Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Memoriam: Therese Casgrain

The first female leader of a political party in Quebec, Madame Casgrain (born Marie Therese Forget on this day in 1896) was a child not merely of privilege but of title - the daughter of Lady Blanche MacDonald and Sir Rodolphe Forget - and the wife of prominent member of the Liberal Party, Pierre-François Casgrain, yet a staunch and thorough-going social democrat from a very young age. Over the course of her life and career she attached herself to such issues as female suffrage and nuclear disarmament, and was even the host of a popular radio show in the 1930s called Fémina.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlthough never elected (she was defeated 7 times between 1942 and 1963), it was as head of the Parti social democratique du Quebec (an offshoot of the CCF, itself a forerunner of the NDP) that Casgrain lead the charge against the monstrous tyrannies of Maurice Duplessis.

Throughout the Sixties she also campaigned for an end to nuclear proliferation, and was awarded the Order of Canada in 1967 (upgraded in 1974). In 1970 she was named to the Senate by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but served only 277 days, at which point she was forced to retire owing to her age.

Casgrain died in November 1981 and in 1985 was honoured by Canada Post with the stamp you see here; in 2004 her image was included on the reverse of the Canadian $50 bill, along with her fellow members of the Famous Five.
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