Thérèse Casgrain, née Forget, CC, OBE, reformer, activist, feminist, politician (born 10 July 1896 in Montréal, QC; died 2 November 1981 in Montréal).
Thérèse Casgrain, née Forget, CC, OBE, reformer, activist, feminist, politician (born 10 July 1896 in Montréal, QC; died 2 November 1981 in Montréal). Best remembered for leading the campaign for women's suffrage in Québec, Thérèse Casgrain wasthe first woman to be elected the leader of a political party in Canada.She had a long politic career and vigorously fought against social, economic and political injustices affecting both women and men.
Born to a wealthy family, Thérèse Casgrain was the daughter of Sir Rodolphe Forget, a lawyer, financier and Conservative politician who was said to be one of the richest men in Montréal. In 1916, she married Pierre-François Casgrain, a lawyer and Liberal politician, with whom she raised four children.
A Committed Woman
A founding member of the Provincial Franchise Committee for women's suffrage in 1921, Casgrain campaigned ceaselessly for women's rights in Québec. She headed the Ligue des droits de la femme for 14 years (1928–1942), which attained not only the right for women to vote at the provincial level, but also significant social and legal reforms. In 1940, the Quebec Liberals, led by Adélard Godbout, passed the women’s suffrage bill, and women obtained the right to vote in Québec’s provincial elections.
In 1946, disillusioned with the Liberals, she joined the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (now the New Democratic Party). In 1948, she was chosen as the national vice-chair of the CCF, the only woman on its executive. From 1951 to 1957, she served as leader of the Québec wing of the party (known from 1955 as the Parti social démocratique du Québec), making her the first woman in Canadian history to head a political party. She worked within the party, strengthening international socialist links.
Casgrain was a humanist who, in addition to her suffragist concerns, fought for universal rights and reforms in the areas of unemployment, health care, education and housing. Established in 1982, the Thérèse-F. Casgrain Foundation continues her mission “to favour the advancement of women in Canada and to support initiatives that allow them to change our society.” It supports projects in three distinct areas: the education, advancement and social economy of women.
In 1990, the Université du Québec à Montréal opened the Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain, which houses the Departments of Sexology, Religious Studies, Philosophy and Law, as well as the School of Social Work.
In December 2012, a monument of Casgrain near the National Assembly was unveiled. Her statue stands next to those of Idola Saint-Jean, Marie Gérin-Lajoie (née Lacoste) and Marie-Claire Kirkland, all pioneers who fought for women's rights and improved their social and economic conditions.
Officer, Order of Canada (1967)
Companion, Order of Canada (1974)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., Université de Montréal (1968)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., McGill (1974)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., Queen's (1974)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., Trent universities (1974)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., University of Ottawa (1979)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., York University (1979)
Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case (1979)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., Concordia University (1980)
Academy of Great Montréalers, Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montréal (1980)
Honorary Doctor of Law, LL.D., Windsor University (1981)
Officer, Order of the British Empire
Wayne Brown, "Thérèse Casgrain: Suffragist, First Female Party Leader, and Senator", Electoral Insights, Elections Canada Magazine, May 2002.
Thérèse F. Casgrain, A Woman in a Man's World (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972).
Anita Caron and Lorraine Archambault, eds., Thérèse Casgrain : une femme tenace et engagée (Ste-Foy: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 1993).
Micheline Dumont, Feminism à la Québécoise (Montréal: Remue-ménage, 2012).
Nicolle Forget, Thérèse Casgrain : la gauchiste en collier de perle (Montréal: Fides, 2013).
Susan Mann Trofimenkoff, "Thérèse Casgrain and the CCF in Quebec", in Beyond the Vote: Canadian Woman and Politics, Linda Kealey and Joan Sangster, eds. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), 139-168.
True Davidson, "The Gentle Heroine: Thérèse Casgrain", The Golden Strings (Toronto: Griffin House, 1973), 35-47.