The Famous Five
A point of interest on the Discover Downtown Calgary GPS-guided audio walking tour.
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Looks like you’ve made it to the Famous Five Statues! As you can see, the statue's scene features five women. These weren’t just any women though, they were five prominent Canadian suffragists who advocated for women and children. In the landmark court case, Edwards vs. Canada, they asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, “Does the word persons in section 24 of the British North America Act of 1867 include females as persons?”
The five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Edwards, created a petition to ask this question. They fought to have women legally considered persons, so that women could be appointed to the senate. The petition was filed, and on April 24th, 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court summarized its unanimous decision that women are not such persons. Yes you heard that right, the answer was a resounding no. The last line of the judgement reads, “The question as understood to mean 'Are women eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada,' the question is answered in the negative.”
However this judgement was overturned by the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on October 18th, 1929. This case came to be known as the Person’s Case. Although Canadian women had the vote by 1929, the case was part of a continent-wide drive for political equality. Some saw this as radical change, others saw it as a restoration of the original framing of the English constitutional documents. Statues like this help to remind us of the battle women faced, and in some areas still face today, in achieving gender equality.
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