Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie

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Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie, 1920
Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie was member of the First presidential board, Fédération nationale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montréal, 1907.

Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie (October 19, 1867 in Montreal – November 1, 1945 in Montreal) was a pioneer Quebec feminist who founded the Fédération nationale Saint-Jean-Baptiste (in 1907), an organization which campaigned for social and political rights for women. In addition to its legal work, the Federation nationale also championed social causes such as providing milk for children and mothers, fighting alcoholism and illness, raising awareness of infant mortality, and various other issues that affected women's lives.

Marie Lacoste married a lawyer, Henry Gérin-Lajoie, on the condition that he give her the freedom to continue her campaign for women's rights. She was 20 when they married. The couple raised four children.

In addition to her campaign for more legal rights for women, Gérin-Lajoie also played a part in arguing for French-language university education for the women of Quebec. Partly in response to her actions, the Quebec Catholic clergy agreed to open the first francophone women's college, in 1908. In 1922, Gérin-Lajoie led a protest for women's suffrage in Quebec. Quebec was the last Canadian province to grant the vote to women, in 1940.

Gérin-Lajoie was a professor at the Université de Montréal, and a self-taught legal expert (her father and husband were both lawyers, and she had access to their books). She was the author of two legal works: Traité de droit usuel, in 1902 and La femme et le code civil, in 1929. In these books, Gérin-Lajoie argued against the subordinate legal position of married women. In this time, women had no control over their own financial assets and no legal input into the financial affairs of their families. She wanted to grant more rights to married and separated women so they could control their own property, and act as legal guardians to minors. In 1929, Gérin-Lajoie testified on women's rights before the Dorion Commission. In 1931, the Quebec Civil Code was changed to reflect the changes Gérin-Lajoie had been arguing for.

She was designated a Persons of National Historic Significance by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Further reading[edit]

"Gérin-Lajoie, Marie." The Canadian Encyclopedia. [1]

Forster, Merna. 100 Canadian Heroines. Electronic Edition. Dundurn Group, 2004.

"Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie." Library and Archives Canada. [2]

Sicotte, Anne-Marie. Marie Gérin-Lajoie: Conquérante de la Liberté. Montreal: Remue-ménage, 2005. [This biography is in French]