4525-47a Avenue, Red Deer, AB T4N 6Z6
The Persons Case (officially Edwards v. A.G. of Canada) was a constitutional ruling that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate. The case was initiated by the Famous Five, a group of prominent women activists. In 1928, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not “persons” according to the British North America Act and therefore were ineligible for appointment to the Senate. However, the women appealed to the Privy Council of England, which in 1929 reversed the Court’s decision. The Persons Case opened the Senate to women, enabling them to work for change in both the House of Commons and the Upper House. Moreover, the legal recognition of women as “persons” meant that women could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow interpretation of the law.
Nellie McClung, a captivating orator, convinced an electorate of the importance of women’s right to vote and to serve as elected officials.
Louise McKinney, the first woman in the British Empire to be sworn in to a legislative assembly, worked as an MLA to improve the lives of women including the recognition of dower rights.
Henrietta Muir Edwards wrote two handbooks summarizing women’s legal status in Canada, becoming more knowledgeable than the chief justice of Canada.
Irene Parlby, the second woman in the British Empire to serve as a cabinet minister, was instrumental in passing 20 laws concerning the welfare of women and children including improvements in rural health.
Emily Ferguson Murphy, the first woman justice in the British Empire, championed The Persons Case, which resulted in Lord Sankey of the Privy Council of England declaring on October 18, 1929 that “the word ‘persons’ in sec. 24 [of the British North America Act] does include women….”