Today, we learn about this historical period by reading books or watching documentaries. But editorial cartoons can also tell us a lot about history and how people felt during Canada’s formative years. By looking closely at the representations we see in these cartoons, we can also begin to understand whose values are privileged or ignored.
The dawn of the 20th century saw a full-scale transformation of Canadian society. Canadian readers looked to newspapers to keep up with current events and make sense of a changing world. But nothing conveyed the news of the day in a more entertaining way than editorial cartoons.
The Art of Political Satire
Wielding sharp pens and a wild imagination, editorial cartoonists are always at the ready to bring a humourous perspective into the political arena. These images not only made the news entertaining and accessible but also helped shape public opinion.
Friend or Foe?
Today, Canada has strong relations with its American neighbours. But this wasn’t always the case…
In the early 20th century, there was a real fear among Canadians that the U.S. would take over Canada. Politicians used this fear to spark anti-American sentiment amongst the public. Cartoonists were all too happy to provoke these feelings with their illustrations.
At the turn of the 20th century, Canada was but a young nation still determining the kind of country it would be. Meanwhile, provinces and territories were developing their own distinct cultures, values, and traditions. Competing for political power and representation, provinces contributed to the development of new Canadian identities.
The cartoons illustrate the growing questions over Britain’s role, the distinct culture of French Canada, and the newly formed Western provinces.
In the early 1900s, Canadian women did not have the right to vote. Joining advocates in the U.K., U.S., and other parts of the world, women argued for their right to have a say in government. These women were known as suffragettes. Editorial cartoons illustrated the battle for women’s suffrage.
Editorial cartoons not only reflect the perspective of their illustrators, they also embody the values of the newspapers in which they appear. The cartoons here represent a white, Protestant, English perspective.
So editorial cartoons can never tell the full story. By taking a closer look, we can however see the limitations and ignorances of the privileged perspectives.