When you see something around you that needs to be changed what do you do? Do you try and make change on your own? Or do you inspire and lead others to make a change too?
Emily Murphy (14 March 1868 – 17 October 1933) was a primary force of change for women in Canada. She was one of the women who worked very hard to make sure that women could vote. Emily was really concerned about the women and children who didn’t have laws to protect them if they were suddenly abandoned.
A BOLD MOVE: She marched herself into a Edmonton Court House over 100 years ago and said: “Women and children have no one to represent them in our courts of law. There are no women judges! There are no women on juries. How are women and children to be protected if there are no women in the court?”
Much to her surprise the judges decided she might be right, so they appointed her. She became the very first woman in the British Commonwealth to serve as a judge in a court.
A BAD FIRST DAY OF WORK: On her very first day in court a lawyer said to her, “Madame you cannot judge my client because YOU are not a person, therefore you have no right to be in this court.” Well you can imagine what Emily thought of that! NOT A PERSON! OF COURSE SHE WAS A PERSON! And Emily is a hero because of what she did next…..
AN IMPORTANT TEA TIME: What Emily did was to invite four women to tea, the right four women. You see Emily was the only girl in the family. She had older brothers who were all lawyers. So she immediately wrote to them and said – “Find me a loophole in the law. Of course I am a person and this is a stupid law that needs to be changed!” Those brothers searched the law and finally came up with a loophole that might work. They discovered that any 5 citizens working together could ask the Supreme Court of Canada a question about a law. All Emily needed to do was to ask four others to add their signatures to one question. That question would be “Under Section 24 of the BNA Act (which was our constitution in those days) does the word ‘persons’ include female persons. Well the four women that Emily invited for tea that summer afternoon, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Louise McKinney very quickly added their signatures to Emily’s and together they mailed the question off to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.
NOT PERSONS: The answer they received back from the Supreme Court was No, women are NOT persons. Well the Supreme Court should have known what they were up against when they decided to mess with the women of Alberta! They immediately appealed to the highest Court of Appeal in London, England and the Lords of the Privy Council took the question very seriously.
AN INSPIRING CHANGE: On October 18, 1929 they announced their decision: “In 1867, when the BNA was written, the times were more barbarous than ours. Yes, of course, women are persons. Yes, women are eligible to serve at every level of government and every level of Court.”
These five ladies, all over the age of 60 changed the world! Those women were just citizens; just like you. They saw an injustice and decided that if things needed changing, it was up to them to do it. They communicated their vision; they enlisted others to help them, they had great courage when others opposed them and they were determined to keep working toward their goal!
Ordinary people can be heroes by working together to change things that need to be changed. What can you do to change the things that need to be changed?