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FROM THE COLLECTION // The Vancouverite Who Waited a Lifetime for the Right to Vote

Image credit: Won Alexander Cumyow fonds, UBC

FROM THE COLLECTION aims to introduce readers to the inventories of local art galleries, museums and other cultural institutions, not via official exhibition notes but by way of the people that help manage and maintain the collections themselves.

“I love this image because it documents an under-celebrated historical figure at a pivotal moment in Canadian history and a significant milestone in the ongoing journey towards dismantling institutionalised racism.” — Krisztina Laszlo

For this edition From The Collection, we asked Krisztina Laszlo, Archivist at the Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC, to share a little something from the collection that really spoke to her.

AUTHOR / TITLE : Won Alexander Cumyow, age 88, casting his ballot in the 1949 federal election. Photographer unknown.

“Mr. Cumyow was the first Chinese-Canadian person born in what is now Canada, in 1861. He had to wait until age 88, after voting rights were extended to Chinese Canadians in 1947, to be allowed to vote in a federal election despite his decades of community service and work in the legal field. It was the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 and the passage of the Canadian Citizenship Act, both in 1947, which paved the way for Mr. Cumyow to vote in 1949.”

Take a look at more objects in the collection here.

University of British Columbia: Library Special Collections
1956 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

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