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ARCHIVED - Celebrating Women's Achievements

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October 18, 1999 marked the 70th anniversary of the "Persons Case", a very significant affair in the history of women's rights in Canada. In 1927, the "Famous Five", Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Louise Crummy McKinney, petitioned for a Supreme Court of Canada interpretation on whether the term "qualified persons" in section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, included women as persons eligible for appointment to the Senate. After the Court ruled that the term did not include female persons, the petitioners requested that an appeal be sent to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. On October 18, 1929, the Committee overturned the decision of the Supreme Court and ruled that "qualified persons" in section 24 did include women and that women were "eligible to be summoned to and become members of the Senate of Canada" (Dominion Law Reports [1930] 1 DLR).

In honour of this anniversary, Library and Archives Canada has prepared biographies of the "Famous Five", together with other women activists who have worked to improve various aspects of the lives of all Canadian women: working conditions, health care, child care, marital rights, political rights and representation, educational and professional opportunities, etc. As politicians, journalists, doctors, union organizers, founders and members of numerous women's and other social organizations, these women have followed diverse paths. However, they share, throughout their long and active lives, a dedication to achieving equality and justice and a commitment to helping others, be they women, men or children, both inside and outside Canada.

In October 2009, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the "Persons Case," the Senate of Canada posthumously designated Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards as Honorary Senators.


Journalist, women's rights activist
Medical director of the first birth control clinic in Canada
Broadcaster, journalist, senator
Journalist, social activist
Politician, women's rights activist
Social and community activist
Journalist, women's rights activist
Teacher, unionist
Pioneer Quebec Feminist
Native women's rights activist
Social activist, radio host
Environmental Activist
Suffragist, politician
Politician, women's rights activist
Feminist, Journalist, Activist
Social activist, author
Union activist, reformer
Politician, farm women's leader
Union organizer, social activist
Inuit leader, Activist, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee