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Last updated: October 11th, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Remembering Canada's Famous Five
Canada’s Famous Five (Image: from Women’s Political Movement 1920 website)

Today in world history marks the Albertan women’s empowerment in challenging the Supreme Court of Canada*. It was on the matter of clarification on an issue that women are included as “qualified persons”. Thus, eligible to become members of the Senate. Canada’s Famous Five has shattered the glass ceiling in Canada’s politics.

Edwards v. Canada (A.G.)—the Landmark Case

On August 27, 1927, five Albertan women petitioned the court to have it rule on the landmark case Edwards v. Canada (A.G.). These five women 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. They devoted their lives in various campaigns in defense of women’s rights and welfare.



Roughly eight months from the date of the petition, the court ruled unanimously on April 24, 1928. It ruled 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**:

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

The Stronghold of Women’s Rights

Strongly against the decision of the court, these women appealed the case before the Privy Council of Great Britain***. 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. ▲ #WomenEmpowerment

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* not the highest court during that time
** retrieved from Canadian Human Rights Commission
*** Canada’s highest court of the land during that time

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