Escheat is a term that as its roots from feudal England. In feudal England, escheat was a privilege exclusively given to the king. Escheat is described as; the policy of inheritance to preserve the wealth of noble families by permitting one individual to inherit an entire estate. There was no writing of wills that would leave property to several heirs because that would have the effect of breaking up the estate. If there was no living person of a designated class to inherit, the king took the property by escheat. In the 1830s a form of escheat was taking place at Prince Edward Island. In this grassroots movement, rural tenants challenged landlord claims to large parts of the colony.[1](Gleason & Perry 2006) After acquiring Prince Edward Island (Ile St. Jean) from the French, Britain made large grants to the colony that were conditional on bringing in settlers and paying quit rents to the Crown. The legitimacy of property claims based on these grants soon came into question as grantees failed to fulfill the conditions to which they had agreed.  At the same time, settlers began to assert alternative property claims to Island lands based on their work on the lands that they occupied.  The tension between these rival property claims and struggles between rival claimants was central to the history of Prince Edward Island. By the late 1830s, supporters of the movement achieved control of the Island House of Assembly. From a study of this subject-I have come to realize that the women of Prince Edward Island played a significant role in this movement. 

          Women also played a significant role in political structure in other parts of the dominion. In Lower Canada, the author Bettina Bradbury establishes a Whig view of women’s political history–which is the idea of a gradual but steady improvement in women’s history.[2](Gleason & Perry 2006)  Bradbury shows us that they were women who cared about politics, many of them hails from families where politics ran in the blood.[3](Gleason & Perry 2006)  This paper compares the arguments made by the authors Rusty Bitterman and Bettina Bradbury. Our conclusion will give evidence to the elite woman playing a more important role in the evolution of women’s political factions.  

           In the article titled “Women and the Escheat Movement: The Politics of Everyday Life on Prince Edward Island.” The author Bitterman implicates that the tenants were fighting a form of “Old World” feudal land grants.  The writer of this journal believes that a hierarchal order was established on Prince Edward Island. Historian will tell you that the general population of this Island hated the British system. These families whether they were French, Irish or lower caste English-they had come to the New World for a better way of life. Bitterman believes that it was a natural occurrence for the settlers male and female to unite both sexes in their resistance to authority, whether male, as is the case with the law officers mentioned here, or female as was the landlord, Flora Townshend.[4](Gleason & Perry 2006)  Furthermore, the author hints that the original settlers to this island were relatively poor. They had come to the New World to get away from Whig Oligarchy-this oligarchy where the ruling powers belongs to a few persons. These descendants of the third estates were of lower class English, Irish and Scottish descent. These people had suffered through centuries of elite rule in Europe. There forefathers had encountered enclosure which was peasant eviction from the lands for a much lucrative business-such as sheep run.[5](Smith 2001) The writer Bitterman states that the escheat movement had special relevance for women, particularly since it had a direct impact on their ability to care for their families.[6](Gleason & Perry 2006)  It is thus not a common occurrence to find women taking part in rural politics. These women believe that they were fighting for their human rights against a common enemy. This enemy was the English crown-they believed that the crown was once again infringing on their rights to own land and property.

       It was not only enclosure that united the sexes to fight in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The Island was a population of French, Scottish and Irish working class peoples. These groups of people fought for freedom in the English rebellion of 1649 and the French revolution of 1789. Moreover, the Irish had faced enclosure and the plantation system engineered by the Tudors beginning in the fifteenth century. It was human nature to fight the oppressor-which in this case was a British colonial government that was across the Atlantic Ocean.

        In the article titled, Women at the Hustings: Gender, Citizenship, and the Montreal By-Elections of 1832. The author Bettina Bradbury gives a different view of the politic situation and the absorption of women in politics.  Bradbury believes the history of women in politics is merely a Whig view of history. Bettina Bradbury believes that the women’s political movement evolved in other parts of the dominion.  From here journals you get the indication that the liberated woman in the Victorian era was a woman of elite status or financial wealth. In Bradbury’s article she states that in Lower Canada women could vote if they owned or rented property of the required value in their own name.[7](Gleason & Perry 2006) She also states that 14% of the women in Lower Canada exercised their right to do so.  Bradbury admits that they were likely to have votes contested and disqualified but many were successful.  The writer Bradbury believes that this was a privilege inherited from a woman’s high birthright.

