Annette Saint-Pierre, author, publisher (born in 1925 in Saint-Germain, Québec). She attended Catholic schools in Saint-Hyacinthe and earned a teaching credential in 1950. In 1969, while studying literature at the University of Ottawa, she met the writer Gabrielle Roy, on whom she wrote her master’s thesis, Gabrielle Roy sous le signe du rêve (Les Éditions des Plaines, 1975), a rigorous and sensitive study of the use of symbols in Roy’s work. It was the author’s influence that confirmed Saint-Pierre’s own intention to become a writer.
Saint-Pierre earned her doctorate for a thesis entitled Le rideau se lève au Manitoba (Les Éditions des Plaines, 1980), an essay filled with scholarly details, anecdotes and studies about French-language theatre in Western Canada. She became a professor at the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface, in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, and introduced the first course in French Canadian literature there in 1970.
A pioneer in the history of French-language literature in Western Canada, she founded the following institutions, all in Saint-Boniface: Les Éditions du Blé (a publishing house) in 1974, the Centre d'études franco-canadiennes de l'Ouest (CEFCO, a centre for multidisciplinary French Canadian studies) in 1978, Les Éditions des Plaines (another publishing house) in 1979, and the Bulletin du CEFCO (an academic journal, also in 1979; it was renamed Les Cahiers franco-canadiens de l'Ouest in 1989).
Concurrently, Saint-Pierre pursued her own career as an author, publishing articles, lectures, novels (La fille bègue, 1982; Sans bon sang, 1987; Coups de vent, 1990; Faut placer l'père, 1997), non-fiction collections (Le Manitoba au cœur de l'Amérique, 1992; De fil en aiguille au Manitoba, 1995), essays, and anthologies (Répertoire de la littérature de l'Ouest canadien, 1984). She thus became one of the greatest Western Canadian writers of the 20th century. Inducted into the Ordre des Francophones de l'Amérique du Nord in 1985, she received a medal of honour from the Conseil de la vie française en Amérique in 1987 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Manitoba in 1992.
A grande dame of the Franco-Manitoban cultural élite, Annette Saint-Pierre continues to work with remarkable selflessness to promote the French-language literature of Western Canada, for which she has helped to win audiences in Québec, France and the United States. In her novels, filled with human and social drama, she excels in depicting atmospheres thick with malaise and quiet rebellion, revealing unsuspected aspects of French Canadian life in the Western. Like the heroine of her novel La fille bègue (“the girl stammers”) she symbolizes the Franco-Manitoban minority’s struggle for the survival of its language and its dignity.