Quebec monument to honour women in politics.

Author:Houda-Pepin, Fatima
 
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In Quebec, as of the election on December 8, 2008, around thirty percent of MNAs are women. In fact, women have not been a part of Quebec's political landscape for long. Marie-Claire Kirkland was the first woman to win a seat in the National Assembly, and that was not until December 14, 1961. She was the lone female voice among hundreds of men for 12 years until she left politics in 1973, at which time Lise Bacon was elected. In 1976, Ms Bacon was re-elected, and four new women also won seats, under the Parti Quebecois banner: Lise Payette, Louise Sauve Cuerrier, Jocelyne Ouellet and Denise Leblanc-Bantey. In the Fall of 2012 a statue on the grounds of the National Assembly will honour all women in political life.

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The role of women in politics is a subject that comes up often during elections. How many women are running? What do they do? Do they approach politics differently than men? Do they truly represent women's interests? There are so many good questions being asked that we often forget that the fight for equality in politics is not yet won. There is still room for many more women in the political world, which has favoured men for far too long. As of October 31, 2011, only 19.5% of people elected to parliaments around the world were women.

The movement to give women the right to vote and the right to run for office in Quebec is an epic story that deserves to be told, especially to young people, who may find it inspiring.

For almost 25 years, a group of women fought for their right to vote, calling on MNAs to pass legislation to that effect. They were led by three suffragettes, Th6r6se Forget-Casgrain, Marie Lacoste G6rin-Lajoie and Idola Saint-Jean. Between 1922 and 1939, thirteen bills were introduced in the National Assembly of Quebec and were rejected by the MNAs for all sorts of reasons. Here are some examples from debates in the legislature during that era:

* Experience has taught us that a man's place is in politics and a woman's place is in the home. For each to maintain their place, neither can overstep their role.

J.-C.-E. Ouellet, Dorchester

March 10, 1927

* This request to give women the right to vote goes against domestic happiness, social order and religion itself [...]. The Quebec Council of 1909 disapproved of giving women the vote because it goes against Christian ideals.

Ernest Poulin, Montreal-Laurier, February 22, 1933

* Women don't need the right to vote. When Canada was discovered, women didn't have this right, and no...

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