Until 1929, one word denied women access to the Senate. The word "persons" in the British North America Act did not, or so it seemed, include women. However, as persons they were able to vote in all federal and most provincial elections. In 1927, five remarkable Alberta women contested, in the Supreme Court of Canada, the interpretation of the word "persons." That time, they did not succeed. But two years later, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain, which was still the highest Court of Appeal for Canada, declared that the word "persons" included men and women.
While commemorating this major step in women's entrance into political life in Canada, this exhibition is aimed at promoting awareness of those five famous Alberta women and highlighting their role in the admission of women to the Senate.
In the first two sections, archival documents describe the legal process of the "Persons" Case. The correspondence and official documents reveal the obstacles that had to be overcome and the persistence of Emily Murphy, initiator of the movement and spokesperson for the five women.
The third section provides an overview of the many repercussions that their victory has had across Canada, from the appointment of the first woman to the Senate in 1930 to today.
The Famous Five exhibition is a joint initiative of the National Archives of Canada, the National Library of Canada, the Department of Justice Canada and the Famous 5 Foundation. The exhibition coincides with the unveiling on Parliament Hill of a monument in honour of Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby. This monument, the first statue of non-elected personalities on Parliament Hill, is the culmination of a dream of the Famous Five Foundation of Calgary.