Mrs. McClung’s Address at Walker Theatre / Nellie’s Jig

© Maria Dunn, 2003 / © Shannon Johnson, 2004
Arranged M. Dunn, S. Johnson, Y. Falquet, S. McDade / S. Johnson, Y. Falquet, S. McDade

On January 28, 1914, the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg, Manitoba was packed to the rafters for a fundraiser to help in the suffragists' struggle to gain the vote for women in Canada. The mock parliament, in which women held the seats and men were coming to ask for the vote, gave Nellie McClung and her colleagues of the Political Equality League an opportunity to turn the tables on all of the condescending arguments they had heard against women's suffrage. Having read about Nellie Letitia Mooney McClung's wit and her Irish and Scottish heritage, I found her parody of Manitoba's Premier Roblin an irresistible excuse for a wee bit of word play. Thanks for the irrepressible jig to match, Shannon!

Kind people, I seek your invaluable time
Sit closely and mostly attend to my rhyme
I have a proposal, suppose it were true
It may cause a kerfuffle and ruffle a few
I have a proposal, suppose it would float
That it's men who depended on us for the vote

Let us say, let us play that in 1914
With inventions like engines and flying machines
A chance for advancement men finally see
To be swimmin' with women in politics' stream
Now ladies, be gracious and let's hear their plea
They appeal that the deal should be equality

So enter then gentlemen, welcome in all
To natter this matter in parliament's hall
I'm impressed that you've dressed in suits so fine
A smatter of chatter we'll hear on this line
And your wives, I surmise, don't mind that you're here
They must suffer your suffrage, like roughage, with cheer

Were all men in general as handsome and clever
I doubt that your clout would be questioned, however
I'm sure you'll concur as they're generally not
Well, the votes would be mostly just wasted or bought
This folly of politics only corrupts
Your wives' good lives it enough interrupts

No, you fellas so zealous, good looking and smart
Should resign your designs to the realm of the heart
Anyway, it's a fallacy ballots mean much
It's the yard and the car need a gentleman's touch
Keep in mind while you're struggling shoveling snow
We just govern by shoveling that other you know (!)

And men go ballistic, statistics have shown
They're too proud when allowed to vote on their own
They lurch out of church and end up in the jails
Unsettled, unfettered and riding the rails
Now, need I say more, I adore my own father
Why wish him more hurry, more worry and bother?

Clearly God has thought voting beneath a man's worth
Otherwise She'd devise that men also give birth!

***

Maria Dunn lead vocal, accordion Shannon Johnson violin
Jeremiah McDade whistle Yann Falquet guitar Solon McDade upright bass