Alberta brings back scholarships commemorating Famous Five

The Alberta government has reinstated a scholarship created to honour a pivotal moment in the advancement of the rights of Canadian women that was cancelled last fall. 

Persons Case Scholarships were ended last September

Clockwise from top left: The Famous Five are Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, group shot, Irene Parlby and Emily Murphy. (Glenbow Archives)

The Alberta government has reinstated a previously cancelled scholarship created to honour a pivotal moment in the advancement of the rights of Canadian women.

Last week, the province announced the creation of the Leaders in Equality Award of Distinction or LEAD program, a new scholarship with two funding streams: one for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math),  the other for Persons Case Scholarships. 

The number of beneficiaries and size of the awards have not changed. The government says the two scholarships were combined to reduce red tape. 

The announcement comes four months after the government confirmed it was cancelling the Persons Case Scholarships and using the money for a new fund to benefit students at Women Building Futures, an organization that trains women in construction trades.

Amanda Leblanc, press secretary for Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women minister Leela Aheer, said Aheer and Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides agreed in November to resume the Persons Case Scholarships. 

The government didn't explain in September why it cancelled the scholarship. Leblanc refused to say why the decision has been reversed. 

"The decision to continue administration of the Persons Case scholarship came after careful consideration from both ministers," Leblanc wrote in an email. 

"We are pleased government was able to find a way to continue this important program while also supporting more women in STEM and the trades."

The reversal doesn't appear to be coming at the expense of Women Building Futures. The organization confirmed work on a scholarship is still underway with $100,000 in extra funding provided by the province. 

Famous Five

The Persons Case Scholarship was launched in 1979, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Persons Case when Albertans Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards won their fight for women to be appointed to the Canadian Senate. The women became known as the Famous Five

The scholarship awarded $2,500 grants to 40 post-secondary students of all gender identities who were either working to advance gender equality through their academic work or training for a field that was traditionally under-represented by their gender.

Michelle Meagher, chair of the department of women's and gender studies at the University of Alberta, has sat on the evaluation committee for the Persons Case Scholarships. 

She said she was thrilled to hear they were back. 

"It's a scholarship that has provided enormous support to many, many women and increasingly people of all genders over the last 30, 40 years," she said. 

Meagher is pleased that the government is also keeping the scholarship for women in STEM, which provides $2,500 to a maximum of 50 students. 

Applications for both scholarship streams close on Feb. 21.