1877 plan of northwest Belleville with certain properties highlighted in red.
Printed text reads: "Widows and Old Maids. Who the Mayoralty Candidates Should Canvas. The Effect of the New Act. The extension to women of the franchise for municipal purposes by the Ontario Governement at its last session greatly increases the voters' list in Belleville. Ever since there has been a municipal law in the province section 79 of the Municipal Institutions Act confined the benefits of suffrage to males alone. By the Municpal Amendment Act, passed at last session the words "widows and unmarried women" were inserted before the word "males" in the old act. As all "widows and unmarried women" rated at $400 or over on the assessment roll will be permitted for the first time to vote in the municipal elections next January for the election of Mayor and Aldermen, it will be interesting to know all those who are properly qualified and who will [be] expected to go to the polls and "vote like a man." The following are the names of the women so enfranchised:-"

Voting in municipal elections had been an entirely male affair until the election of 1884, when women were granted the vote for the first time. The franchise was still quite limited: it was only available to widows and unmarried women who owned property worth over $400.

On 1 December 1884, the Daily Ontario newspaper published a list of the names of all the Belleville women who would meet these requirements. The headline was "Widows and Old Maids." In all, 223 women would be added to the voters' list as a result of the change. The city's population at the time was around 9,500, meaning that the new law would grant the vote to just 1 in 20 of the female inhabitants.

The woman with the largest number of city lots at this time was Caroline Wallbridge, who lived from 1825 to 1891. In the 1877 Evans and Bolger map shown here, we have marked the lots owned by Caroline in Coleman and Murney Wards in the northwest part of the city. They were formerly part of the Wallbridge family's estate which was subdivided in 1872. The total value of her Belleville property was in the region of $5,000 in 1884.

In the newspaper's words, this land was more than enough for this particular "old maid" to be able to "vote like a man" in the January 1885 municipal election. It would be another 32 years before any women would be permitted a similar role in Ontario's provincial politics, and 33 years before they could have a say in the results of a federal election.