Object Name: Women Are Persons! (Les femmes sont des personnes)
Artist/Maker/Manufacturer/Founder: Artist: Barbara Paterson
Earliest Production Date and Latest Production Date: 2000
Dimension (H x W x D in centimetres): 9220 cm
Institution Name: Public Works and Government Services Canada
Copyright: Public Works and Government Services Canada. Credit to artist Barbara Paterson
These statues on Parliament Hill are larger than life.
They pay tribute to a group of women who changed Canada forever. They are known as the Famous Five.
They were alive in the days of our great grandparents. At the time, Canadian women were not allowed to vote or own property. And they couldn’t be appointed to the Senate. Why? Because women weren’t considered to be “persons” under the law, and only a “person” could be a Senator.
These five women challenged the law in court. When they won their monumental victory, a newspaper headline declared
“Women are Persons!”
At the monument, there’s an empty chair and an open invitation . . . Come share a tea with The Famous Five and celebrate their contribution to Canadian history.
Famous 5 Monument
Imagine stepping into a voting booth and making your mark. Maybe you want to run for public office or own property. You want the freedom to choose what career you will pursue and decide how you will spend the money you earn.
Imagine it’s Canada in the 1920s. If you’re a woman, these choices are only a dream. But, thanks to five women, these dreams became a reality. The women demanded that the Canadian government recognize the most basic of human rights: the right to be legally defined as a “person” and be allowed to serve their country as a senator.
The five, all from Alberta, are now legendary: Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy and Henrietta Muir Edwards.
Every woman in Canada can trace her present-day rights back to the 1929 court battle the Famous 5 fought and won. On Parliament Hill, where statues of male politicians mingle with those of monarchs, the monument to the five is one of the few to honour “ordinary” citizens. A duplicate of the sculpture stands in Calgary’s Olympic Square, and is reproduced on the back of the $50 bill.
Created by Alberta artist Barbara Paterson in 2000, the bronze sculpture depicts a celebration — on the grounds of the Parliament Buildings, where women now serve as senators and members of Parliament, the Famous 5 toast their victory with cups of tea.
It was a victory for all women, and there’s an empty seat within their circle, ready for you to join them.
RECONSIDERING THE FEMININE IN WOMEN ARE PERSONS!
M.A., Art History, Concordia University.
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