The Famous 5 Foundation – Women Who Changed Canada

The Famous 5 Foundation, a Canadian non-profit organization, is dedicated to empowering women and girls to lead change with the boldness and determination of the trailblazing Famous Five – Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, and Irene Parlby. These remarkable Albertan women were at the forefront of advocating for women’s legal rights in Canada during the 1920s, breaking barriers and setting new precedents in a manner reminiscent of today’s women leading innovations in dynamic sectors such as technology, entrepreneurship, and even the fast-evolving online casino industry.

Famous Five Women

In a nation that has seen enormous contributions from outstanding women leaders across various fields over the past 150 years, it is crucial that we recognize and celebrate these achievements. Organizations like The Famous 5 Foundation play a pivotal role in this by honouring the legacy of Canadian female trailblazers of the past while also nurturing future generations to carry on that empowering spirit.

About Famous 5

The Famous 5 Foundation was established in 1997 to commemorate the remarkable journey and determination of the Famous Five to have women legally declared as “persons” in Canada. Since its inception, the foundation has been committed to building a society without gender barriers by cultivating leadership skills in Canadian girls and women.

The core values that drive the foundation are Courage, Determination, Equality, Honesty, Integrity and Respect. All initiatives aim to instill these principles in rising female leaders across the nation.

The Foundation

Over the years, The Famous 5 Foundation has implemented a multitude of programs and events designed to preserve the legacy of the Famous Five while also propelling growth for current and future generations. Some key achievements include educational curriculums in schools highlighting the lives of the Famous Five, commemorative monuments erected in Calgary and Ottawa, the $50 banknote from 2004-2012 featuring the Famous Five, and interactive multimedia resources allowing Canadians to engage with this integral story.

Ongoing key initiatives focus on leadership development, educational workshops and conferences for girls, speaker events with leading women executives and professionals, campaigns to raise awareness of women’s underrepresentation in certain fields, including dynamic sectors such as online casinos, and annual celebrations like Persons Day.


Volunteer committees play a crucial role in driving the foundation’s mission through fundraising initiatives, marketing efforts and community engagement.

The Fund Development Committee organizes various campaigns and events to generate donations and sponsorships needed to sustain the organization’s programs, targeting young girls and rising female leaders. Volunteers assist with preparing appeals and stewardship reports, prospect research, soliciting major gift requests and more.

The Marketing Committee manages social communications to promote the visibility of The Famous 5 Foundation’s events and campaigns to the wider public. Volunteers ideate creative content for social platforms, foster engagement on those channels and provide on-site coverage of occasions like the Speaker Series through posts and live reporting. This enables the foundation’s message of female empowerment to reach more people.

Who Were the Famous Five?

The pioneering Albertan activists who inspired the foundation’s name and motivations were Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby.

Emily Murphy was the first female magistrate in the British Empire. Nellie McClung was a trailblazing feminist and suffragist who led the fight to obtain voting rights for women in Manitoba. Henrietta Muir Edwards co-founded the influential women’s rights organization, National Council of Women of Canada. Louise McKinney was the first woman elected to a legislature in Canada or the British Empire as an MLA in Alberta. Irene Parlby also served as an MLA in Alberta and made history as one of the first female cabinet ministers in Canada.

Were the Famous Five

In 1927, these five women initiated a legal battle that ultimately ended in 1929 with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain ruling that women were considered “persons” under Canadian law. This verdict enabled women to be appointed senators and hold various public offices. It was a landmark victory with resounding effects across the British Commonwealth.

The Women

In celebration of outstanding contributions from Canadian women leaders over the past 150 years, The Famous 5 Foundation launched the #150BoldWomen campaign on International Women’s Day 2018. It highlighted the careers of numerous trailblazing women across areas like science, business, law, arts, and even in emerging sectors like online gambling, calling for greater representation of women in certain fields that still lack diversity.

The aim is to showcase bold and fearless women from history through engaging multimedia content to educate and inspire young girls to unleash their potential as tomorrow’s changemakers. When more women occupy leadership roles, it creates a ripple effect that gives confidence to girls to dream big and challenge systemic barriers.

The Story

The journey of the Famous Five was one of true courage and idealism during a time when society severely restricted women’s rights. Their activism as individuals to improve conditions for women-led the quintet to realize the power of consolidation. Though they differed in personality, background and ideology, the five Albertan women found a common purpose in tackling unjust laws that prohibited women from participating equally in public life.

Through clever strategizing, they exploited a loophole to have Canada’s Supreme Court assess if the term “persons” actually included women when it came to appointment to the Senate. When the top court ruled it did not in 1928, the five women persisted by appealing to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Britain. Against odds, the Privy Council decreed on October 18, 1929, that women were, in fact, persons, overturning the previous verdict.

This monumental legal victory signalled the erosion of outdated conventions barring women from politics and governance. It directly enabled women to become senators and paved the path for increased representation in law-making. The far-reaching effects served as an inflection point for women’s rights across the British Commonwealth.

