Roback, Léa

Léa Roback, trade union activist, feminist and pacifist (b at Montréal 1903; d there 28 Aug 2000). Léa Roback, a woman of Polish origin, never stopped asserting her social convictions loudly and clearly. As a union organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers' union, she led a STRIKE of some 5000 garment workers in Montréal in 1937 that won recognition for their union and an appreciable improvement in their salaries and working conditions.

During these years, she was found alongside Thérèse CASGRAIN in the struggle for women's right to vote. Strongly pro-communist, she broke with the Communist party in 1958, when the horrors committed under Stalin in the USSR became known, but her social commitment knew no respite.

By all appearances, Léa Roback favoured peace: she relentlessly defended the cause for the protection of the environment; she struggled with women's groups for the legalization of abortion; and she stood in defence of the rights of aboriginal women.

In 1993, the Léa-Roback Foundation was created to raise funds to enable it to offer study scholarships to socially committed women. In 1998, some ten feminist organizations opened the Maison Parent-Roback, a building they own and operate, and that houses their head offices. Film director Sophie Bissonnette produced Des lumières dans la grande noirceur/A Vision in the Darkness, a film on Roback's life, in 1989.

Léa Roback's determination in championing the most humble and her faith in them were recognized by governments and lay society. In May 2000, the Québec government named her to the Ordre du Québec. In April 2000, the YWCA honoured her at its Women of Distinction gala, along with long-standing friend and fellow activist, Madeleine PARENT. On the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, October 1, 1999, Léa Roback was among the Quebecers whose activities were highlighted by the Elders Council.