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Battle for women’s rights was planned at ‘pink teas’

Val Kostelansky and Laura Martin as two men mocking the idea of women voting in a scene from 2016.

Denise Calderwood, Laura Martin, Val Kostelansky, Lynn Penniket as Louise McKinney and Chris Pinder performed in 2016.

Fort Macleod women return to their roots next week with a pink tea at the library.
In the early 1900s pink teas — so named to throw men off the scent — were a forum for women to organize and strategize about women’s rights.
Fort Macleod Library is hosting the pink tea at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 featuring a play written by Nellie McClung, one of the Famous Five.
“This year we are very keen to have young women attend the tea,” said Denise Calderwood, one of the cast members. “We all feel so strongly that every young woman in Alberta should know what these pioneer women did to ensure the rights and privileges they enjoy and take for granted today.”
“Pink tea” was the code name used for women’s political meetings.
Men who were concerned about women being active politically had no worries about ladies attending a “pink tea.”
Since men had no interest in attending a tea themselves, they stayed away and didn’t interfere with the important work of the women
Calderwood is the premier, Laura Martin is party leader, Marilyn Roemer is leader of the opposition, Mary Ina Dowdell plays Robertson Jones and Val Kostelansky plays the ticket taker.
Chris Pinder is the play’s narrator.
The play has the women sitting in the legislature receiving a delegation of men, requesting the vote.
“McClung has turned the tables on the men and what follows is truly a bit of masterful satire,” Calderwood said.
The group first staged the play four years ago on the 100th anniversary of the Person’s Case.
Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung and Emily Murphy were the Famous Five, and sought to have women legally considered persons so that women could be appointed to the Senate.
The Famous Five created a petition that asked the Supreme Court of Canada, “Does the word ‘persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?”
On April 24, 1928 Canada’s Supreme Court answered the question with a unanimous “No.”
That ruling was overturned by the British Judicial Committee in 1929 in a case that came to be known as the “Persons Case.”
Although Canadian women had the vote in many provinces and federal elections by 1929, the case was part of a nation-wide drive for political equality.
“Telling the story of the fight for women’s suffrage, and all the other issues associated with it, and especially bringing to life those courageous and determined women leaders of the day, those five brave souls we now call the Famous Five, seems to me worth putting in some effort,” Calderwood said in 2016.

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