1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian


Women's History

Maria Grant and Cecilia Spofford Plaque
A plaque honouring two Victoria women who campaigned for women's suffrage was presented at the parliament buildings on December 29, 1987, by the Victoria Council of Women. C.F. MacNaughton, nephew of Cecilia Spofford, and Gloria Grant, granddaughter of Maria Grant, pictured with MLA Robin Blencoe, were special guests at the presentation, which was part of the 70th anniversary of women's suffrage in BC. Victoria Council of Women archivist Lyn Gough spearheaded the the commemmoration ceremonies after writing an article, Victoria's Forgotten Suffragettes, for The Islander on April 5, 1987. (Lyn Gough photos)

Canadian Women's History Month

In 1991 a group of Victoria women led a nation-wide campaign urging the federal government to declare October a national women's history month. Its purpose was to acknowledge the achievements and contributions of women to the country's history.

October was chosen because of its association with the Persons Case, the historic 1929 decision of the British Privy Council which confirmed, belatedly, that women were legally "persons" and therefore eligible to be appointed to the Canadian Senate. Five women, The Famous Five, took the case to London after the Canadian Supreme Court dithered over technicalities such as there being no word for a female senator, and that the word "person" in the British North America Act didn't include female persons.

Cairine Wilson, the first female person appointed to the Canadian senate, was sworn in on Feb. 15, 1930, and became the first woman chairperson of a Senate Standing Committee 18 years later in 1948.

October has been celebrated as Canadian Women's History Month since 1992. Since then many more female persons have been the subject of serious research and publications.

A postage stamp commemorating The Famous Five women was issued in September, 1999. For more information, see National Archives and Library of Canada website at www.collectionscanada.ca/women/.

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