Rights, retrieved May 25, 2023 from McClung, Nellie L, (1873-1951), retrieved May 25, 2023 from

King Township Historical Society. A Brief History of King Township, retrieved May 25, 2023 from

Virtual Museum. Community Stories: Kinghorn School Days, retrieved May 25,2023 from x=00000602