Today’s History: Canada’s Famous Five on Women’s Rights

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Canada’s Famous Five on Women’s Rights

Today in world history marks the Albertan women’s power in challenging the Supreme Court of Canada (not the highest court during that time) on the matter of clarification on an issue that women are included as “qualified persons” thus eligible to become members of the Senate.

On August 27, 1927, five Albertan women petitioned the court to have it rule on the issue in the landmark case Edwards v. Canada (A.G.). These five women who strongly challenged the Supreme Court of Canada are popularly known as the “Famous Five“, the “Valiant Five“, or the “Alberta Five“. This group of Albertan women includes Henrietta Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Emily Murphy. These women devoted their lives in various campaigns in defense of women’s rights and welfare.

Remembering Canada's Famous Five on women's rights

Roughly eight months from the date of the petition, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously on April 24, 1928, that the word “persons” in Section 24 of British North America Act of 1867 does not include to refer to women. The wording of the court’s decision is as follows (retrieved from Canadian Human Rights Commission):

Understood to mean ‘Are women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada,’ the question is answered in the negative.

Strongly against the decision of the court, these five women appealed the case before the Privy Council of Great Britain (Canada’s highest court of the land during that time). On October 18, 1929, the Council ruled in favor of women’s rights. The final statement of the decision reads (retrieved from bailii.org):

…their Lordships have come to the conclusion that the word ” persons ” in section 24 includes members both of the male and female sex and that, therefore, the question propounded by the Governor-General must be answered in the affirmative and that women are eligible to be summoned to and become members of the Senate of Canada, and they will humbly advise His Majesty accordingly.

This victory of women’s rights adds fiber to the stronghold of women’s empowerment across Canada. The courageous effort of these five Albertan women to continue asserting women’s rights and welfare proves that however harsh the law it may be can be silenced by a just and fair reasoning that is anchored in public welfare. •MBO: MainBarOnline #WomenEmpowerment


Image Above: from Women’s Political Movement 1920 website

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  1. […] CHR’s failure, the Commission has been fulfilling its mandate. That is, to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights. Thus, all forms of human rights abuses or violations committed by the State and state’s […]

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