In 1927 five women brought a case to the Supreme Court of Canada to establish the right of women to be appointed to the Senate. These women were Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney, and Irene Parlby. At the time women were not legally recognized as “persons” and could be denied rights based on narrow interpretations of the law. In fact, while some women in Canada gained the right to vote in 1916, many women — particularly women of colour — did not. By 1960, all women in Canada won the right to vote.
In recognition of the “Famous Five” bringing this case to the SCC, we have chosen five of our women authors to spotlight for Women’s History Month. These authors produce award-winning writing we love to read, and we’ve included some of their reviews and interviews as well.
Here’s a brief book list for our “Famous Five” interpretation:
- This Side of Sad, Karen Smythe
- Karen Smythe’s first memory of writing was a poem she published in the community paper near where she lived, in protest of land being sold to developers. She told her grandparents that she wanted to write a novel, and twenty years later, she had a better idea of the theme and subjects of interest. Smythe has her own writing shed, complete with space heater for winter and a portable air conditioner for summer. Her writing routine begins in the afternoon and usually lasts about three to four hours. Smythe thinks stories are important because they move people, translate our thoughts and feelings, and help us reinterpret or understand our world.
- Powered by Love: A Grandmothers’ Movement to End AIDS in Africa, Joanna Henry and Ilana Landsberg-Lewis
- Joanna Henry visited eight African countries to photograph and interview grandmothers who stepped in after the AIDS pandemic hit its height in the early 2000s, leaving millions of children orphaned. Henry originally worked as part of a disaster aid team in Africa but became disillusioned with her job, feeling like she was serving the interests of Western powers instead of the people. She joined the Stephen Lewis Foundation and spent four years refining the stories told to her, to write Powered by Love, her first book.
- Lucy Jarvis: Even Stones Have Life
- Lucy Jarvis was born in Toronto, studied in Boston and painted in France. She was unstoppable; a generous, opinionated, and prolific art force who first studied art at Havergal Ladies College and later the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Jarvis worked in pastels, watercolours, and oils to portray children’s portraits, landscapes, and figure studies. While she was in Fredericton, she worked alongside Pegi Nicol MacLeod and Margaret MacKenzie to transform the long-unused UNB Observatory into an art centre. Jarvis made four extended trips to Paris within a decade, after which the influence of both impressionism and post-impressionism showed in her work. She spent her last 25 years in the Yarmouth area, before passing away in 1985.
- Marlene Creates: Places, Paths, and Pauses
- Marlene Creates (pronounced "Kreets") is an environmental artist and poet who works with photography, video, scientific, and vernacular knowledge to explore the relationship between human beings and the land. She is the winner of the 2019 Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts for Lifetime Artistic Achievement. Creates lives and works on a six-acre patch of Newfoundland boreal forest where she endeavours to expand ideas about the land. Creates at one point did have a studio but, once she discovered she wasn’t a studio artist, took her art outside. She is currently working on terms in the Newfoundland dialect for the wind and local weather lore to incorporate aspects of wind, based on a beacon on Middle Rock.
- Apron Strings: Navigating Food and Family in France, Italy, and China, Jan Wong
- Jan Wong is an award-winning journalist who grew up in Montreal and decided in 1972 to travel to the People’s Republic of China to attend Peking University, the first of two Westerners to do so. She studied in China during the Cultural Revolution, became a foreign correspondent in Beijing for the New York Times for six years and was an eyewitness to the Tiananmen Square massacre. She also worked at The Gazette in Montreal, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and the Globe and Mail. She is a journalism professor in New Brunswick, has published five books, and considers writing a privilege.