What Was the Person’s Case?

The Persons Case marked a pivotal juncture in Canadian history as a landmark ruling that transformed the role of women in public life. Thanks to the resilient efforts of the Famous Five with support from other women leaders, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council finally proclaimed that women were eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada by virtue of being “qualified persons” as per the British North America Act of 1867.

By having this discrimination against women overturned in 1929, the legal foundation opened up for greater involvement of women leaders in positions of power and governance. It fueled momentum for subsequent actions like the appointment of Canada’s first female senator, Cairine Wilson, in 1930.

Today, the Persons Case is remembered as a courageous overcoming of systemic barriers preventing women from participating equally in politics and democracy solely because of their gender. The Famous Five’s spirit of conviction in the face of obstacles remains a source of inspiration. The Persons Day on October 18 commemorates this watershed case each year, reminding us of the need for inclusive leadership where women have an equal seat at the table.

Famous 5 Activities


True to its founders’ aims, The Famous 5 Foundation administers several key programs that honour past female trailblazers while cultivating those of the future.

The multimedia #WomenBelong campaign spotlights statistics about women’s underrepresentation in certain fields today despite substantial progress overall. For instance, only 24% of chefs are women and just 15% of the Canadian Armed Forces are women. The initiative reminds us women belong equally in all careers and leadership capacities.

Preserving the Legacy of the Famous Five is a core program that publishes learning materials about these changemakers for school curriculums, hosts an annual “Persons Day” event on October 18, funded monuments in Calgary and Ottawa and released a book entitled “The Famous Five: Nation Builders” among other educational mediums to spread awareness.

Fostering female leadership is also a central objective. This is achieved via the high-profile Enbridge Famous 5 Speaker Series events held throughout the year, featuring conversations with influential women executives and professionals across industries to discuss their empowering journeys.

Finally, for emerging talent, the Future 5 Program contains workshops, conferences and networking initiatives for girls as young as age 7 to help them gain confidence, broaden aspirations and unlock their inner leader early on.


The foundation oversees several impactful events annually geared toward public awareness, consolidating female leaders and celebrating changemakers.

The Enbridge Famous 5 Speaker Series provides a unique platform to hear from some of Canada’s top bosses in business, politics, law, arts, social justice and other realms. Past distinguished speakers have included Senator Vivienne Poy, Olympic Gold Medalist Chandra Crawford and celebrity human rights lawyer Marie Henein.

Special ceremonies like the annual Persons Day on October 18 commemorate the anniversary of the monumental 1929 legal victory. Youth Awards are hosted to celebrate young girls demonstrating leadership.

On International Women’s Day, The Famous 5 Foundation also initiates campaigns aligned to that year’s global theme – past topics have encompassed women’s economic parity, equality in the workplace, boldness for change and progress in female entrepreneurship in Canada.

Initiatives in the Online Gambling Sector

Initiatives in the Online Gambling Sector

Recognizing the influence of digital platforms and the rise of online gambling as an industry, The Famous 5 Foundation has extended its outreach to include initiatives to empower women in this sector. Efforts have been made to highlight the achievements of women breaking new ground in online casinos, game development, and regulatory roles, providing role models for aspiring professionals in this field. For a closer look at these industry leaders, consult expert opinions on top real-money online casinos where women excel.

These initiatives aim to ensure women are not only participants but also leaders in shaping the future of the online casino sphere, advocating for responsible gaming, ethical practices, and diversity in game development and corporate leadership.

These initiatives aim to ensure women are not only participants but also leaders in shaping the future of online casino sphere, advocating for responsible gaming, ethical practices, and diversity in game development and corporate leadership.

Joining Hands: Volunteer

The Famous 5 Foundation welcomes enthusiastic individuals who relate to its ethos of promoting female empowerment to join hands by volunteering time across various committees.

Assisting with fundraising campaigns, maintaining a social media presence, planning commemorative events, and directly mentoring young girls together bolsters the foundation’s ability to deliver initiatives that nurture confidence in female leaders of tomorrow.

Volunteers also gain access to insightful training workshops themselves, build connections with professionals across sectors and have opportunities to listen to world-class keynote speakers at events. Each person’s commitment to skills and hours invested ultimately furthers the collective mission to permanently shatter glass ceilings.

Gratitude to Sponsors and Donors

The small team running operations at The Famous 5 Foundation appreciates that their success in highlighting trailblazing women and providing girls with relatable role models from various sectors, including technology, science, online casinos, and environmental advocacy, relies heavily on the generosity of program sponsors and donors.

Vital funding for developing educational multimedia content explaining the lasting impact of first-wave feminists who relentlessly organized to dismantle barriers embedded in our country’s early political structures is possible solely because corporations and individuals financially invest in sustaining this narrative access.

Canada owes immense credit to everyone who has contributed monetarily to the foundation as well as partners generously providing event spaces permitting recognized female torchbearers across industries to converge and inspire emerging young leaders to harness their inner changemakers. Together, we build platforms for the icons of tomorrow.