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The 'Persons' Case - The Reactions and Effects

None of the Famous 5 received appointments to the Senate. The first Senate vacancy occurred in Ontario and Prime Minister Mackenzie King appointed Ottawan Cairine Wilson on February 20, 1928, a remarkable woman who actively opposed anti-semitism and encouraged governments to accept refugees.

When a Senate vacancy occurred in Edmonton several years later, hopes were high that Emily Murphy, a Conservative, would be appointed because the Prime Minister was Calgarian R.B. Bennett, a Conservative. Bennett decided to consider religious affiliations. The Senator from Southern Alberta was a Protestant and Bennett decided that the Senator for Northern Alberta should be a Catholic. Therefore, Senator Patrick Burns, a Liberal, was appointed. Although Albertan women succeeded in opening the doors to the Senate for women, it was not until fifty years later in 1979 that Martha Beilish was appointed as the first female Senator from Alberta by Prime Minister Joe Clark.

On December 17, 1997, Senator Gerald Beaudoin, a renowned constitutional expert, described the importance of the 'Persons' Case during Senate debates which concluded by approving a unanimous resolution concerning the placement of the "Women are Persons. . ." statues on Parliament Hill. Senator Beaudoin said,

"I suggest in closing that we keep and remember the famous 1929 case that first recognized the equality of men and women. . .

This was [also] the time when the Privy Council started what we call in law, the theory of 'evolution of the Constitution'."

The champions of the 'Persons' Case, the Famous 5, secured the right in Western Canada for women to vote and to serve as elected officials at the school board, hospital board, municipal, provincial and federal level. Because the Senate is the senior law making body in Canada, these remarkable nation builders also sought the right for women, together with men, to participate at this level. As well, they advocated for and assisted in the creation of libraries, travelling health clinics, distance education, mother's allowance, equal citizenship of mothers and fathers, prison reform and many other initiatives that we cherish today.

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