A trio of strong females praised on Canada’s stamps issued Aug. 28
By Molly Goad
Three Quebec feminists are featured on new Canada Post stamps unveiled Aug. 28 at the National Archives of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The stamps also were issued Aug. 28.
Champions for equality, peace and social justice, Lea Roback, Madeleine Parent and Simonne Monet-Chartrand were honored as their families and friends gathered for the special event.
The three new stamps are nondenominated, paying the permanent rate for domestic letters weighing up to 30 grams (currently 92¢). This is represented by the letter P inside a maple leaf in the lower right corner of the design.
The stamps are se-tenant (side-by-side) in a booklet of six, two each of each design.
Canada Post said that Paprika designed each stamp using “a powerful photograph capturing the essence of these activists during the peak of their activism.” The white border surrounding the images “symbolizes the placards carried proudly during protest rallies, picket lines and marches, representing their collective determination and impact in shaping a more just and equal society.”
Roback (1903-2000) was born in Montreal in a Polish-Jewish family. She grew up in Beauport, Quebec City, where her father worked as a tailor and ran a general store alongside her mother.
Throughout her life, Roback travailed for women’s rights, social justice, peace and universal access to education.
She also fought for unionizing and was instrumental in organizing 5,000 garment workers who had been on a three-week strike in 1937.
She wasn’t afraid to speak up for what she believed in, saying that “there is nothing that I like better than to be standing on a street corner, passing out leaflets, because it is how you come to understand what people are about,” according to the Lea Roback Foundation.
The foundation was established in November 1993 and provides scholarships to Quebec women who are “socially committed and economically disadvantaged.”
Roback’s family and friends who attended the ceremony included Donna Mergler, her grand-niece and neurophysiologist; Ariela Freedman, Louise Goldstein and Judith Roback, family members; and Lorraine Page, president of the Lea Roback Foundation.
“She was an optimist,” Page said. “That is to say that she could see the difficulties, the obstacles, but at the same time, she was firmly convinced that through solidarity, we can move forward.”
Born in Montreal in 1918, Parent was a unionist and advocate for Indigenous women. She and her partner (later husband) Kent Rowley established the Canadian Textile and Chemical Union and the Confederation of Canadian Unions. Additionally, she was a visible icon in the 1946 Montreal Cottons strike.
In the 1980s, she focused on women’s rights as a founding member of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) and assisted immigrant and Aboriginal women with the many issues they struggled with daily.
The shared passions of Parent and Roback brought them together in 1939, when their long-lasting friendship began. Parent later became a founding member of the Lea Roback Foundation. She passed away in 2012 at the age of 94.
Parent was represented by friends Monique Simard and Rejeanne Priestly at the stamp unveiling.
“Madeleine confronted the three powers — economic power, political power and the power of the clergy. And she was ostracized, literally,” Simard said. “She was a trade unionist, but also a declared feminist long before it became the movement we know.”
The final stamp in the series features Monet-Chartrand (1919-1993), a human rights advocate and organizer of anti-nuclear initiatives.
In the 1930s, Monet-Chartrand fought for women’s suffrage in Quebec, which became the last Canadian province to grant women the right to vote and run for office in provincial elections.
She co-founded Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, which focuses on feminist studies; the Federation des femmes du Quebec; the pacifist movement Voix des Femmes; and the Movement for Nuclear Disarmament.
“Her father was a judge, and very early in her life, before she was a teenager, he would always tell her, ‘You’re as smart as a man. Think about this and make sure you are valued as a woman. You’re a brilliant, intelligent girl,’ ” said Alain Chartrand, one of her seven children. “It gave her enormous self-confidence. She was never afraid of the authorities, neither church nor police.”
Alain and his six siblings attended the stamp ceremony.
Lowe-Martin printed 100,000 booklets of six stamps (product number 414219111). Canada Post produced 5,000 first-day covers for each stamp, canceled in Montreal.
The items are available from Canada Post’s online store; by mail order from Canada Post Customer Service, Box 90022, 2701 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON K1V 1J8 Canada; or by telephone from U.S. or Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550
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