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Casgrain, Thérèse F.
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10 Jul. 1896-3 Nov. 1981
Thérèse Casgrain was a French Canadian feminist, reformer, politician and senator. Born in Saint-Irénée-les-Bains, Quebec, she was raised in a wealthy family, the daughter of Blanche (MacDonald), Lady Forget, and Sir Rodolphe Forget. She married Pierre-François Casgrain, a wealthy Liberal politician with whom she raised four children.
Casgrain led the women's suffrage movement in Quebec prior to World War II. She founded the Provincial Franchise Committee in 1921 and campaigned for women's rights and for the right to vote in Quebec elections, a right that was not won until 1940. From 1928 to 1942, she was the leader of the League for Women's Rights. In the 1930s, she hosted a popular radio show Fémina.
In the 1942 federal by-election, she stood as an "Independent Liberal" candidate in the Charlevoix-Saguenay riding, the same seat formerly held both by her father and by her husband.
Following World War II, she left the Liberal Party and joined the social democratic Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). In 1948, she became one of the federal vice presidents of the CCF. She led the Quebec wing of the party, the Parti social démocratique du Québec, from 1951 to 1957. She was therefore the first female leader of a political party in Canada. She was a CCF candidate in a 1952 federal by-election and in the 1953, 1957 and 1958 federal general elections and a New Democratic Party candidate in the 1962 and 1963 federal general elections. She also used her position as a platform to campaign against the government of Maurice Duplessis.
In the 1960s, she became a campaigner against nuclear weapons, founding in February 1961 the Quebec wing of Voice of Women (VOW) and serving as the national president of VOW from 1962-1963. She also was a founder of the League for Human Rights and the Fédération des femmes du Québec. In the 1960s, she was president of the Quebec wing of the New Democratic Party, the CCF's successor; she ran in the April 1963 Canadian federal election.
In 1969, Casgrain was elected president of the Consumers' Association of Canada Quebec section. Casgrain succeeded to an anglophone president, David Macfarlane, who considered that the Quebec section’s position was indefensible, as it was dominated by anglophone elements and used English as its primary work language. Many members of the association hoped Casgrain would fix this problem as president.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed Casgrain to the Senate of Canada in 1970, where she sat as an independent for nine months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. As senator she questioned the prime minister's policy on the use of Canadian-made napalm and defoliants in Vietnam.
She died in 1981. Thérèse Casgrain's body is interred in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montreal.
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Biographical sketch from Wikipedia entry on Thérèse F. Casgrain at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se_Casgrain (accessed 2019-08-29).