Persons Day is celebrated on October 18.
The historic decision to include women in the legal definition of "persons" was handed down by Canada's highest court of appeal – the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain – on October 18, 1929. This gave women the right to be appointed to the Senate of Canada and paved the way for women's increased participation in public and political life.
October 18 is now celebrated as Persons Day, and the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case are awarded each year in October to mark the historic Persons Case decision.
The five women who pursued the case have become known as the Famous Five. They were journalists, magistrates and politicians who were influenced by a number of reform movements that took root in the early twentieth century. Their arduous legal quest, which began in 1927, resulted in a milestone victory and was a turning point for equality rights in Canada.
Throughout our country’s history, women in Canada have worked tirelessly to break down barriers and claim their place as equals. This year, to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the Government of Canada is celebrating Persons Day by recognizing the countless remarkable women whose actions have changed the course of Canada’s democracy. Our past is filled with stories of extraordinary women who stood up for their rights and advanced gender equality for all.
Persons Day reminds us all that women’s voices matter. When women step forward and make themselves heard, the changes they create benefit us all.
Beyond the Famous Five
Activism for gender equality did not begin, nor did it end, with the Famous Five. By the time the Famous Five began pursuing the Persons Case in Alberta in 1927, they had benefitted from the legacy of a long line of diverse and influential women who had overcome barriers and advanced equality in their own time. Women like Mary Ann Shadd Cary, a civil rights activist who became the first Black woman in North America to publish a newspaper. Or Idola St. Jean and Thérèse Casgrain, who campaigned fiercely for women's right to vote in Quebec. Then there’s Mary Two-Axe Early, who fought on behalf of Indigenous women who lost their official Indian status when they married non-Indigenous spouses. In the years that followed, countless other women and men pushed even further for gender equality in all aspects of Canadian society. This spirit of activism and social justice lives on today and is recognized each year by the Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case.
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