Henrietta Muir Edwards


In 1919, Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung fought for the recognition of women as persons under the British North America Act. Known as the Famous Five, all of these women were from Alberta. Two of them, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Louise McKinney, were from southern Alberta.   

An artist and legal expert, Henrietta Edwards supported many causes, especially those involving the legal and political rights of women in Canada. It would be impossible to list all of her accomplishments but some stand out: In 1897, with Lady Aberdeen, Henrietta co-founded the Victorian Order of Nurses. In 1908, she was asked by the federal government to compile all of the laws, both federal and provincial, that related to women and children. She subsequently prepared two handbooks on legal matters affecting women entitled Legal Status of Women in Canada (1917), and Legal Status of Women in Alberta (1921). In addition, Edwards worked with several other women to create the Dower Act in Alberta. Prior to the passage of this act, a husband held all rights to any property owned by the family. The Dower Act made it mandatory that the wife’s signature be attached before her home could be sold.

Henrietta was 80 years old when, in 1929, Canadian women became persons under the law. At the lunch in 1930 celebrating the victory, she acknowledged the support of many women but said that it was equally important to thank the men who had helped with the cause. "Well, not perhaps the Judges on the Supreme Court of Canada, but certainly the Lords on the Privy Council!"

Anine VonkemanComment