Emily Murphy

Fight To Change The Law- Declared Women To Be "Persons"

Background Information

Full Name: Emily Murphy (née Ferguson, pen name Janey Canuck)
Born: March 14th 1868 in Cookstown, Ontario

Died: October 27th 1933 in Edmonton, Alberta

Family: Her family consisted of successful business workers, political leaders, lawyers and including two Supreme Court judges


(Susan Jackel)

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Emily Murphy's Impact

-She was a writer, journalist, magistrate, political and legal who changed the world for women

-Social activist

- Emily Murphy was appointed police magistrate for Edmonton, the first woman magistrate in the British Empire in 1916

- Well known for her role in the persons case, which was a successful campaign that declared women “persons” under the eyes of British law

-Self-described rebel who fought for womens equality, even if her actions were rebelious accorinding to Canadian laws, morals and vlaues

-Outspoken Feminist: was a voice for women across Canada and to a point for women across the world for their right to vote

-Controversial figure


(Susan Jackel)

Legal Issues

Women's Rights


  • Emily Murphy was very engaged in social issues, and took to speaking on issues of unjust social conditions and injustice issues towards women.
  • Had a strong becoming concerned about the widespread of poverty particularly the welfare of women and children
  • In Canada property law gave women no rights, and if a husband sold a property and moved out, the wife and children could be left with nothing legally.
  • Murphy spent years of campaigning to overturn the unjust property law, in 1916,
  • Eventually the Alberta legislature passed the Dower Act, giving women a legal right to 33% of their husband’s property. The output of the legislation gave women the power of legal recourse.
  • Due to campaigning and new law brought upon the government let women have the right to vote and be declared persons. (Alberta women got the vote in 1916, Canadian women in 1919)
  • Women were not allowed to vote because they were not considered persons in the law and only persons (meaning men) were allowed to vote
  • Views upon women voting:
-They’ll get hurt:It was an unsafe place for anyone, really, but it was particularly inadvisable to show up in a corset and hoop skirt.

-It’s taunting God: If God had wanted to give women the vote, he would have made them men.

-It’s pointless: Women would just vote the same way as their husbands and sons.


(Janie Stuart)

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Actions for Change

Persons case


  • Formed a group to take action, campaign, protest, and fight to women's rights
  • Famous Five: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louis McKinney, Henrietta Edwards and Irene Parlny.
  • Went to supreme court to fight for women rights for equality, the right to vote and be declared persons
  • The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not “persons” according to the BNA

  • Constitutional ruling that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate
  • The Persons Case opened the Senate to women, allowing women to work for change in the House of Commons and the Upper House.
  • Legal recognition of women as “persons” meant that women could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow interpretation of the law.
  • Murphy to embarked on a decade-long campaign to have women declared legal "persons"



(Susan Munroe)

"We want women leaders today as never before. Leaders who are not afraid to be called names and who are willing to go out and fight. I think women can save civilization. Women are persons."

- Emily Murphy - 1931

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Persons Case Impact

  • The persons case was very successful because it declared women as "persons" legally for the first time in Canadian history

  • Women were legally declared persons so that meant women are now legally eligible to vote

  • There were some set backs towards some women. By 1918, some women were granted the right to vote. For many other women, their race, ethnicity and religion still burdened them from the vote, but women had motive now to fight for equality and right. The Universal Right to Vote in 1963 and the addition of the equality clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1985 that the right to vote could not be denied on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, mental or physical disability, or gender.

  • the courageous women who challenged the existing status of women are now part of the historic landscape of Canada.

  • the Five women who created legal history in women's rights by contesting the notion that legal definitions of persons excluded females. If women were not legally persons, then they had no rights.

