Emily Murphy: A Great Canadian


It was only in this century that women in Canada had equal rights as
men. But this would never happen if women themselves would not start
fighting for their rights. One of these women was Emily Murphy and her
greatest achievement, Emily proved that women are \'persons\' and therefore
they have the right to work in any political office. Her life and
political career lead her to this achievement.

Emily Gowan Ferguson was born on March 14, 1868 in a village of
Cookstown. It was Uncle Thomas who was a politician and who influenced
Emily\'s interest in politics. At fifteen Emily moved to Toronto and
attended the Bishop Strachan School for Girls. Emily married Reverend
Arthur Murphy in 1887 in Anglican church of St. John\'s in Cookstown and in
1904 she and her husband moved to Winnipeg. Mrs. Murphy "conducted the
literary section of the Winnipeg Tribune for a few years before moving to
Alberta in 1907." In her new home Emily became very active in civic
affairs especially in law that would improve the rights of women and
children.

In 1900\'s in Alberta any man who, for example, had a farm and was
married could sell that farm and leave his wife and children walking away
with the money. Mrs. Murphy was angry that Alberta would allow such
disgrace. In 1910 Emily was still fighting for the Dower Act "which would
recognize a married woman\'s entitlement to a share of the common property
in a marriage". For the first time the act was turned down, Emily not
giving up tried very hard until 1911 when Dower Act was passed. "It
provided that a wife must get a third of her husband\'s estate, even when he
did not leave a will." It was a major victory for Emily and also her first
achievement. This accomplishment not only encouraged women to fight for
their rights but Emily gained new confidence and encouraged her to fight
for new suffrage bill. In 1914 Mrs. Murphy and Mrs. McClung joined forces
and in 1916 after long negotiations a suffrage bill was introduced to the
legislature. Because of the war now ranging in Europe "there was an even
greater sense of urgency for women\'s suffrage, and Murphy - McClung team
doubled its efforts". The first session in February 24, 1916 Premier
Sifton read the bill and along with it approximately forty thousand
signatures. The next day he brought a bill of his own allowing "women a
status of complete political equality with men in all provincial,
municipal, and school matters."

The result of Emily\'s effort was that on June 19, 1916, Judge Murphy
became "first woman police magistrate in the British Empire.". In January
1921 Mrs. Murphy received a letter from a secretary of the Montreal Women\'s
Club saying that women "here" want her in the senate. This letter
encouraged Emily to fight "the question through to a finish ..." In August
27, 1927 Judge Murphy sent a letter to Ottawa "in a request by the
governor-general-in- council to the Supreme Court for a ruling on the
question, \'Does the word Persons in Section 24 of the British North America
Act 1867, include female persons?\'" Section 24 was the excuse of Senators
not letting a woman to be a \'person\' and therefore not allowing women to
hold political office. Finally on October 18, 1929 Lord Sankey ruled that
Women were "Persons and were therefore qualified to become members of the
Senate in Canada." This was the news all women in Canada would like to
hear, this was also the greatest achievement made by Emily Murphy who spent
her life fighting for women\'s rights. On October 30, 1933 Emily\'s coffin
was lowered to the grave, Mrs. Murphy died of diabetes... Emily died of
diabetes but she was still part of many people who helped her achieving
what she did. Some of these people were women like Mrs. Nellie McClung,
Louise McKinney, Henriette Muir Edwards and Irene Parlby. Thanks to Judge
Murphy Canada was the eighth country which gave women equal rights.
Emily\'s accomplishments prove that she was a very hard working women with
great courage but the most important thing she did not give up on anything
that is why Mrs. Murphy achieved what she intended to achieve, women\'s
freedom in Canada.

B I B L I O G R A P H Y

Cleverdon L. Catherine. The Women Suffrage Movement In Canada.
University of Toronto Press, Toronto and Buffalo, 1975.

Mander Christine. Emily Murphy: Rebel. Simon & Pierre,
Toronto, 1985.

"Women suffrage movement". Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Funk
& Wagnalls Inc., 1986