Persons Day Activities

Discussion Topics

  • The temperance movement
  • The suffragist movement and voting rights for women
  • Systemic sexism
  • Women and the Senate of Canada
  • The political influence of Canadian farm women
  • Alberta’s Dower Act and The Married Women’s Protective Act
  • The suffragists’ “pink teas”
  • The National Council of Women in Canada
  • The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case
  • Canada’s diversity and the women’s movement

Questions for Discussion

  • How would Canada be different if women were not considered “persons” under the law?
  • How did Canada change once women were declared persons and allowed to sit in the Senate?
  • What does the Persons Case tell us about the importance of language? Is sexist language still a problem today? If so, where does it occur and what are the consequences?
  • What difficulties did the Famous Five face because they were women? How did they overcome them?
  • What advantages did the Famous Five have that allowed them to become effective activists? What barriers prevented other women from becoming politically active? Do any of these barriers still exist?
  • How did Canada’s demographics differ in 1929 versus today? Did this have an impact on the fight for women’s rights? What about in 2016?
  • Did all Canadian women benefit equally from the Persons Case? What about Indigenous women? What about immigrants and women of colour?
  • How did the suffragist and temperance movements influence the Famous Five?
  • Why did so many advances in Canadian women’s rights – such as the right to vote in provincial elections – begin in western Canada?
  • What can we do today to honour the legacy of the Famous Five?
  • What is systemic sexism? How do we recognize it and how do we change it?
  • Have we achieved gender equality in Canada? What challenges remain for women today? How can understanding the Persons Case help us to overcome them?
  • Are the Famous Five role models? Why? Who are some other women you admire?
  • How is the fight for gender equality being carried out today?

Learning Activities

The Persons Case was an important turning point in Canadian history. Introduce this milestone to your students with the following learning activities.

  • Show our Persons Day video – Women. Are. Persons. – to your class. Using the discussion questions initiate a discussion about how the Persons Case advanced gender equality in Canada and what challenges remain.
  • Encourage students to use social media to share information on Persons Day with friends and family. Use the hashtag #BecauseOfHer.
  • Screen this video about the Women are Persons! monument and initiate a discussion about women’s political activism in the early twentieth century. An alternative version of the video for older audiences is also available.
  • Show Historica Canada’s “Heritage Minutes” on Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung to your class; split students into groups and ask them to create a “Heritage Minute” of their own (either a skit or a video) focussed on one of the other three Famous Five women – Henrietta Muir Edwards, Irene Parlby or Louise McKinney.
  • Ask students to explore the The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case section of our website. Decide as a class if there is someone you can nominate and work together to prepare the nomination documents.
  • Look at the profiles and videos of past recipients of the The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case on our website. Discuss how these individuals are carrying on the legacy of the Famous Five. Discuss what you can do as individuals and as a class to advance gender equality.
  • If you live in Calgary or Ottawa, consider taking your students to visit the Women are Persons! Monument. For those who live elsewhere, consider visiting another site of historical significance. There are monuments celebrating great Canadian women all across the country.
  • Have students write a short creative piece describing a day in the life of a woman before women were declared “persons” (pre-1929).
  • Ask students to prepare a visual art piece, collage or theatrical presentation depicting the historic struggle for gender equality.
  • Have students write an essay, do a presentation, or create a video exploring one of the discussion topics.
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