Tag Archives: History

I Am a ‘Person’

Eighty years ago today, women in Canada became “persons under the law”. Canadians Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Laura Crummy McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards, and Irene Parlby (know first as the Alberta Five, then the Famous Five), fought for the recognition of women as persons under the British North America Act. The ground breaking ‘Persons Case’ was brought before the supreme Court of Canada in 1927, and decided by the Judicial Council of Britain’s Privy Council in 1929, Canada’s highest court at the time. The Persons Case remains their most significant achievement, though the Famous Five dedicated their lives to improving their communities in immeasurable ways. They have come to represent an entire generation’s political activism, including an earlier national campaign for women’s suffrage. More recently, the Person’s Case has generated controversy. Some see the Famous Five as a symbol of women’s political rebellion and progress, and human rights in general. Others have criticized some members of the group as racist and elitist, somewhat tarnished by their connection to the  eugenics movement. Reaction to  the Famous Five have varied widely, but undoubtedly, they are recognized as significant figures in  the Canadian Women’s movement.  A bronze statue of the Five, entitled “Women are Persons!” was created by Edmonton artist, Barbara Paterson in 1999 and unveiled and dedicated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2000.

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