As part of International Women's Day, Lise Leduc, a lawyer, delivered a speech at the Beauharnois Community Center where she paid tribute to several women, including the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). With her permission, we are including a few excerpts from her talk, entitled "We are and we will be feminists as long as it is necessary!"
I was invited to come and speak to you on this Women's Day, identifying myself as a woman whose life path could have been created from feminist thinking. I was born in 1941 and I was awakened to life in the enthusiasm, excitement, and the promise of tomorrows that the post-war years sang about.
As the youngest daughter in a family of 11 children, I soon learned about precocious responsibility from "the big sister.” I was fortunate enough, I must say, to have had women throughout my life who guided, counseled and loved me. A single glance of tenderness sometimes sufficed.
It is with emotion that I today think of my teachers, the Sisters from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, a community that took charge of educating girls in Beauharnois.
Without them, I would not have experienced the importance of knowing, the obligation to learn more, to push further, the happiness of enjoying reading, of learning music, of writing and of speaking our beautiful language and to be proud of it. They led me to discover where there were real "golden nuggets", which became more valuable with advancing age. I take this opportunity to honor them and to thank them.
Memories of inspirational women
There were also among us inspiring women who opened paths to the future, whose presence in the life of the citizens of Beauharnois changed things. Women’s Day is also the time to rekindle the memory of these women; and that's what I have chosen to do. They are numerous, unknown or forgotten. I have been able to trace the journey of four of them now gone; women whom I have personally known and cannot resist the desire to tell you about them as a sign of gratitude and as a tribute for what they have left us.
First, let me render thanks to Yvon Julienour, a local historian who has maintained the memories. I have drawn from his pamphlets, booklets, books, published over nearly thirty years, much of the information on the commitment of Cécile Godin and Loretta Hudon Simard, citizens of Beauharnois whose memory we have honored by giving their names, one to the Cécile-Godin Center and the other to Loretta-Simard Street, formerly named rue Leduc in the Maple Grove Borough.
I also want to talk to you about Rita Montpetit-Lefebvre, who established our municipal library and Isabelle Labrecque-Paquette, founder of the "Regroupement des personnes handicapées", two great volunteers, inspiring women whom we must not forget.
« La mémoire est la seule immortalité pour les êtres qu’on a aimés. » "Memory is the only immortality for those we have loved."*
We remember that Madame Leduc was the first president of the Board of Directors of "Maison des Enfants Marie-Rose", founded more than ten years ago. She studied in Beauharnois, first at École Marie-Rose for elementary school and at École Jesus-Marie for high school, before going on to business courses at the Holy Names Business College, then located at the SNJMs’ Motherhouse in Outremont (Montreal).
"Registered in a permanent formation program at Collège Sainte-Marie, she accumulated the required credits to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree. Admitted into the Faculty of Law at the University of Montreal in 1978, she became a member of the Quebec Bar in 1984. She practiced law until 2015. She had also been elected municipal councillor of Beauharnois in 1974."
* translated from an article entitled "Le Droit d’être rebelle – Marcelle Ferron