Kay Sigurjonsson, "Three Other Persons". Courtesy
of Glenbow Archives.
The Famous Five have been justly
honoured for their role in having women declared persons,
but there were other women who earlier fought to establish
the "personhood" of women, according to Mary Eberts of the
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.
These "Three Other Persons" are Clara Brett Martin, Mabel
P. French, and Annie Langstaff. Martin, the first Canadian
and Commonwealth woman to be admitted as a barrister, fought
from 1892 to 1897 to have the Law Society of Upper Canada
(Ontario) recognize her eligibility. The Law Society
interpreted its legislation, dealing with "persons" as
excluding women, and Martin twice had to get amendments from
the Legislature, in 1892 and 1895, explicitly providing for
the admission of women. Mabel P. French confronted similar
problems first in New Brunswick and then in British
Columbia. Under Statutes dealing with the admission of
"persons", the law societies and also the courts of both
these provinces ruled French ineligible to practise law. She
secured amending legislation in New Brunswick in 1906 and
British Columbia in 1912 to establish her eligibility. Dame
Annie Langstaff was rejected by the Bar of the Province of
Quebec, and its Superior Court and Court of King's Bench
(1915) in her efforts to establish she was a 'person'
entitled to practise under the Bar Act.