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Emily Murphy - Legacy

Pubdate: Sunday, August 29, 2004
Source: Calgary Herald

Last week: Should the Famous Five be on the $50 bill?

Re: "Should the Famous Five be on the $50 bill?" Naomi Lakritz and Nigel Hannaford, Opinion, Town Hall Sunday, Aug. 22.

Excellent articles. Naomi Lakritz wins by lengths with me. Her piece was well-researched and well-written. I learned much from it.

The Famous Five were splendid women and worthy of recognition in some way that relates to women's issues. They should not be on the $50 bill which relates to all Canadians (Chinese and "special" persons) The Canadian creed is tolerance. Some of these women were vociferous in their evil philosophies.

Nigel Hannaford lost it with me from the outset with history being "adaptable" and the depreciation of the issue as a "minor foofaraw." Crikey -- better get control over that concept right now before it is used by the real evildoers.

Consideration should be given to the fact certain views were dominant at various times. But these were evil views and some of the women used their positions to promulgate them. I can forgive the five for their errors and still admire them for their accomplishments, but the $50 bill? No, thanks.

(Name withheld at authors request)

The more I learn about the Famous Five, the more I believe the honours bestowed on them are excessive. The Persons Case should be seen as a technical updating of an anachronistic law and a lesser achievement in comparison to women getting the vote, serving in Parliament, legislatures and the judiciary. The five made significant contributions in other things such as dower rights, suffrage, social welfare and reforms relating to women's rights.

The assessment of their contributions, however, must include their attitudes towards race and their belief in eugenics. I don't think we should condemn them because these attitudes and beliefs reflected the conventional wisdom of their times. They may not have possessed the enlightened understanding and compassion exhibited by other women of the same era such as Therese Casgrain, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Other Canadian women are just as deserving of the accolades given the Famous Five. Agnes Macphail was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons (1921), founder of the Elizabeth Fry Society, the one most responsible for the establishment of the Archambault Commission to investigate Canada's prisons (1935) and a fighter for women's rights. I don't know if other women shared the Famous Five's attitudes, but given their accomplishments, they are also deserving of national recognition.

Barry V. Fisher

Naomi Lakritz generates an excellent argument, but while we're revamping the bill, we should flip it over and investigate the morally objectionable views of Mackenzie King. Although King logged the most time of any prime minister, his terms were plagued with ambiguity, unfavourable foreign policy and anti-Semitism.

In the years leading up to and including the Second World War, Canada had one of the lowest refugee quotas for fleeing European Jews. Only 5,000 were admitted. Harsh immigration policies set by King's government were the immediate cause. King also met with Adolf Hitler and came away with the belief that the Nazi leader was not evil.

King or the Famous Five -- who should be on the $50? Perhaps none is too many.

James Robert Rubin

Of course, the Famous Five should adorn our currency. What took so long?

Myrna Grimmon

No, these women should not be on our $50 bill; they were too racist. The times being what they were is no excuse for such ignorance.

Grace Jackiw

The Famous Five belong on the $50 bill. They blighted the pages of history with their wrongful views on race, eugenics and mental disability. Nevertheless, I remember well in my lifetime of more than 80 years, that these issues were the common talk and attitude of my day with hardly any thought given to kindness, tolerance or understanding. How much more so it would have been in the lives of these ladies! Regardless, they managed to shine, wrinkles and all, with monumental achievements.

I appreciate their feat of 75 years ago that gives me proud status as a "person" in Canadian society.

Fran Birzins Calgary

If society were as intolerant as Naomi Lakritz, judging individuals less on their contributions and more on their character or actions in that particular period, we would have far fewer heroes to thank.

Had she thought to review some of the world's greatest male leaders with the same scrutiny and standards applied to the Famous Five, she would probably conclude that the contributions of individuals such as John F. Kennedy, Sir John A. Macdonald and Pablo Picasso are greatly overshadowed by their many personal flaws, beliefs or weaknesses.

Macdonald was often drunk in public and in the Commons. Kennedy and Picasso treated women poorly. Bill Clinton may have done great things, but according to Lakritz's standards, we should disregard his accomplishments because he took advantage of Monica Lewinsky.

J. Dawn Ewonus

Nigel Hannaford needs to study the facts before he uses the easy wrist wave to dispel detractors as "today's mavens of political correctness (who take) cheap shots at people who were once admired . . ."

Emily Murphy used hyperbole and unsupportable statistics to convince others in her book, The Black Candle, and as Janey Canuck in Maclean's magazine, of the perils posed by Chinese and blacks.

She also attacked Jews and eastern Europeans. She was vicious in her xenophobia. Murphy travelled the province convincing others to support eugenics and forced sterilization.

She wrote: ". . . the congenitally diseased are becoming vastly more populous than those we designate as 'the upper crust'.

This is why it is altogether likely that the upper crust with its delicious plums and dash of cream is likely to become at any time a mere toothsome morsel for the hungry, the abnormal, the criminals and the posterity of insane paupers."

Louise McKinney and Nellie McClung were also at the forefront of the drive to enact the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act, which resulted in the forced sterilization of 2,822 Albertans, 65 per cent of them women.

They were not merely of their times; they attempted to create their times by being racists and xenophobes. They helped women of their own religion and class. Other women seem to have disproportionately paid the price.

Hal Joffe

In no way should these five women be canonized for 15 to 20 years on a $50 bill.

One good deed, offset by some abhorrent beliefs over a lifetime. No! No!

There are many outstanding citizens from that time who did not have their flaws, in medicine, law, politics, the military and sports.

It is too bad there wasn't adequate notice of this to allow Canadians the time to make their feelings known.

Jim McCurdy

No! No! No! The Famous Five do not deserve to be on any Canadian bill.

Mike Shklanka

Pubdate: Thu, 16 Sep 2004
Source: Montreal Mirror
Author: Russell Barth


Emily Murphy was a racist puritan crackpot, and we have her to thank for decades of drug-war misery, millions of ruined lives and billions of wasted dollars. If they want to put her face on a piece of paper, it shouldn't be the new $50 bill, it should be on toilet paper.

Russell Barth,
Ottawa, ON

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Last Modified:Friday, 15-Jul-2005 13:02:32 PDT