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EDWARDS, Henrietta Muir

Montreal, Quebec, 1849
Macleod, Alberta, 1931
Biography synopsis
Although better known for her commitment to the advancement of women's rights and her achievements in the field of social, judicial and educational reform, Henrietta Muir Edwards was also an accomplished painter. Raised in a cultured and affluent household, she joined the women's movement at an early age, founding the Working Girl's Association (which later became the YWCA) and launching the first Canadian magazine for working women, entitled "Working Woman of Canada," both with the help of her sister. After studying painting in New York with Wyatt Eaton, as well as in Montreal and Europe, she sold her miniatures, flower paintings and portraits in order to finance the magazine. Her involvement with feminist organizations continued after her marriage and move to Saskatchewan. In collaboration with Lady Aberdeen, she founded the National Council of Women of Canada in 1893, for which she served as chair for Laws Governing Women and Children for 35 years, and the Victoria Order of Nurses. She was also appointed chair of the Provincial Council of Alberta, which allowed her to actively support causes such as equal grounds for divorce, prison system reform and allowances for women. Perhaps her greatest achievement came in 1929, when she joined with four other women to obtain a reversal of a Supreme Court decision, thus granting Canadian women the right to be appointed to the Senate and redefining the word 'person' in the British North America Act. In addition to her feminist activities, Edwards also maintained a flourishing artistic career, painting the portraits of such notable Canadians as Lord Strathcona and Wilfrid Laurier, and painting a set of china with Ottawa scenery, which was shown at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. She also exhibited with the Art Association of Montreal (1883) and the Ontario Society of Artists (1882-1900).
Media used
China painting
Private study (under Wyatt Eaton, New York)
File & Archive locations
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Archives Society of Alberta
CBC Digital Archives
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON
Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives, QC
University of Alberta Archives
National Film Board of Canada, QC

Writings about
"25 years of leadership and commitment to advancing gender equality." Canadian Newswire (Ottawa) 3 May 2004: 1.
"Henrietta Muir Edwards." Imperial Oil Review 90.454 (Winter 2006-2007): 22.
"In Memory of the Alberta Five." Alberta Report/Newsmagazine 22.45 (23 Oct. 1995): 27.
"Key Moments in Alberta History." Canadian Newswire (Toronto) 1 Sept. 2005.
"Obituary." Lethbridge Herald 10 Nov. 1931.
"Onward to the Hill..." Ivey Business Journal 64.3 (Jan. 2000): 8.
"Portrait." Alberta Historical Review 10 (Spring 1962): 2.
"Portrait." Canadian (13-14 Oct. 1979): 14.
"Recipients announced in 2006 Governor General's Awards in commemoration of the Persons Case." Canadian Newswire (Ottawa) 19 Oct. 2006: 1.
Bannerman, Jean Mackay. "The Famous Five." Leading Ladies Canada. Belleville: Mika Publishing Company, 1977.
Bertrand, Magdeleine. Les Femmes artistes du Québec de 1875 à 1925. Montreal: Université de Montréal, 1990.
Bickerton, James et al. Ties That Bind: Parties and Voters in Canada. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Bumsted, J. M. The Peoples of Canada: A Post-Confederation History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Canadian Heritage. Inauguration of the "Women are Persons!" Monument, Parliament Hill, October 18, 2000. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, 2000.
Cheevers, Brenda. "Talent and hard work guided Henrietta Muir." Calgary Herald 17 Nov. 1975.
Cheng, Pang Guek. Culture Shock! Canada: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Portland, Oregon: Graphic Arts Center Publishing, 2003.
Cook, Sharon Anne, et al., eds. Framing Our Past: Canadian Women's History in the 20th Century. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001.
Dempster, Lisa and Dave Pommer. "Famous Five honoured despite 'human flaws'." Canadian Press Newswire (Toronto) 18 Oct. 1999.
Dobrowolsky, Alexandra and Vivien Hart, eds. Women Making Constitutions: New Politics and Comparative Perspectives. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.
Epp, Charles R. The Rights Revolution: Lawyers, Activists, and Supreme Courts in Comparative Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Famous 5 Foundation. The Famous 5: Nation Builders. Calgary: The Famous 5 Foundation, 1999.
Famous 5 Foundation. Women are Persons!: Famous 5 National Exhibit Tour, 1999-2000. Calgary: Famous 5 Foundation, 1999.
Ganley, Rosemary. "A Grace Received: The World March of Women." Catholic New Times 24.18 (19 Nov. 2000): 3.
Ghosh, Sabitri. "Monumental Questions: the human rights legacy of the famous five." Catholic New Times 23.5 (17 Oct. 1999): 10.
Harper, J. Russell. Early Painters and Engravers in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.
Hart, Laurie Anne. Collecting and Curating Objects of Ethnography. Edmonton: University of Alberta, 1998.
Hayes, Alan L. Anglicans in Canada: Controversies and Identity in Historical Perspective. Campaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
Lahey, Anita. "Foundation to Re-Build History: With the Famous Five." Herizons (Winnipeg) 11.4 (Fall 1997): 10.
Lamonde, Yvan et al., eds. History of the Book in Canada: Vol. 2, 1840-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
Leishman, Rory. Against Judicial Activism: The Decline of Freedom and Democracy in Canada. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006.
Library and Archives Canada. "Henrietta Muir Edwards." Library and Archives Canada, ?.
Lipset, Seymour. Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada. New York and Oxford: Routledge, 1990.
MacEwan, Grant. "Henrietta Muir Edwards: The lady and the law." Mighty Women: Stories of Western Canadian Pioneers. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 1995.
McKendry, Blake. Dictionary of Folk Artists in Canada: From the 17th Century to the Present. Elginburg: Blake McKendry, 1988.
McLachlin, Beverley. "The Famous Five who blazed the way for women's rights." Canadian Speeches 14.5 (Nov-Dec. 2000): 13.
McMann, Evelyn de Rostaing. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Formerly Art Association of Montreal: Spring Exhibitions, 1880-1970. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.
McMann, Evelyn de Rostaing. Royal Canadian Academy of Arts/Académie royale des arts du Canada: Exhibitions and Members 1880-1979. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981.
Mitchell, Alanna. "'Women's Work' Not Worth the Trouble: a Major show of Women's Art through the Century fails to do Justice to the Complexity of its Subject." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 4 Jan. 1997: C12.
Morgan, Henry James. The Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Handbook of Canadian Biography. Toronto: William Briggs, 1898.
Nicholson, Barbara. Feminism in the Prairie Provinces to 1916 [microform]. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1974.
Olsen, Kristin. Chronology of Women's History. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Paranjpe, Anand C. Self and Identity in Modern Psychology and Indian Thought. New York: Springer, 1998.
Petteys, Chris, et al. Dictionary of Women Artists: An International Dictionary of Women Artists Born Before 1900. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985.
Rennie, Bradford James. Alberta Premiers of the Twentieth Century. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2004.
Roome, Patricia Anne. Henrietta Muir Edwards: The Journey of a Canadian Feminist Vancouver: Simon Fraser University, 1996.
Russell, Peter H. Constitutional Odyssey: Can Canadians Become a Sovereign People? Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004.
Strong-Boag, Veronica et al., eds. Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women's History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Thompson, John Herd. Forging the Prairie West. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Welykochy, Dawn. C is for Chinook: An Alberta Alphabet. Chelsea, Michigan: Sleeping Bear Press, 2004.
Westbridge, Anthony R. The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction. Vancouver: Westbridge Publications, 2001.
White, Anne. "The Persons Case: a struggle for legal definition and personhood." Alberta History 47.3 (1999): 2-9.
Young, Cecil. One Canada. Victoria: Trafford Publishing, 2005.

