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Canada History Week - July 1–7

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Congrégation de Notre-Dame

The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the first women's suffrage in Canada. For this reason Canada History Week has chosen to make it this year’s theme.

In this spirit, the Congrégation de Notre-Dame wishes to participate in this event by providing information on the history of the struggle for women’s right to vote in Canada and particularly in Quebec.

You will find below the names and photos of three former Congrégation de Notre-Dame students who campaigned for women’s rights.

Idola Saint-Jean

Idola Saint-Jean (1880-1945) studied at Villa Maria and Académie Saint-Urbain, two schools under the direction of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. She was an active feminist, a teacher and a pioneer in the movement for women’s suffrage. In 1927, she founded the Canadian Alliance for Women’s Votes in Quebec.

Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie and Marie Gérin-Lajoie

Zone de texte: Photo: Idola Saint-Jean, graduate of L’Académie Saint-Urbain in 1897
Fonds of L’Académie Saint-Urbain, L459 - 324.100.102, p.005

Marie Gérin-Lajoie – née Lacoste (1867-1945) was an educator, author, and a pioneer activist for women’s rights and their access to higher education in Quebec. In 1907, she established the Fédération nationale Saint-Jean-Baptiste and in 1908, she participated in the founding of a school for higher education.

Zone de texte: Photo: October 15, 1933, souvenir from Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys’s silver jubilee, mother and daughter with Sister Sainte-Anne-Marie (Marie-Aveline Bengle).
Fonds of L’Institut pédagogique and of Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys, L206 - 308.600.085, p.043

Marie Gérin-Lajoie (1890-1971) was a feminist and pioneer in the field of social work. She founded L’Institut Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Conseil de Montréal. She was the daughter of Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie. She studied at L’École d’enseignement supérieur, a school under the direction of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. In 1911, she was the first French-Canadian woman to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain

Zone de texte: Photo: Marie-Claire Kirkland Casgrain visiting Villa Maria in November 1965
Fonds of Collège Villa Maria, L480 - 326.000.286, p.009

Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain (1924-2016) was a lawyer by training and the first woman elected to Quebec's National Assembly. She studied at Villa Maria, a school under the direction of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. In 1964, she was responsible for the passage of a Bill which gave legal rights to married women. When she died last March, she was given a state funeral.


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