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The Persons Case
Transcript of The Persons Case
Who Were the "Famous Five"?
Henrietta Muir Edwards
Date of Birth: September 22, 1868 in Elizabethtown-Kitley
Elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly in 1917
Didn't run again after her defeat in the 1921 Alberta Election
Introduced the bill which became the Dower Act, which guaranteed a women a third of the family estate when her husband died
Date of Death: July 10, 1931 in Claresholm, Northwest Territories (now Alberta)
Date of Birth: March 14, 1868 in Cookstown, Ontario
First woman appointed to the Edmonton Hospital Board in 1910
Member of the Equal Franchise League and worked with Nellie McClung on the vote for women
The first woman police magistrate in Alberta, in Canada and in the British Empire
She led the "Famous Five" in the Persons Case
Date of Death: October 17, 1933 in Edmonton, Alberta
Irene Marryat Parlby
Date of Birth January 9, 1868 in London, England
Worked to improve rights and welfare of rural women and children
President of the United Farm Women of Alberta from 1916 to 1919
Was appointed Minister, the first woman to become a cabinet minister in Alberta in 1921
Introduced the Minimum Wage for Women Act in 1925
Date of Death: July 12, 1965 in Red Deer, Alberta
Date of Birth: October 20, 1873 in Chatsworth, Ontario
A Canadian women's suffragist and temperance advocate
In Winnipeg, from 1911-1914, she fought for women's suffrage
In 1914, she played the Premier, Sir Rodmond Roblin, in the mock Women's Parliament organized by the Canadian Women's Press Club to show the absurdity of the arguments of those opposed to giving the vote to women.
Date of Death: September 1, 1951 in Victoria, British Columbia
Date of Birth: December 18, 1849 in Montreal, Quebec
Supported many causes and spent her life advocating for the rights of women and children in Canada
She was 80 years of age in 1929 when she and the other "Famous Five" women finally won the Persons Case
She wrote handbooks on women and Canadian law
Date of Death: November 10, 1931 in Fort Macleod, Alberta
In 1927, the five Alberta feminists (The Famous Five) asked Parliament to define the term "person."
They wanted to know if "persons" who qualified for appointment to the Senate included women.
The five women asked, "Does the word 'person' in Section 24 of the B.N.A., 1867, include female persons?" In 1928, the Supreme Court said, "No. It does not include women."
Canadian law was preventing women from achieving equality. The Supreme Court of Canada decided that the word “person” only meant male persons who are over the age of 35.
The court ruled against women but gave them the option on giving up fighting for women being persons, or to continue to fight. But Emily Murphy would not rest there, she continued to fight for equality.
The Persons Case
Emily Murphy brought the case to the Privy Council in Britain who overruled the Supreme Court of Canada's decision. They declared that women were legal "persons" under the B.N.A. Act and are qualified for appointment to the Senate.
There is a plaque in Canada's Senate Chamber that pays tribute to the Famous 5. It reads:
"To further the cause of womankind these five outstanding pioneer women caused steps to be taken resulting in the recognition by the Privy Council of women as persons eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada. This movement was inaugurated by Magistrate Emily F. Murphy."
Although the Supreme Court of Canada denied the petition, an appeal to the Privy Council in Britain brought the Famous Five the change that they wanted.
What was the effect of the persons case on lives of Canadian women living in the 1920's?
In the 1920's, women were seen as unequal to men and had less rights than men did. The famous five played a key role in establishing women's rights and independence.
The Persons Case began to change the perspective of Canadians, creating greater equality between men and women.