Monday, March 14, 2005

The Famous Five 50

So Toronto’s Now Magazine’s John Akpata doesn’t think it’s appropriate to have Emily Murphy on Canada’s fifty dollar bill because she held questionable views with regards to minorities. Murphy, by the way, is one of the “Famous Five” — along with Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung — who fought to have women legally considered persons in the constitution. Up till this point (1930) we weren't. As a result of their success, women could be elected in Parliament and hold seats in the Senate.

Under the pseudonym “Janey Canuck”, Murphy wrote in venerable Canadian publications like Maclean’s hateful articles disparaging Asians, Blacks, Jews and Eastern Europeans who chose to make Alberta home . Of course this is unfortunate, but not without precedent.

The suffragette movement in the states included white women who wanted the vote before black men. Fortunately abolitionists made up a larger part of the movement, but one cannot forget the past. In England, too, the vote for women split the Pankhursts leaving Sylvia to fight for rights of working class women with Labour party leader Keir Harding while her mother and sister campaigned to get the vote for rich conservative white women.

The fight for human and civil rights has never been pretty or pure. It still isn’t.

Akpata agrees that Murphy was a woman of her time. As was Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King who thought Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy and under whose watch Canada returned boatloads of Jews to their doom. Mr. King graces the $50 bill . No campaign to rub that guy out. Just Murphy.

Or what about H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada. Yes, that is one of her many titles. Despite the fact that we are a sovereign nation with our own nationalized constitution, the matron of the family most responsible for atrocities at home and abroad graces not only our bank notes, but our coins and our stamps. Indeed, Akpata sees nothing strange about the Bank of Canada spending tax dollars changing the image of the Queen because some nutcase with a magnifying glass saw the “devil” in her hair.

No. Akpata would rather one of the few women officially acknowledged for furthering women’s rights in our colonial nation erased from official history, which is replete with celebrated and acknowledged drunks, racists, thieves and misogynists.

Mr. Akpata would like to render Mrs. Murphy persona non grata.

Some things never fucking change.

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