|Date of Issue||August 28, 2023|
Current monetary value: $0.92.
|Series Time Span||2023|
Born in Montréal, Quebec, to Polish Jewish immigrants, Léa Roback was a trade unionist who also campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights. As a teenager, Roback worked her first job at British American Dyeworks, a cleaning and dyeing company, in Montréal. Arduous 50-hour work weeks, where she earned just eight dollars per week, provided her with an understanding of social inequalities and the harsh conditions that workers faced.
While living in Berlin, Roback joined the Communist Party, which she saw as a bulwark against fascism. Returning to Canada, she went on to manage the Modern Book Shop in Montréal, the city’s first Marxist bookstore. Roback took on the fight for women’s suffrage in Quebec, advocating for a women’s right to vote in provincial elections in 1940.
Working with other International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union leaders, she used her fluency in English, French and Yiddish to communicate with some 5,000 garment workers in Montréal and helped mobilize them to strike in 1937. Three weeks later, the workers signed a collective agreement and received a wage increase and improved working conditions.
During the Second World War, Roback worked on the assembly line at the RCA Victor plant in Saint-Henri, Montréal. She helped the plant’s 4,000 workers — nearly half of them women — win their first union contract. Roback continued to dedicate her life to advocacy, protesting the Vietnam War and fighting for pay equity, the right to abortion and access to contraception. In 1985, she became an honorary member of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.
“She was an optimist,” says Lorraine Pagé, President of the Léa Roback Foundation. “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.”
For decades, Quebec women have been at the forefront of women’s and workers’ rights and the fight to redress social and economic inequalities in their province. While the movement for women’s rights continues, the work of three Canadian women stands apart.
The new stamp issue highlights the lives and achievements of three Quebec women who were lifelong advocates for workers’ and women’s rights and other causes: Léa Roback, Madeleine Parent and Simonne Monet-Chartrand. Their activism foreshadowed many of the advancements made in equality and justice in Canada.