Women Are Persons!

Women Are Persons! (HMQKS)

Location: Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4 Ottawa Division
Country: Canada

N 45° 25.517', W 75° 41.883'

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Les Femmes Sont Des Personnes!

The Persons' Case of 1929 is a celebrated landmark victory in the struggle of Canadian women for equality. For years, groups had repeatedly requested that a woman be appointed to the Senate, often naming Judge Emily Murphy as their candidate. However, five successive federal governments maintained that women were ineligible to serve in the Senate on the basis that they were not "qualified persons" according to Section 24 of the British North America Act of 1867.

In 1927, Judge Murphy invited four Alberta leaders - Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, and Irene Parlby - to join her and petition the Government for an interpretation of the word "persons" in Section 24. In 1928, the Supreme Court ruled that, according to the British North America Act, women were not qualified for the Senate. The Famous 5 then persuaded the Prime Minister to appeal the decision to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain, the final court of appeal for Canada until 1949.

On October 18, 1929, the Privy Council reversed the Supreme Court decision: "... their Lordships have come to the conclusion that the word "persons" in s. 24 includes members both of the male and female sex, and that, therefore, the question propounded by the Governor General should be answered in the affirmative, and that women are eligible to be summoned to and become members of the Senate of Canada..." In the decision, the Chancellor of the Privy Council, Lord Sankey, compared the British North America Act to "a living tree capable of growth and expansion." He added that "the exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours, but it must be remembered that the necessity of the times often forced on man customs which in later years were not necessary."

Thereafter, women were eligible for appointment to the Senate. Although none of the Famous 5 became senators, these determined nation builders achieved a victory of great symbolic importance, and their many contributions paved the way for women to participate in other aspects of public life.

The newspaper with the headline "Women are Persons" that Nellie McClung is holding reflects some of the actual headlines of newspapers of the day.

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Date Added Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 5:47am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18T E 445391 N 5030432
Decimal Degrees45.42528333, -75.69805000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 45° 25.517', W 75° 41.883'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds45° 25' 31.02" N, 75° 41' 52.98" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)304, 740
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 2008 Ottawa River Pathway, Ottawa ON K1A 0A4, CA
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