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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!!!

I wonder if they even liked tea???

Three of America's first millionaires earned their fortunes from the China tea trade in the early nineteenth century because they bought tea directly from China and bypassed the powerful East India Company.

John Jacob Astor began his tea trading in 1800. He required a minimum profit on each venture of 50% and often made 100%. Stephen Girard of Philadelphia was known as the "gentle tea merchant". His loans to the young (and still weak) American government enabled the nation to re-arm for the War of 1812. Thomas Perkins was from one of Boston's oldest sailing families. The Chinese trust in him as a gentleman of his word enabled him to conduct enormous transactions halfway around the world without a single written contract.

And not that this has anything to do with tea, but here's a quote by one of my favorite American authors, Dorothy Parker:

I don't know much about being a millionaire
but I bet I'd be a darling at it.
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