Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme for 2022 is Break The Bias:
- Celebrate women’s achievement.
- Raise awareness against bias.
- Take action for equality.
There are many women who have inspired me throughout my life, and I am particularly inspired by women who worked to create equality in all areas: under the law, in education, in healthcare, and in the workplace.
Although Canada celebrates Women’s History Month in October, rather than March like many other countries, some are unaware of how that came to be. There is an important milestone for women’s rights in Canadian history when on October 29, 1929, Canadian women were able to change the definition of “persons” to include women.
The women who campaigned for redefining “persons” came to be known as the “Famous Five” and the “Valiant Five”.
The Famous Five — Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards — petitioned the Supreme Court of Canada / Cour suprême du Canada to answer this question: “Does the word “person” in Section 24 of the B.N.A. Act (see footnote) include female persons?”
Their challenge was heard on August 27, 1927, and the petition specificially questioned the issue of the eligibility of women to be senators in the Canadian Senate, knowing it would ripple throughout Canadian law. After five weeks of debate and argument, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the word “person” did not include women.
The five women, who came to be known as The Famous Five and The Valiant Five, were shocked by the Supreme Court’s decision but did not give up the fight. They took their challenge to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain, Canada’s highest court of appeal (we are a constitutional monarchy, so technically the King or Queen is our head of state).
The Privy Council decides:
On October 18, 1929, Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of the Privy Council, announced the decision of the five lords: “The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word “person” should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?”
The Famous Five not only won the right for women to serve in the Senate but helped pave the way for women to participate equally in – and contribute equally to – all other aspects of life in Canada. Thank you Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. Source
Who are the women who have inspired you?
For those unfamiliar with The B.N.A. — the British North America Acts — they are a series of Acts of Parliament at the core of the constitution and creation of Canada in 1867. They were enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Parliament of Canada. We creaed a new constitution in 1982.