Simonne Monet-Chartrand, unionist, social activist, pacifist, feminist, speaker, writer (born 4 November 1919 in Montréal, QC; died 18 January 1993 in Richelieu, QC). A woman of passion and conviction, Simonne Monet-Chartrand actively supported many causes, including labour and union rights, feminism, human rights, and pacifism. She co-founded the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ) and Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute and was associate director of the League of Human Rights and the League of Rights and Freedoms. A writer and panellist for Radio-Canada, she also wrote many magazine articles and published books on pacifism and the history of women in Québec, as well as a four-volume autobiography.
Education and Family
Simonne Monet-Chartrand was born into a comfortable middle class Montréal family and attended Marie-Rose, a boarding school in Montréal run by the Soeurs du Saint-Nom de Jésus et de Marie. From the time of her secondary studies, she was involved in la Jeunesse étudiante catholique (JEC) and in 1937, she became the president of the female branch of that organization. It was at the JEC that she met Michel Chartrand, the union leader and activist whom she would later marry.
From 1939 to 1942, Monet attended the Université de Montréal, where she studied French-Canadian literature and Canadian history, and took courses with such notable figures as historians Lionel Groulx and Guy Frégault. Her university experience influenced her feminist views and, like other Québec women at the time (e.g., Thérèse Casgrain), she objected to the fact that women in Québec could not vote (they received this right in 1940). In 1942, Simonne Monet married Michel Chartrand; the couple would have seven children. She later returned to her studies in 1978 at Concordia University.
A woman of action, Monet-Chartrand supported many causes, including union and labour rights, feminism, human rights, and pacifism. In 1942, during the conscription crisis of the Second World War, she joined the Bloc populaire canadien, which was formed in reaction to the removal of an existing ban on conscription for overseas service. In the 1950s and 1960s, Monet-Chartrand was an active member of the Union des familles de Longueuil, and was involved in setting up marriage preparation services, parents' schools, parent-teacher associations, family unions and cooperatives.
Like her husband, Monet-Chartrand was also a militant unionist. In 1949, she could be found at her husband's side on committees supporting the asbestos strikers, and later, as a member of the socio-political committee for the Centrale des enseignants du Québec (Québec Teachers' Union). From 1972 to 1975, Monet-Chartrand was director of information for the Syndicat des enseignants de Champlain, the trade union of Champlain teachers.
Monet-Chartrand was also involved in feminist and pacifist movements. In 1961, she joined the pacifist movement Voix des femmes, and in 1962 helped to organize the Train de la paix, a delegation of the movement which presented their demands to the federal government. The following year, she attended a conference of the International Democratic Federation of Women in Moscow, which called on the United Nations to devote a year to peace, nuclear disarmament and international cooperation. Monet-Chartrand co-founded the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ) in 1966 and in 1968, she co-authored a report submitted to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. A decade later, in 1978, she co-founded Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute for feminist studies.
Monet-Chartrand joined the League of Human Rights/Ligue des droits de l’homme in 1963 and was associate director from 1975 to 1978. In 1977, she became associate director of the League of Rights and Freedoms.
Monet-Chartrand became a media personality in the 1950s as a consultant and panellist for Radio-Canada broadcasts. In the 1960s and 1970s she was a writer and researcher for religious broadcasts and women’s broadcasts (Femina, Femmes d'aujourd'hui, 5D) at Radio-Canada.
In addition to numerous writings for conferences and columns in such publications as La Vie en Rose, Les Têtes de pioche, and Châtelaine, Monet-Chartrand published four volumes of her autobiography, Ma vie comme rivière (1981–92), two volumes about pioneering Québec women and women’s organizations (1990, 1994), L'espoir et le défi de la paix (1988), and a book on the pacifist movement in Québec (1993).
In 1991, Les Artistes Pour La Paix awarded Monet-Chartrand the title of “Artiste pour la paix de l’année.” She died on 18 January 1993 at her home in Richelieu. A film about her life, Ma vie comme rivière, was released in 1996, followed four years later by the television series Chartrand et Simonne (2000, 2003). A number of institutions have been named in her honour, including a school, library, and the Maison Simonne Monet-Chartrand, a shelter for women and children who are the victims of domestic violence.
Ma vie comme rivière (1981)
L’Espoir et le défi de la paix (1988)
Pionnières québécoises et regroupements de femmes d’hier à aujourd’hui (1990)
Les Québécoises et le mouvement pacifiste : 1939–1967 (1993)
Pionnières québécoises et regroupements de femmes : 1970–1990 (1994)