In her work for equal rights, recognition of Canada’s nation-building women and the male survivors of sexual abuse, Frances Wright encounters two main obstacles: indifference and not enough hours in the day.
Frances learned about civic duty and community building as a child.
“I am an immigrant from South Africa whose parents came to Canada in 1950’s because of apartheid,” she says. “I was taught by them to be a good citizen. Don’t be a taker.”
Accordingly, Frances has dedicated her life to equality for women and men.
A successful entrepreneur, she set about recognizing the contributions of the “Famous Five,” Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Louise McKinney, the women who led – and won, in 1929 – the years-long battle to have women legally recognized as “persons” in Canada.
She founded the Famous 5 Foundation in 1996 and by 2000 had marshaled support across Canada and within government to erect a larger-than-life monument to the five women on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, as well as approval from City Hall for the same monument in Calgary’s Olympic Plaza.
The foundation also had the Famous Five memorialized on the Canadian $50 bill and honoured as Senators for a day on the 80th anniversary of the Person’s Case and Frances led the charge to introduce gender-neutral lyrics to Canada’s national anthem, an effort which passed in the House of Commons and is awaiting approval in the Senate.
She has also led the way in advocating for another vulnerable and under-served group in our society as the founder and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
Whatever societal challenge she tackles, Frances looks beyond naysayers who think that now is not the right time for action and change. Instead, she focuses on the end result and gets on with her work for a more just society.
“I’ve given up thinking about obstacles now,” she says. “You just keep going until you get the job done.”