THE CANADIAN FRENCH-SPEAKING WORLD and some of the people who have contributed to its greatness



Thérèse Casgrain

Date of birth:
July 10, 1896

Place of birth:


Reformer and activist


Photo : Thérèse Casgrain © 1981, LIDEC inc.




















Thérèse Forget was born in a comfortable middle-class family in Montreal. At the age of 19, she married Pierre Casgrain who was a federal Member of Parliament from 1917 to 1941. Despite her active family life, she became involved in the country's social and political life at the beginning of the 1920s. A founding member of the Provincial Committee for Women's Suffrage in 1921, she campaigned tirelessly for the social, political and economic rights of women. Her struggles profoundly marked the feminist movement in Quebec.

In 1926, she founded the Ligue de la feunesse féminine, participated in the foundation of the Fédération des oeuvres de charité candienne-française and established the Montreal Symphony Concerts Society. In 1928, she led an arduous battle against the clergy and the political elite of the time, under the leadership of Henri Bourassa, for the legal rights of women and to obtain the right to vote for women in provincial elections. That objective was realized in 1940 when the Liberal government of Adélard Godbout came to power. During the 1930s she became a journalist and presented a broadcast series called Fémina on Radio-Canada. During the Second World War, she was one of the two Presidents of the Women's Surveillance Committee for the Wartime Prices and Trade Board. In 1942, she spoke out against conscription and campaigned as an independent Liberal candidate in the federal elections. In 1946, she joined the CCF (the ancestor of the New Democratic Party), which was closer to her political ideals. She became President of the Quebec wing of that party and ran a number of times as candidate in the provincial elections without being elected. In the 1940s, she took part in the international meetings of socialist parties and fought beside intellectuals and trade unionists against the government of Maurice Duplessis. In 1962, she became President of the Voice of Women, a movement protesting the proliferation of nuclear arms, and in 1966, she founded the Fédérations des femmes du Québec. She took part in organizing aid for Vietnam war victims and was a three-time President of the League for Human Rights.

In 1970, she was appointed to the Senate of Canada, but she had to retire the following year because she had reached the age of 75. She continued, nonetheless, to fight to promote the rights of Amerindiens, for the abolition of mandatory retirement at 65 and to improve the lot of seniors. A holder of 11 honorary doctorates, the title of Grande Montréalaise in 1980 and numerous prestigious distinctions, Thérèse Casgrain, the Canadian activist woman of the century, died at 85, on November 3, 1981. In 1982, the Government of Canada created the Thérèse Casgrain Award to emphasize and extend the work of this eminent Canadian. In 1985, the Canada Post Corporation issued a stamp in her honour to commemorate the end of the United Nations Decade for Women.