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Edith Jessie Archibald (1854–1936) was a Canadian suffragist and writer who led the Maritime Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the National Council of Women of Canada and the Local Council of Women of Halifax. She was designated a Person of National Historic Significance by the Government of Canada in 1997.
Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1854, Edith Archibald belonged to a very prominent family with a history of public service. She received some of her early education in London and New York, where her father, Sir Edward Mortimer Archibald, was British Consul General. At the age of twenty, she married her second cousin Charles Archibald, a mining engineer posted to Cow Bay and then Halifax - where he became vice-president of the Bank of Nova Scotia. Living in Cow Bay with the help of servants and boarding school, Edith raised four children. As a woman of means with relatively few housekeeping and childcare duties she had ample free time and used it to carry out social activism.
Woman's Christian Temperance Union
Archibald became involved with the WCT in the 1880s and was Maritime Superintendent of the Parlour Meetings Department, which encouraged social events in members' homes as a method of organizing temperance activities and educating women. Enthusiastic about the benefits of parlour meetings, she surveyed the 54 local unions to find their assessment of the meetings, published a circular letter in the official national paper of the WCTU, and also printed it as a leaflet. Archibald realized that local action was necessary to achieve the national goals of the organization. She even led members on raids of three illicit saloons in Cow Bay.
Local Women's Council
She was a leader in the National Council of Women of Canada and the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). She was president of the Local Council of Women of Halifax from 1896 to 1906 and president of the Halifax VON from 1897 to 1901. Archibald battled for decades for women's right to vote and led a 1917 delegation of women to convince the Nova Scotia Premier George Henry Murray not to block the suffrage bill; the legislature finally granted this right in 1918.
She also found time in her later life to write poetry, short stories and articles and was the author two books. Her first, published in 1924, was a biography of her father titled Life and Letters of Sir Edward Mortimer Archibald, K.C.M.G., C.B.. The second, The Token, was a novel published in 1930. The story takes place after the American Civil War and concerns the exploits of one Angus McRory. In a review of the book, the London Morning Post declared it to be a work of a promising young writer, unaware that the author was in her seventies at the time.
- Joanne E. Veer, “Feminist Forebears: The Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Canada's Maritime Provinces, 1875-1900” (PhD thesis, University of New Brunswick, 1994), 5.
- Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-1900 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981)
- Ernest R. Forbes, “Battles in Another War: Edith Archibald and the Halifax Feminist Movement” in Challenging the Regional Stereotype: Essays on the 20th Century Maritimes (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1989)
- Ernest R. Forbes. Prohibition and the Social Gospel in Nova Scotia. 1971.
- Janet Guildford. "Edith Jessie Archibald: Ardent Feminist and Conservative Reformer" Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, 2008.
- The Canadian Encycopedia
- Parks Canada
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