History >> 100th Anniversary | Persons Case | Women of Distinction

Person’s Case

The 1929 report of the Standing Committee on the Laws concerning women and children was presented that year by Henrietta Muir Edwards. She was one of five women involved in the appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada to His Majesty’s Privy Council in England on the question as to whether women were to be considered “Person” under the terms of the British North America Act, and therefore eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada.

The other women, were Judge Emily Murphy, Mrs. Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby and Mrs. Louise McKinney. All of these women had linkages with the Council.

The National Council of Women’s efforts requesting the appointment of women to the Senate can be traced from the petition which it presented in 1919 to the Federal government, through Council’s subsequent lobbying during the twenties.

In 1930, Mrs. Edwards began her report to Council with the words “It is with much pleasure that I present the Law Report for 1929-1930, for in it you will hear of the decision of the Privy Council” in favour of the petitioners. She pointed out that the “rejoicing all through Canada over [this]…was not so much that it opened the door of the Canadian Senate to women, as it was that it recognized the personal entity of women, her separate individuality as person”. She went on to remark that the victory was “due first to the National Council of Women, second to the Federal Government, third to a committee of five Alberta women, who were the harvesters to go forth to reap where others had sown.”

Cairine Wilson was Canada’s first woman Senator, the First Person; she was appointed in 1930.