Writings by
Edwards, Henrietta Muir. Henrietta Muir Edwards and others, appellants, and Attorney-General for Canada and others, respondents: on appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada, re: the meaning of the word 'persons'. London: Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales, 1930.
Edwards, Henrietta Muir. Legal status of Canadian women as shown by extracts from dominion and provincial laws relating to marriage, property, dower, divorce, descent of land, franchise, crime and other subjects. Calgary: National Council of Women of Canada, 1908.
Edwards, Henrietta Muir. Legal status of women in Canada: as shown by extracts from dominion and provincial laws relating to naturalization, franchise, crime, marriage, divorce, property, devolution of estates, mothers [...]. Ottawa: F. A. Acland, Printer to the King, 1924.
Edwards, Henrietta Muir. Legal status of women of Alberta as shown by extracts from dominion and provincial laws. Edmonton?: Issued by and under the authority of the Attorney General, 1921.
Edwards, Henrietta Muir. On appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada in the matter of a reference as to the meaning of the word 'persons' in section 24 of the British North America act: between Henrietta Muir Edwards, [...]. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1928.
National Council of Women of Canada. Report of committee on regulations and methods of election of members of schoolboards, [...]. ?: ?, 1898.

Full text pdfs of exhibition reviews
Royal Canadian Academy Annual Exhibition.: (Halifax, April 1882) "Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Third Notice."  Gazette (Montreal)  April 14, 1882.  p. 3.   Full-text pdf
Ontario Society of Artists Annual Exhibition: (Toronto, May 1882) "Art in Ontario. Tenth Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society. The "Private View" Day. A Capital Display in Both Branches."  Globe (Toronto)  May 15, 1882.  p. 8.   Full-text pdf
Ontario Society of Artists Annual Exhibition: (Toronto, May 1882) "Canadian Art. The Tenth Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society."  Toronto Daily Mail  May 16, 1882.  p.8.   Full-text pdf

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