In 1905, women did not have all the rights they have today. They were not considered equal to men. Activists, as Irma Levasseur and Thérèse Casgrain, and women’s groups fought for years for equality.

Irma Levasseur (1877-1964)

In 1905, women could not take on professions such as doctor, lawyer, notary or accountant. The only possible careers for them were those of teacher or nurse. Irma Levasseur helped to change all that. At the end of the 19th century, she decided to become a doctor. Since women were not allowed to study medicine at Canadian universities, she pursued her studies in the United States and returned to Quebec in 1900.

In spite of her qualifications, she could not practice her profession because women were not admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Province of Quebec. She would have to wait for a special 1903 law that would allow her to finally practice medicine in Quebec. She became Quebec’s first female doctor. In 1907, she participated in the founding of Sainte-Justine Hospital in collaboration with Justine Lacoste-Beaubien.

Thérèse Casgrain (1896-1981)

Thérèse Casgrain was a fierce advocate for the rights of women. In 1921, she campaigned for women to gain the right to vote in provincial elections. In 1922, she was part of a delegation of women who met Premier Taschereau to claim the right of women to vote. It was only in 1940 after many years of work that women got the right to vote in Quebec.

Her political activities were not limited to the right of women to vote. All her life she advocated for peace and social justice. In 1955, she was elected leader of the Quebec wing of the New Democratic Party and became the first female leader of a political party. She also became president of the League of Human Rights in 1960 and was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1970.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social


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