Madeleine Parent, Activist


136 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-894549-46-5
DDC 331.88'092





Edited by Edited and translated by Andrée Lévesque
Reviewed by Margaret Kechnie

Margaret Kechnie is head of the Women’s Studies Program at Laurentian
University. She is the co-editor of Changing Lives: Women in Northern
Ontario, and the author of Organizing Rural Women: The Federating
Women's Institutes of Ontario, 1897–1919.


This slim volume is a retrospective on the activities of Madeleine
Parent, labour activist and feminist icon. The book is made up of a
collection of 10 articles written by various individuals within the
labour and women’s movements. The articles represent some of the
papers that were presented in March 2001 in honour of Madeleine Parent
at a conference held at McGill University’s Quebec Studies Programme
and the McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women.

The opening chapter, a filmography on Parent, begins with a picture of
her in Montreal at the age of four and culminates with an image of the
87-year-old Parent serving as keynote speaker at a 50th-anniversary Paul
Robeson concert.

Many of the articles speak to Parent’s union activities. Individual
chapters by Denyse Baillargeon, John Lang, and John St-Amand provide a
chronology of Parent’s union activities from the 1940s to the present.
Each of these authors describes the challenges Parent faced during the
Duplessis years, when she and her husband, Kent Rowley, organized
workers in the textile industries of Quebec. Several articles document
Parent’s work on behalf of Canadian women, and in particular immigrant
and Aboriginal women.

In “A Tribute to a Valiant Lady,” Franзoise David writes: “I
love Madeleine Parent. I love her when she is right, and I love her when
she makes mistakes, when she approves and when she disapproves. I love
her modesty, her radical words and soft voice, and her immense
generosity.” The only problem that I have with this collection is that
it leaves so much unsaid. Clearly, an in-depth analysis of Parent’s
life, set within the context of Quebec society in the latter half of the
20th century, is a project that needs doing.


“Madeleine Parent, Activist,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024,