Women became eligible to vote federally in 1918, excluding some immigrant groups and Indigenous peoples. In 1921, Agnes MacPhail was elected as the first woman to the House of Commons, but legally, a narrow interpretation of “persons” had kept women from the Senate. That changed in 1929 with the historic Persons case. (File photo)

Women became eligible to vote federally in 1918, excluding some immigrant groups and Indigenous peoples. In 1921, Agnes MacPhail was elected as the first woman to the House of Commons, but legally, a narrow interpretation of “persons” had kept women from the Senate. That changed in 1929 with the historic Persons case. (File photo)

Persons Day celebrates historic achievement of five suffragettes

Landmark case 89 years ago declared women “persons” making them eligible for the Senate

It was just 89 years ago today that women were declared “persons” under the law. Five suffragettes, known as the Famous Five, won the landmark Persons case on Oct. 18, 1929, which declared women “persons” and made them eligible for appointment to the Senate. The day has since been celebrated nationally as Persons Day.

“That this occurred is a testament to the perseverance and advocacy of five Canadian women: Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung and Henrietta Muir Edwards,” said Sonia Furstenau, B.C. Green spokesperson for gender equality. “Although this did not enshrine universal legal rights for all [it was not until 1960, for instance, that suffrage was extended to Indigenous people] it was a significant step towards achieving legal equality in Canada.”

Women became eligible to vote federally in 1918, excluding some immigrant groups and Indigenous peoples. In 1921, Agnes MacPhail was elected as the first woman to the House of Commons, but legally, a narrow interpretation of “persons” had kept women from the Senate. That changed in 1929 with the historic Persons case. Four months later, Cairine Reay Wilson became the first female senator. It wasn’t until 1960 that all women obtained federal voting rights in Canada.

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In a statement release, Premier John Horgan called the five women “pioneers of social change” and acknowledged that work still needs to be done to ensure equality for women, girls, gender-diverse and LGBTQ+ people, as well as Indigenous peoples, immigrants and people of colour.

“Around the world legal inequality and disproportionate levels of violence and poverty are faced by women, girls, gender-diverse and LGBTQ+ people. This is why we must carry forward the momentum of Persons Day and continue to address inequality,” Furstenau said.


 

keri.coles@oakbaynews.com

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