P.E.I.'s Famous Five inspire a future generation

P.E.I.'s Famous Five spoke to 27 young women at the legislative assembly for an International Day of the Girl event in Charlottetown on Thursday.

'You just see all these young ladies sitting there in power for the day and it's really cool'

The young women representing the 27 districts of Prince Edward Island began their International Day of the Girl event by listening to a panel discussion with the 'Famous Five'. (Sarah Keaveny Vos/CBC)

It was a sight to be seen in the legislative assembly of Prince Edward Island — every one of the 27 MLA's seats was filled with a young woman representing their electoral district.

"You just see all these young ladies sitting there in power for the day and it's really cool," said Lily Campbell, a Grade 10 student representing Charlottetown-Lewis Point.

It was all part of an International Day of the Girl event on Thursday. The United Nation's theme this year was With Her: A Skilled GirlForce.

The students began the day listening to a panel discussion from the five women who ruled P.E.I. politics 25 years ago, known as the Famous Five.

"I hope the message is girls can do whatever they set their mind to and everybody can be like, if they decide they want to do it, they can and just to never give up and keep going," Campbell said.

Grade 10 student Lily Campbell was representing Charlottetown-Lewis Point. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"It is so inspirational to be here today," said Charlize Sahely, a Grade 11 student representing Charlottetown-Brighton.

"They are talking about every field aspect, they are talking about law, medicine, finances ... any field, you can be in power, it doesn't just have to be politics."

Grade 11 student Charlize Sahely from Colonel Gray High School chosen to represent the district of Charlottetown-Brighton at the P.E.I. Legislature on Thursday. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

"What we have done is brought together the history with the future," said Paula Biggar, P.E.I.'s minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy — as well as the minister responsible for the status of women.

"Within other professions, there are some inroads happening for sure but within our legislative assembly we still have a long way to go." 

More women in P.E.I. politics

Currently there are only five women elected to the legislature out of a possible 27 seats. Biggar said she is working at pushing the parties to be more inclusive during the nomination process.

She also said it was important to show the young women how things had been different in 1993 — when the top five political roles in the province were filled by women.

P.E.I.'s Famous Five women in June 1993 with their former positions listed. (From left) Speaker of the House Nancy Guptill, Lt.-Gov. Marion Reid, Leader of the Opposition Pat Mella, Premier Catherine Callbeck, Deputy Speaker Elizabeth (Libbe) Hubley. (Supplied: Province of P.E.I.)
(From left) Nancy Guptill, Marion Reid, Pat Mella, Catherine Callbeck, Elizabeth (Libbe) Hubley taken on Oct. 11. (François Pierre Dufault/Radio-Canada)

"Today is not necessarily about women in politics but it is for these young women to see themselves in a role that they can have a say in our communities and in our province and to give them a voice to be able to say, I can speak up," said Biggar.

The panel discussion allowed the five women who held key positions in power in the P.E.I. government in 1993 to share their wisdom with the young women. (François Pierre Dufault/Radio-Canada)

"It is cool to meet people that were in power and so important 25 years ago and they are still active and involved today," Campbell said.

"All these girls around me are really smart," Sahely said. "I know all of them can do it and I think a lot of them are interested in politics so hopefully we will see them here in 10 years."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Sarah Keaveny-Vos

About the Author

John Robertson

Video journalist

John Robertson is a multi-platform journalist based out of Charlottetown. He has been with CBC News for more than a decade, with stints in Nunavut, Edmonton and Prince Edward Island. John.Robertson@cbc.ca Twitter @CBCJRobertson Instagram @johnrobertsoncbc