“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.” (From Status of Women Canada: Persons Day.)
It may seem incomprehensible to us that women were not considered to be “persons”, at least under a strict definition of Canadian law prior to 1929. The “Famous Five” led the fight all the way to the highest courts of the land to include women in the legal definition of “persons.”
“The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word “person” should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?”
–Lord Sankey of the Privy Council, 1929 (source)
Today we can celebrate that victory, and the slow but steady change in Canadian society towards equality for women. We still have a long way to go, and sadly, in much the world, women are still denied equality, a “relic of days more barbarous than ours.” Persons Day is a chance to celebrate how far we have come, and to reflect on how far we still need to go.