The Canadian fight for recognition under the law

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 4th Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Daily Life

I am a feminist and I have would love to share my opinions and historical articles with you on the topic of women's issues. The following is the introduction of Canadian women who were not considered persons under the law before the 20th Century.


Canadian women owe their status as women and "persons" to five brave Alberta women of the early 20th century. These women are often referred to as the "famous five". Their names are Emily Murphy, Nellie, McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Muir Edwards.

The first woman Police Magistrate appointed in the British Empire

Incredible as it may sound, Emily Murphy was the first woman Police Magistrate appointed in the British Empire in 1916, yet technically she was not a person. Canadian law did not recognize women as "persons".

Emily's fight for women's' rights began when she was traveling with her husband and met a destitute woman with children. Being a woman familiar with the law, Emily listened to the woman's story.

The woman's husband left her and she had no legal resource. The woman had worked hard and put 18 years into the family farm with absolutely nothing to show for it. She got nothing, the husband keep everything. The desperate woman's story opened up a new world and a new set of issues that Emily had never thought of before.

The Dower Act

The Dower Act

Emily Murphy decided to change all that. She studied up on the existing law and spoke to members of Alberta's legislature and finally in 1917 the Dower Act was passed to allow women one third of a husband's estate at anytime during their marriage. They were also entitled to “a life interest” when the husband passed on. Unfortunately it was not enforced right away. Women had to wait a few years for it, but progress was being made, women were now recognized for their contribution to the family estate, at least in part.

Women's representation in government

Emily Murphy realized that the Dower Act, was just a small gain for women. The bigger picture was that women needed proper representation in government to address the myriad of issues they faced everyday of their lives. Murphy requested a female magistrate to serve. This request was considered a bold one for the times. Until this point Canada never had a female magistrate. Emily's request was granted. She became the first female magistrate in 1916; appointed by Attorney General. This appointment was a monumental turning point for women's right under the law.

Links to previous articles
Women as property: No rights under the law

All photos taken from the public domain

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Women Discrimination, Women No Rights Under The Law, Women Without Rights, Womens Issues, Womens Rights, Womens Subservience

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
4th Mar 2015 (#)

Good work on this Carol, interesting history lesson.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
4th Mar 2015 (#)

Great work gives an interesting perspective. Yet I thought women had more opportunity in the 'new world' than they did on the 'old' in those times.

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author avatar Carol Roach
4th Mar 2015 (#)

no really you will see as the column progresses how we had to struggle to get where we are and we are still not on equal footing

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author avatar Kingwell
4th Mar 2015 (#)

Excellent share! I remember reading that one of the main arguments against women suffrage was that a married man would have two votes! My mother was born in 1896 and was married with children before being recognized as a person - unbeliable!

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