I just made my first Wikipedia edit!

Vancouver Sun columnist Stephen Hume’s profile of “notable British Columbians” for today is politician Mary Ellen Smith. At the end of his article, he notes that “the federal government designated her a person of national historical significance in 2016.” But wait, I said: we already had her listed with that designation, and I gleaned names from the government list in 2014. Discrepancy! Data failure! Turns out that the Wikipedia list (let this be a lesson to you all) was not correct. When I first checked it, I did verify my data against the government websites listed as references, but those links are now broken. I cannot find a definitive, authoritative list online. Stephen Hume’s data is correct, as made evident by this announcement in November 2016. So I changed the Wikipedia entry, linking to this announcement. But what about all those other dates, now that the actual government list is gone? I think I may have to write an actual letter to someone at Parks Canada, the organization that assigns these designations.

Data concerns aside, I find Mary Ellen Smith’s biography here rather interesting, as it parallels so strongly that of Emily Murphy, Albertan politician and one of the Famous Five, who became the first female police magistrate in the British Empire. Like Mary Ellen Smith, Murphy fought for—and won—numerous improvements in the social and political lives of Canadian women. Like Mary Ellen Smith, too, Emily Murphy was prejudiced against the Asian population of Canada as well as an adherent of eugenicist ideologies. Could it be (and here I really am guessing, not being a political historian) that one of the reasons these women were politically successful was that they agreed with (catered to?) factions in their society that many of us find incomprehensible or abhorrent, but were accepted more readily 100 years ago? Perhaps this is something—more profound than I am able to articulate—to be contemplated in light of the current political atmosphere, on this, International Women’s Day 2017.

 

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