This Week in History
Birthday of Activist Emily Murphy
|For the week of Monday March 9, 1998
On March 14, 1868, Emily (Ferguson) Murphy was born in Cookstown, Ontario. Looking at the newborn girl, no one could have anticipated what an impact Emily would have. Although she may be best known for her role in the "Persons" Case, Emily Murphy's contributions as author, activist, and magistrate should never be forgotten.
Emily's greatest achievement was winning the "Persons" Case. She dreamed of some day becoming a Senator, but under the English common law the word "person" generally meant "male person", unless an Act of Parliament definitely included women. By this reasoning the British North America Act made only male "persons" eligible for seats in the Canadian Senate. Emily recruited four friends to help her fight for justice.
Although Emily was never appointed to the Senate, she and her friends made a difference to the lives of Canadian women. All five have been recognized for individual accomplishments and for their combined contributions to the women's movement. Federal plaques commemorate Emily Murphy (Edmonton, Alberta), and her four colleagues in the "Persons" Case: Nellie McClung (Chatsworth, Ontario), Louise McKinney (Claresholm, Alberta), Mary Irene Parlby (Alix, Alberta), and Henrietta Muir Edwards (Fort Macleod, Alberta). The "Persons" Case was commemorated in 1997.
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