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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mitchell dissertation on the Persons Case

I was excited to discover that a dissertation on the Persons' Case had been posted on the Proquest Theses & Dissertations database. Wow, thought I, we now have a case with historiography, complete with revisionism! But while we have the former, it sounds as though Kelly L. Mitchell's doctoral dissertation Missing persons: The contested legacy of First Wave Feminism, the Famous Five, and the Persons Case of 1929 does not challenge the Sharpe/MacMahon account, but rather takes the tack of looking at the case as a social-political rather than legal/constitutional phenomenon, and extending the story past the JCPC judgment. Still an exciting contribution to the history of Canadian feminism:

Here's the abstract:
On October 18, 1929, Canadian women were legally recognized as "persons" by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. This auspicious decision had been the result of a decade-long struggle led by five women from Alberta. Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby, better known simply as the Famous Five, were suffragists, authors, and political activists in the First Wave of the Women's Movement in Canada. This dissertation examines the story of the Famous Five and the Persons Case and charts the process by which women's struggle for personhood has been recognized as a defining moment in the history of Canadian women.
By making use of sources in both feminist and legal history as well as discussing the case's legal precursors and legacy, this study broadens the context in which the Persons Case has traditionally been examined. Unlike other works which situate the case in Canadian constitutional history, this dissertation portrays the Persons Case as a pivotal part of women's struggle for equality. By pointing to the ways that women's organizations have been using the stories of the Famous Five to inspire women and call attention to ongoing feminist concerns since the 1930s, this dissertation explains why the struggle for personhood, unlike other initiatives in the Women's Movement, continues to resonate so strongly with Canadian women.

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