Today in Canada we celebrate women being persons

October 18th, 2012 is the 83th anniversary of Persons Day, the historic day in 1929 when women were finally legally recognized in Canada as “persons” and thus allowed to serve in the Senate. 

Referred to as The Famous Five, Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Henrietta Muir Edwards fought together to change the law.   Judge Murphy was a magistrate at the time whose decisions were being challenged based on the fact that she was not a “person” under the law. She and the rest of The Famous Five persuaded the government to direct the Supreme Court to rule on whether women were indeed “persons.”  The court did not rule in their favour, but on October 18, 1929, eight years after the campaign began, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England (then the appeals court for the Canadian Supreme Court) ruled in the women’s favour.

Sadly the change in law did not initially apply to Aboriginal women and many women of colour; however, it paved the way for the eventual legal recognition of all women across the country.

Today, 36 women, or slightly over one third, fill the Senate’s 105 seats, including three from BC. 

On October 8, 2012 the Famous Five posthumously became the only Canadians to be appointed honorary senators.


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