  • If it wasn't for Emily Murphy and the Famous Five as a female in Canada I would not have the rights that I have today, if it wasn't for their hard dedication and work for fighting for women's rights

  • This led to a huge impact towards Canadian laws and then had a global impact for other countries in the world to have the same legal rights as Canada


(Lorne Foster)


Opposition or adversity


  • Men were against the idea of women being persons
  • Legally has to change women to be persons
  • Women were degraded during this time period so it took time for people to become more open minded to the idea of women's rights
  • Went against some religious views of women and challenged these religious views


(Tabitha Marshall)

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I believe that never was a country better adapted to produce a great race of women than this Canada of ours, nor a race of women better adapted to make a great country.

— Emily Murphy

Positive law of Natural law ?

Positive law is any express written command of the government. The sources of positive law are written rules and regulations laid down by the government is known, The right for women to vote and be persons is positive law rather then natural law is because the government laid a legislation in the law declaring women persons. Positive laws may be promulgated, passed, adopted, or otherwise "posited" by the authority of the government of rules and regulations. Emily Murphy and the famous made women's right positive law because the government set rules and regulations that promoted and gave women rights and "persons". Women's rights is not natural law because natural law is universally accepted morals and principles because women were degraded from the governemt, law, community and church. And women did not accept the fact that they were degraded from those aspects that's why Emily Murphy and the persons case fought for women's rights making women's rights positive law.

Primary or Secondary Sources or Factors of Change ?

Secondary law is texts of primary authorities such as: constitutions, statutes, case law, administrative regulations, executive orders, treaties, or similar legal instruments


Women's right is secondary because.......


  • written legal document
  • persons case was a case law
  • The governemt legalized women being persons and the right the vote which is administrative regulations
  • later on women's rights is now written in the charter rights and freedom, also women are now persons, so when the charter says "everyone" that includes women

Emily Murphy's Legacy

Impact On The Law

  • Women are still persons in Canada
  • Women are now equal to men legally in Canada
  • · Murphy became the first national president of the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada, an organization which continues to function today with the goal of empowering women

  • Murphy persuaded the Attorney General of Alberta to create “women's police courts presided over by women, to try cases in which women were involved.”Following that response Murphy was appointed as the first female police magistrate in the British empire. Murphy started the chain of female magistrates.

  • Murphy and the other Famous Five members succeeded in changing the interpretation of “persons” to include women

  • Murphy demonstrated that laws and public perception can be changed by an activist armed with passion and perseverance.


(Janie Stuart)

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Bibliography

Foster, Lorne. "The Persons Case and Womens Right to Vote in Canada." The Persons Case and Womens Right to Vote in Canada. York University, 3 Oct. 2006. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Hopper, Tristin. "Manitoba Women Became First to Get the Vote in Canada 100 Years Ago, Then It Was 'merely a Matter of Time'" National Post Manitoba Women Became First to Get the Vote in Canada 100 Years Ago Then It Was Merely a Matter Oftime Comments. National Post, 31 Jan. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


JACKEL, SUSAN. "Emily Murphy." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Korol, Bruce. "University of Alberta Faculty of Law Blog." 'University of Alberta Faculty of Law Blog' University of Alberta, 3 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


MARSHALL, TABITHA. "Persons Case." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, 2 July 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Munroe, Susan. "Who Led the Battle to Have Women Recognized as Persons in Canada?" About.com News & Issues. About News, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Pettinger, Tejvan. "Emily Murphy •." Biography Online. Biography Online, 1 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Stuart, Janie. "Emily Murphy." Emily Murphy. University College of the Fraser Valley, 29 Aug. 2003. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

Works Cited

Foster, Lorne. "The Persons Case and Womens Right to Vote in Canada." The Persons Case and Womens Right to Vote in Canada. York University, 3 Oct. 2006. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


JACKEL, SUSAN. "Emily Murphy." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


MARSHALL, TABITHA. "Persons Case." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada, 2 July 2015. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Munroe, Susan. "Who Led the Battle to Have Women Recognized as Persons in Canada?" About.com News & Issues. About News, 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.


Stuart, Janie. "Emily Murphy." Emily Murphy. University College of the Fraser Valley, 29 Aug. 2003. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.