Search for "Women's Suffrage"

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Education Guide

Women in Canadian History Education Guide

As we celebrate a century of women’s suffrage, it’s important to recognize that while this victory was a landmark achievement, social change and the push for equality weren’t born from, nor completed by, achieving the right to vote. Women in Canada have played a crucial role in the story of the past and how it shapes the present. Women’s history seeks to write women back into the parts of the narrative from which they have been omitted, with the goal of telling a more complete story.

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Nellie McClung

Nellie Letitia McClung, née Mooney, suffragist, reformer, legislator, author (born 20 October 1873 in Chatsworth, ON; died 1 September 1951 in Victoria, BC). Nellie McClung was a women’s rights activist, legislator and author who is perhaps best known for her involvement in the Persons Case.

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Irene Parlby

Mary Irene Parlby (née Marryat), Alberta MLA (1921–35), women’s rights advocate, activist (born 9 January 1868 in London, UK; died 12 July 1965 in Red Deer, AB). Irene Parlby served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Alberta for 14 years and was the first woman in Alberta, and the second in the British Empire, to be appointed to a cabinet position. One of the Famous Five appellants in the Persons Case, Parlby was a compelling advocate for women’s rights. Her career in activism and legislation was especially dedicated to improving the lives of rural women and children. She was the first woman awarded an honorary degree from the University of Alberta.

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Henrietta Edwards

Henrietta Louise Edwards (née Muir), women’s rights activist, reformer, artist (born 18 December 1849 in Montreal, Canada East; died 9 November 1931 in Fort Macleod, AB). Henrietta Edwards fought from a very young age for women’s rights and education, as well as women’s work and health across the country. A gifted artist, talented interpreter of the law and tireless activist and organizer, Edwards helped found a great number of movements, societies and organizations aimed at improving the lives of women in Canada. Henrietta Edwards aimed to expand women’s rights in the political and especially the legal sphere, and was one of the five appellants, the Famous Five, in the Persons Case

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Jennie Trout

Jennie (Jenny) Kidd Trout, née Gowanlock, physician (b at Kelso, Scot 21 Apr 1841; d at Los Angeles, Calif 10 Nov 1921). She grew up near Stratford, Ont, and after her marriage in 1865 to Toronto publisher Edward Trout decided to become a doctor.

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Famous Five

Alberta's "Famous Five" were petitioners in the groundbreaking Persons Case. Led by judge Emily Murphy, the group included Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Irene Parlby.

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Women and the Law

Women have looked to the law as a tool to change their circumstances, while at the same time the law is one of the instruments which confirms their dependent status as citizens (see Status of Women). The first phase of the Women's Movement, in proclaiming that women were capable of reason as well as reproduction and nurturing, claimed a place for women in the public sphere, while also relying upon the concept of "separate spheres" to delineate their areas of strength and competence.

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Emily Murphy

​Emily Murphy (née Ferguson, pen name Janey Canuck), writer, journalist, magistrate, political and legal reformer (born 14 March 1868 in Cookstown, ON; died 27 October 1933 in Edmonton, AB). Emily Murphy is best known for her role in the Persons Case, the successful campaign to have women declared “persons” in the eyes of British law. A self-described rebel, she was an outspoken feminist and controversial figure. In recent years, Murphy has attracted criticism for her views both on eugenics and immigration as well as acclaim for her success as a suffragist.

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Louise McKinney

Louise McKinney (née Crummy), Alberta MLA 1917–21, women’s rights activist, lay preacher (born 22 September 1868 in Frankville, ON; died 10 July 1931 in Claresholm, AB). Louise McKinney was the first woman elected to a legislature in Canada and in the British Empire. A member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and a devout Methodist, she dedicated her life to good works in the service of others. She is also known as a pioneer suffragist and member of the Famous Five. Her signature appears on the legal petition to recognize women as persons under the Constitution, allowing them to serve in appointed positions, such as in the Senate of Canada (see Persons Case).

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Persons Case

The Persons Case (officially Edwards v. A.G. of Canada) was a constitutional ruling that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate.

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Abortion in Canada

Abortion is the premature ending of a pregnancy. Inducing an abortion was a crime in Canada until 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law as unconstitutional. Since then, abortion has been legal at any stage in a woman's pregnancy, and is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the Canada Health Act. However, access to abortion services differs across the country, and abortion remains one of the most divisive political issues of our time.