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My country, Canada, was created by the  British North America Act in 1867.  Because of the language of the act ( it used the words "he" and "persons") women were not seen as persons in matters of rights and privileges.

When a woman named Emily Murphy was appointed in 1916 as the first woman police magistrate in Alberta  her appointment was challenged on the grounds that women were not "persons".  She later tried to run for the Senate but  Prime Minister  Robert Borden turned her down, once again because she was not considered a "person" under the BNA Act.

In 1927, she and four other women's rights activists, known as "The Famous Five" posed the following question to the Senate:

"Does the word "persons" in Section 24, of The British North America Act, 1867, include
female persons?"

They lost that ruling but  then appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England,  the highest court of appeal for Canada. The decision this time was as follows:

yes, women are persons ... and eligible to be summoned and may become Members of the Senate of Canada... 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 "persons" should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?"

Another of the above-mentioned Famous Five was Nellie McClung. She  was active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, published her first novel "Sowing Seeds in Danny" in 1908, and  campaigned for the Liberal party on the issue of the vote for women. In 1921, McClung was elected to the Alberta legislative assembly for the riding of Edmonton but was defeated in 1926, mainly due to her stand on temperance. She became the first woman member of the CBC Board of Governors in 1936 and in 1938 was selected to be a member of the Canadian delegation to the League of Nations  ( the only woman ).

In 1914 the Canadian Women's Press Club organized a mock Women's Parliament to show the absurdity of the arguments of those opposed to giving the vote to women. Nellie McClung played the Premier, Sir Rodmond Roblin.  Here is a dramatization of that event and its afternath:

I am proud of "The Famous Five" and all Canadians, male and female who fought for equality in our country. Now I see politicians who want to take away hard-won rights. They are campaigning to return us to the bigotry of the previous century. It makes me realize  that we cannot become complacent, we cannot think that battles once won, will not need to be re-fought.

As Nellie McClung said,

Unless we all follow-up and press onward, the advantage will be lost. Yesterday’s successes will not do for today. Women must claim the place they have won
Nellie McClung

The Famous Five:

Originally posted to Thomasina on Thu Mar 08, 2012 at 09:54 AM PST.

Also republished by Sluts, J Town, History for Kossacks, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, Invisible People, Pink Clubhouse, and Community Spotlight.

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