The Famous Five

famous five manitoba legislature

Statue at the Manitoba Legislature that recognizes the famous five women who fought to have women recognized as persons in Canada

Walking across the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature this summer I stopped to photograph this statue of the Famous Five created by Helen Grange Young and unveiled in June of 2010.

“You are not persons,” the Supreme Court of Canada told these five women in 1927 when they petitioned the court to determine whether as ‘persons’ they were eligible for appointment to Canada’s Senate.

The court said they weren’t really people and therefore ineligible for Senate appointment. The five women then appealed to the British Privy Judicial Council who ruled in 1929 they were indeed people.

The women have become known as Canada’s Famous Five for their important contribution to women’s rights in Canada. 

The five women are……….Henrietta Muir Edwards. She founded the Victorian Order of Nurses and set up a house in Montreal for single working women, a forerunner of the YWCA.  She was married to a doctor and had three children. Emily Murphy was a bestselling author married to an Anglican minister and the mother of four daughters. She was the first female appointed as a magistrate in the British Empire. She was instrumental in having the Dower Act passed which ensured that upon the death of a man his widow was entitled to at least a third of his estate. Irene Parlby sponsored the Minimum Wage Act for Women in 1925 and as the President of the United Farm Women of Alberta did much to improve health care for rural women and children. She was the second female cabinet minister in Canada. Married to a farmer and the mother of one son, Irene was the first woman given an honorary degree by the University of Alberta. Louise McKinney was an excellent debater and a member of the Alberta Legislature where she was instrumental in passing legislation to support people with disabilities, immigrants, widowed and single women. A teacher, she and her husband traveled together. Nellie McClung is perhaps the most famous of the Famous Five because she played a key role in women getting the right to vote and run for public office in Manitoba in 1916. Manitoba was the first province to give women the vote in Canada. She was married to a pharmacist, had five children, and was a best-selling novelist. There are also statues of the Famous Five in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and when I visited there I posed with Emily Murphy. Here my daughter-in-law and her sister and I are between Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung who is holding up the newspaper with the headline Women are Persons. My husband and daughter-in-law sip tea with Henrietta Muir and Louise McKinney.I’m glad to know there are statues of the Famous Five in Winnipeg and I don’t have to go all the way to Ottawa to see them.  Around the sculptures in Winnipeg is an enclosing circle of brick engraved with a quote from Nellie McClung. 

I want to leave something behind when I go; some small legacy of truth, some word that will shine in a dark place.

A photo from this post was featured in an exhibit at the Supreme Court Building in London England.  You can read about that here

If you enjoyed this post you might also like these posts about other Winnipeg sculptures

James Bond Is From Winnipeg

Seal River Crossing

Holocaust Memorial in Winnipeg


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Filed under Art, Canada, History, People, Politics, Winnipeg

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