Women's groups that had sought the vote to bring about social change now wished to have women appointed to the Senate to continue their campaigns. They requested the Prime Minister to appoint a woman as one of the eligible "persons" specified under the British North America Act. Two successive Prime Ministers claimed that they could not do this unless the BNA Act was modified, since women had no independent legal identity in Britain when the BNA Act was passed in 1867.
Edmonton feminist Emily Murphy, whose actions as a magistrate had been challenged on the grounds that she was not a "person" under the BNA Act, was the preferred Senate candidate of national women's groups. Along with four other prominent women activists - Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, and Henrietta Muir Edwards - Judge Murphy persuaded the government to direct the Supreme Court to rule on whether women were indeed "persons." The court ruled in the negative, but on October 18, 1929, eight years after the campaign began, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England, then the appeals court for the Canadian Supreme Court, ruled in the women's favour.
Disappointingly, Judge Murphy was not appointed to the Senate; she was from the wrong political party for the first appointment available and the wrong religion for the second. Cairine Wilson, appointed to the Senate in 1930, was active around issues of child welfare and anti-fascism.
The decision in the Persons Case had, however, a large symbolic
meaning, as a victory achieved through the machinery of the existing
system. Second-wave feminists in the 1970s adopted "personhood"
as a symbol of women's legal personality and made it into an occasion
for celebrating the achievements of women activists. Several
Canadian governments annually give "Persons Awards"
honouring prominent women. In contrast to International Women's
Day, this is a specifically Canadian festival; in contrast to
December 6, it is an occasion for joy.