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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Famous Five

The Famous Five (also known as The Valiant Five)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

March is Women's History Month. Above is a photograph of a sculpture honoring The Famous Five, a group of women in Canada who were leaders in the fight for women's rights.

In 1927 Canada, women could vote but, according to the definition of "persons" in the British North America Act of 1867, they were denied access to the Senate. Women's groups began pressuring the federal government to appoint a woman to the Senate, and many wanted Emily Murphy to be that woman. The government declined, saying that she could not be part of the Senate because women were not considered persons under federal law (i.e., the BNAA).

There seemed to be no hope for women ..... unless the BNAA could be changed, and Emily Murphy decided that she (with help) would be the one to change it!

Murphy devised a plan to work through the Supreme Court to ask for constitutional clarification regarding women becoming Senators. Such a question had to be submitted by a group of at least five citizens, but that posed no problem for Murphy. Her group—Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and herself—met for tea at Murphy's house on August 27, 1927, and signed her petition to the Supreme Court of Canada.

After five long weeks of debates and arguments, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the definition of the word person did not include women. Unwilling to give in, The Famous Five brought the 'Persons case' to the Privy Council in England, which was Canada's highest court, and on October 18th 1929, the Privy Court finally announced that women were indeed persons. (Well done, England!!)

The scene in the sculpture is intended to depict the time when The Famous Five read the news that they had been successful in having Canadian women declared "persons" under the law.

When women make tea,
they sometimes also make history!!!


parTea lady said...

This is a very interesting post. I grew up in Canada and I don't remember being taught about The Valiant Five. Hopefully, todays students are learning all about womens history. I love that sculpture.

Steph said...

Ah, Denise, I did not know this!!! Thank you!

Southern Touch Catering said...

I wonder what in the world women were if they weren't persons? Super human perhaps?! I think so!

Angela McRae said...

Oh, I do love this post! GREAT job, Denise! You always find the most interesting new things for us ... bravo!

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