The efforts of five women known as the Famous Five has had a lasting effect on the rights of women in Canada to this day. These women, all from Alberta, were Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Henrietta Muir Edwards. Emily Murphy pressured the Alberta government into passing the “Dower Act’ which protected a wife’s right to one-third (⅓) share of her husband’s property. Nellie McClung was very active with organizations and was involved in politics from 1914 to 1926. Louise McKinney was a very strong supporter of the prohibition. Irene Parlby supported all programs which would benefit the welfare of women and children, she was very interested in the well being of women and children. Henrietta Muir Edwards had a reputation for knowing more about the laws affecting women than even the chief justice of Canada, which was very helpful when dealing with the “Persons Case”. The “Persons Case” allow women to be appointed to the Senate of Canada, this also helped with women’s rights. Women’s rights to vote, to work and everything in between were changed by the Famous Five and the “Persons Case”.
Emily Murphy pressured the Alberta government into passing the “Dower Act’. Born in Cookstown, Ontario in the year 1868, Emily Murphy was the third of six children. Murphy grew up in a family where law and political events were often dinner conversation. One of Murphy’s uncles was a Supreme Court Judge and another a Senator, one of Murphy’s brothers became a lawyer and was appointed to the Supreme Court. In 1887 Emily married Arthur Murphy and they moved out west. After Murphy’s move to Alberta she met an Alberta woman who, after years of hard work supporting the family homestead, was left with nothing when her husband decided to sell the farm. This motivated Murphy to study the legal implications of this injustice. Murphy’s work for women’s rights was strongly supported and encouraged by many women; in 1911 Murphy pressured the Alberta government into passing the “Dower Act’. The ‘Dower Act’ protected a wife’s right to one-third (⅓) share of her husband’s property. Murphy founded the Federated Women’s Institute for rural women. Later Murphy became member of the Equal Franchise League where Murphy worked with Nellie McClung to get the vote for women. Murphy was dedicated to the protection of women and children; this brought her before the courts which was very unusual for a woman in the early parts of the 20th century. Murphy was appointed the police magistrate for the city of Edmonton in 1916 becoming the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. Emily Murphy was the instigator of the “Persons Case”, a writer and a pioneer of married women’s rights. She was the National President of the Canadian Women’s Press Club 1913 to 1920, the vice-president of the National Council of Women and the fist president of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada. When Murphy became part of the “Famous Five” she helped carry the “Persons Case” to the Privy Council in England. Murphy continued her involvement in social activism and research when she died in 1933. Murphy was the one person who got the ball rolling for the “Persons Case” and with help of the other four women Canada was changed.
Nellie McClung was very active with organizations and was involved in politics from 1914 to 1926. Nellie McClung was born in Ontario in 1873. Her family moved to Manitoba in 1880 as pioneer homesteaders. McClung was a pioneer teacher, author, suffragist, social reformer, lecturer and legislator. McClung moved around to many places in the West including Manitou, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria because of her work. McClung was a practical and realistic leader who put words into political action. As a young mother in Manitou, McClung started working with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). The work she did with the W.C.T.U. motivated her to found the following organizations; the...
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