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Depicted on the $50 note is a representation of the statue of the Famous Five that can be seen on the Olympic Plaza in Calgary, Alberta, and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. These statues and the new $50 note commemorate the collective achievement of the women known as the Famous Five—Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, and Louise McKinney—who triumphed in the 'Persons' Case, one of the most famous cases in Canadian legal history.
The Famous Five asked the Supreme Court of Canada to declare that women were persons under the British North America Act and, therefore, eligible to be appointed to the Senate. This request was denied. After consultation, and with the full backing of the Government of Alberta and of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, the five women petitioned the British Privy Council, then Canada's highest court of appeal. On 18 October 1929, the Privy Council declared that women are, indeed, persons, thus making them eligible to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.
The ruling in the 'Persons' Case enshrined the right of women to participate fully and equally in the political life of this country. And its influence did not end at Canada's borders. The rights of women throughout the British Commonwealth were expanded by this historic ruling, thanks to the efforts of the Famous Five.
The statues, commissioned by the Famous 5 Foundation and realized by artist and sculptor Barbara Paterson, depict the five women as they might have appeared when they learned the news that women were legally declared to be 'persons.' The bronze monument located at Olympic Plaza in Calgary was unveiled in 1999, on 'Persons' Day: 18 October. The statue located on Parliament Hill was dedicated on 18 October 2000. The illustration on the back of the $50 note is by Jorge Peral, Art Director, Canadian Bank Note Company, and is based on a photograph of a smaller-scale bronze maquette, also created by Barbara Paterson.
In the bottom left corner of the back of the $50 note is a depiction of a newspaper headline that reads: "Women are Persons, Les femmes sont des personnes." This journal tablet represents the newspaper headlines as they appeared on 18 October 1929, and is an enlargement of the newspaper held by Nellie McClung in the statue.
The Famous Five were selected to illustrate the theme of the $50 note—nation building—because of their contribution to securing the political rights of women in Canada. Their efforts helped to create and reinforce the principles of equal rights and fairness in Canadian society.