“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ottawa, Ontario — Central Canada

Women Are Persons!

Les Femmes Sont Des Personnes!

Women Are Persons! Marker image. Click for full size.
By Nate Davidson, June 24, 2008
1. Women Are Persons! Marker
Inscription. 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

Statue of Women Are Persons image. Click for full size.
By Nate Davidson, June 24, 2008
2. Statue of Women Are Persons
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.
Location. 45° 25.517′ N, 75° 41.883′ W. Marker is in Ottawa, Ontario. Marker can be reached from Wellington Street. Touch for map. Monument and marker located at the grounds of the Canandian Parliament building. Marker is in this post office area: Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6, Canada.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Rideau Waterway (about 150 meters away, measured in a direct line); Canada’s Capital (about 180 meters away); Parliament Clocktower Bell (about 180 meters away); The Commissariat (about 210 meters away); Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada (about 210 meters away); Terry Fox 1958 -1981 (about 240 meters away); Lieutenant Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry, CB (about 240 meters away); Nicholas Sparks (approx. 0.2 kilometers away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ottawa.
Categories. Civil RightsPoliticsWomen

Credits. This page was last revised on March 19, 2018. This page originally submitted on January 16, 2011, by Nate Davidson of Salisbury, Maryland. This page has been viewed 770 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 16, 2011, by Nate Davidson of Salisbury, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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