On February 16, 1967 Canadian women's groups across the country won a significant victory, the right to have an inquiry into the status of women in Canada. Today this idea may seem very strange to most people - after all why would women have to win this right? Why would women across the country want an official check on their status within the country? We are talking about the 20th century right?
What many people fail to realize is that there were many areas of Canadian society that were not very open to women at this period. One of the best examples is that in many cases if a woman wanted to make a large purchase at a store she needed her husband's permission in advance. Women may have received the vote in most provinces before the 1920s and the right to be known legally as "persons" in 1929, but there were many areas where women were not treated equally.
As a result, women's groups started to call for a Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. This idea was one that was catching on in many other countries around the world - as more and more women wanted to really know the full extent of their status in society and from that base their advocacy for change.
The name Laura Sabia became tied forever to the Canadian fight for this inquiry when she told a Globe & Mail reporter that women would be willing to fight and even march on Parliament Hill if needed to get a commission started. The next day Sabia's words made front page news in the Globe & Mail and shortly there after on February 16, 1967 a Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was announced by the Pearson Administration.
One of the reason's royal commissions are important is that they focus attention on an important topic in order to further investigate it and make recommendations for change. Commissioners are selected from across the country to work with a team of administrators who will conduct interviews, ask for public input, conduct public consultations. This work is backed up by research and data collection. The commissioners then work to synthesize all the data and come up with concrete recommendations for change.
Elsie Gregory MacGill was selected as a Commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. She recognized the importance of this role immediately and she was determined to commit herself to the project fully - as she new that it could lead to important changes for Canadians. As she noted herself:
"It is possible that the effects of this Commission will reach further than people think. When considering the status of women, it is important to realize that for both men and women technology is rapidly changing the existing Canadian patterns of employment, full-time and part-time work - and leisure, too - and the social and economic values upon which status is based. Insight gained there could drastically change Canada's social philosophy"
(Page 147 Sissons 2014)
Read more about the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada in Queen of the Hurricanes: The Fearless Elsie MacGill.