          The right to vote and to take part in protest is one thing-but the question of equality between the sexes in 1830s British North America is an important issue. Bought of the writers agree that women were in some degree equal to men. Moreover, this equality had an intricate caste system that was supported by the church and to some degree the strongest political factions. On page 79 of our text Bradbury states that Quebec was secure with women intellectual equality with men. In this article the writer states that to vote was not a natural right of either men or women, but was based on their qualifications.[8](Gleason & Perry 2006) A petition was reproduced approvingly in an article in La Minerve, which argued that widows with the proper qualifications were in all ways equal to men[9](Gleason & Perry 2006)  What is important to remember is that this freedom was not given to the poor woman in lower Canada. Furthermore, in the article written by Rusty Bitterman, she believes that the escheat movement is more a rebellion than a political committee. The actions of the men and women of Prince Edward Island, level on brutality. A prime example of this is the maiming of the horses.[10](Gleason & Perry 2006)  The women of the communities of Prince Edward Island would retaliate by maiming and killing animals in a dispute. I believe that bought authors would agree that in Prince Edward Island it was not the ambitions of the few elitist women to tackle the political scene. Furthermore, the practices of the settlers although organized in nature-these gatherings are very much opposite from the political polls of Upper and Lower Canada. Thus the position of the upper class woman in Prince Edward Island, is secondary to her husband but above the working class farmer. In Lower Canada the order is reversed-it is the lower class woman because of her economic situation who is given no political freedom by her husband and the system. Therefore the writers agree on women’s freedom to vote and take part in political movements is related to manpower and the situation.

          Going back in time to the British rebellion of 1649-women played an intricate part in that they hide enemies of the absolutist monarch and they also did their part delivering pamphlets and funding various campaigns. When the enemy was defeated woman once again played a second fiddle. This was the case in Lower Canada and Prince Edward Island. In Prince Edward Island it was the Catholic Church who urged laborers and farmers to subordinate the woman. The church believed that the woman realm was in the home.

       A similar subordination occurred in Lower Canada-where the governing delegates would highlight the votes of women. The genius behind this subordination was Louis-Joseph Papineau. {Papineau} was the leader of the {Parti Patriote} 1827-37.  Papineau believed that too many women were voting for the opponent, who at times was willing to concede the right of the elite woman for their financial funding, In exchange for ethical treatment and equality of the sexes-the elite woman provided financial support and any form of aid to whichever parties would support the woman’s cause.

          This article raises a very important question on page 85.  Why did woman’s vote become so visible in 1832? Moreover, in 1834 Papineau’s political party attempted to remove women’s right to vote in 1834. In 1849, when the new bill to remove women’s right to vote passed so quietly, the political and cultural context had changed. In the wake of the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 the Catholic Church gained a new hegemony over institutions and Catholic citizens.[11]   The authors Bitterman and Bradbury bought agree that in the region of Prince Edward Island and Lower Canada. The church was instrumental in the subordination of women. The period of 1830s shows a promotion or nationalism for these women to have many babies and to take part in projects as nursing, teaching and homemaking. This is the common answer to the subordination of women.

        In conclusion the writers agree on some views they also disagree on ideology based on heritage.  Bettina Bradbury is a scholarly woman with a degree PHD from Concordia. She is a member of the exclusive Montreal Historical society which is founded at Mc. Gill University. Dr. Bradbury is now a professor at York University. She is chairperson for the women’s study department at York. Dr. Bradbury teaching evolves along the line of higher education for women and a hierarchal society. She clearly believes that in women’s study it is the educated and the elitist woman who should be given credit for the success of the women’s movement in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

       On the contrary Rusty Bitterman is an artist, writer and scholar of sorts from the East coast. Rusty writes about native peoples and the struggles of the liberal faction in the East coast. This is clearly the opposite view to Bettina Bradbury. Finally I would have enjoyed Rusty Bitterman article much more if she would have researched the plight of black women and native women in this period. The article titled, ‘Women at the Hustings: gender, Citizenship, and the Montreal By-Elections of 1832.  This article gave some perception of native women taking in leadership roles within their respective communities.

     The article’s gives you a clear understanding of the economical and political situations of these regions. It is ironic that these areas still are characterized elite commercial and underdeveloped rural.      

              Courtney Duncan

[1] In the 1830s a form of escheat was taking place at Prince Edward Island. In this grassroots movement, rural tenants challenged landlord claims to large parts of the colony

[2]The idea of a gradual but steady improvement in women’s history.[2]

[3] Bradbury shows us that they were women who cared about politics, many of them hailing from families where politics ran in the blood

[4] The author indirectly hints at a hierarchal order established on Prince Edward Island.  Moreover, we learn from Bitterman, following in the tradition of Europe and Great Britain’s laboring poor in defending themselves and their families against the claims of the powerful.[4]

 

[5] There forefathers had encountered had encountered enclosure which was peasant eviction from the lands for a much lucrative business-such as sheep run. [5]

[6] The writer Bitterman states that this movement had special relevance for women, particularly since it had a direct impact on their ability to care for their families.[6]

[7] She states that Lower Canada women could vote if they owned or rented property of the required value in their own name.[7]           

 

[8] Quebec was secure with women intellectual equality with men. It argued that to vote was not a natural right of either men or women, but was based on their qualifications

[9] The petition was reproduced approvingly in an article in La Minerve, which argued that widows with the proper qualifications were in all ways equal to men[9]         

 

[10] A prime example of this is the maiming of the horses.[10] 

 

[11] Why did woman’s vote become so visible in 1832? Moreover, in 1834 Papineau’s political party attempted to remove women’s right to vote in 1834. In 1849, when the new bill to remove women’s right to vote passed so quietly, the political and cultural context had changed. In the wake of the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 the Catholic Church gained a new hegemony over institutions and Catholic citizens.[11]    

 


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