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  Weekly Feature: February 28, 2004

Helen's Weekly Feature
International Women's Day


March 8, 2004

Celebrated under the banner “She’s on a Role,” on March 8, 2004 thousands of women and men all over the world will celebrate the achievements made in women’s equality.

It is a day for all to think about the progress that has been made as well as to consider the challenges facing women today and how best to continue work towards making equality a reality for women everywhere.

The struggle for women’s equality has been a long and difficult one. March 8, 1908 became significant in this fight when 15,000 garment makers in New York went on strike to demand shorter hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. Ever since that day, this courageous action has been an inspiration to women all over the world.

Louise McKinney (1868-1931), one of Alberta’s Famous Five who struggled for women’s rights said, “The purpose of a woman’s life is just the same as the purpose of a man’s life: that she may make the best possible contribution to her generation.”

Louise McKinney played a leading role in bringing Alberta women the right to vote in 1916. She was also the first woman to be sworn in to the Alberta Legislature and the first in any Legislature in the British Empire.

The Famous Five and the Persons Case

Now, in Canada, the Governor General offers Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case led by five amazing Alberta women: Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung and Henrietta Muir Edwards.

These five women asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer this question: “Does the word “person” in Section 24 of the B.N.A. Act include female persons?” After five weeks of debate, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the word “person” did not include women.

Shocked by this decision, these five determined women took their question to the Privy Council in England. On October 18, 1929, Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of the Privy council announced the decision of the five lords that stated “…the exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word 'person' should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?” And so, women were pronounced “persons.” It was a  great victory for equal rights.

Two Vocabulary Quizzes

Women's Day Matching Quiz 1

Women's Day Matching Quiz 2


Status of Women Canada
What Do You Mean, Women Couldn’t Vote? (Quiz)
Commemorative Dates from the Status of Women Newsroom
The “Famous Five” and the Persons Case
Women Become Persons CBC Archives


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