I created a small handbag to illustrate the time before the handbag was seen as a functional object. Before the early 1900s, the handbag was merely an accessory. Women only needed to carry limited objects, such as lipstick or a compact mirror. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the handbag was seen as more than just an accessory to an outfit. When women became vital to the workforce, the handbag transformed into a functional object that was much larger than the accessory-type handbags of previous years. I have illustrated this with a very small handbag that is quite difficult to fit anything into.
The outside of this small handbag is a lacy fabric created by machine embroidery. It is delicate and fragile, which is how women were viewed for most of history. The inside of the bag has images of some very important Canadian female figures that broke through this stereotype.
I found images online of these women and altered it slightly in Photoshop to give them a vintage feeling.
Nellie McClung was crucial to the women’s suffrage campaign in Western Canada. She helped women in Manitoba win the provincial vote in 1916, which was the first province to achieve it.
Thérèse Casgrain was the first female leader of a political party in Quebec. She lead the twelve-year fight for women to gain the provincial vote, which was finally granted in 1940.
Agnes MacPhail was the first woman to enter the Canadian Parliament in 1921. She remained its only female member for seventeen years.
Emily Murphy successfully lobbied the attorney general of Alberta in 1916 for a women’s court to be established and she was appointed as police magistrate, the first woman to be given the honour.
Emily Stowe is the pioneer of women’s rights and suffrage in Canada. She founded the Toronto Women’s Literary Club in 1876, which was the birth of the women’s movement in Canada.