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Calgarians celebrate anniversary of landmark victory by women’s rights pioneers: ‘It was very brave’

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WATCH: Some Calgarians are getting ready to pay tribute to a few of their heroes. Here’s Gil Tucker with more on their salute to Albertans who fought hard to open up opportunities for women to serve Canada – Oct 16, 2019

The sculpture of ‘The Famous Five’ at Olympic Plaza is a well-known landmark in Calgary, a fitting spot for an event later this week that will celebrate the accomplishments of the five Alberta women depicted in bronze.

People preparing to pay tribute to the women’s rights pioneers include singer-songwriter Carolyn Harley, who was practicing on Tuesday for Friday’s event.

“The Famous Five changed the face of our land,” Harley sang.

READ MORE: Thousands of Calgarians gather in solidarity with Women’s March on Washington

Another Calgarian preparing to perform was Doreen Vanderstoop, in period costume to portray one of the Famous Five.

“This is Emily Murphy,” Vanderstoop said, pointing to a bronze figure. “She’s the one who initiated the Persons Case.”

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Vanderstoop and Harley are volunteers with the Calgary-based Famous 5 Foundation, which is hosting a public celebration at the sculpture at noon on Friday, Oct. 18.

That date marks the 90th anniversary of the decision in the Persons Case.

“It made women legally persons under the law,” Vanderstoop said.

READ MORE: Gender equality in Canada: Where do we stand today?

The case set a precedent throughout the British Commonwealth, opening the door for women to hold public office.

The performers say it’s important to commemorate the five women’s victory in their court case.

“It was a long struggle – it took them many years, through many prime ministers to finally get this,” Harley said. “And so I admire their tenacity and their determination in the face of a lot of discrimination.”

The 90th-anniversary celebration also includes a Pink Tea at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel.

Pink Teas were meetings that women, including the Famous Five, held to discuss social and political issues.

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READ MORE: Famous 5 showcases historic ‘pink tea’ conversations in immersive audio experience

Several bystanders watched Harley and Vanderstoop practice their performances, thankful for the chance to experience part of their tribute to the Five.

“It’s a beautiful thing. It was very brave,” Dedayo Adeniji said. “And because of women like that we are standing here today able to exercise our rights and contribute greatly to society.”

The timing of the celebration holds special significance, just ahead of the federal election on Monday, Oct. 21.

READ MORE: Challenges remain 100 years after women won the right to vote in Alberta

“I just turned 18, so yeah, I’m going to vote this year,” Josephine Smith said. “I want to vote for someone who will actually stick up for us and make the world a better place.”

Calgary poet laureate Sheri-D Wilson, who’ll be reciting her work during the celebration, is encouraging women to push for social change.

“Women must get into politics more,” Wilson said.

Smith and others taking in the practice at the sculpture were inspired by the Famous Five, hoping to carry on their efforts to promote women’s rights.

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“We need it more than ever, and women can do it,” Mary Anne Clarke said. “We can make the change.”

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