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C.M., C.Q., Q.C.
First woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec.
First woman appointed as a Cabinet minister in Quebec.
Born on September 8, 1924 in Palmer, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Political Affiliation: Liberal
Legislative Career: She was first elected to the Quebec Legislature as member for the Jacques-Cartier riding during the December 14, 1961 by-election, and later for the Marguerite-Bourgeois riding. She served until February 14, 1973.
Having been appointed to Cabinet as a minister without portfolio from December 5, 1962 to 1964, she became Minister of Transportation and Communications from November 25, 1964 to June 16, 1966. From May 12, 1970 to February 15, 1972 she was the Minister of Tourism, Game and Fishing and the Minister of Cultural Affairs from February 2, 1972 to February 14, 1973.
Honours and Awards: Médaille d'excellence de la littérature française, government of France, 1947; Member of the Order of Canada, 1992; Chevalier de l'ordre national du Québec, June 26, 1985; Persons Medal, 1993; Grande dame de l'ordre de Saint-Jean-de-Jérusalem.
Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain's early years cultivated her passion for politics. In 1952, after completing her university studies, she became a lawyer and practised in Montreal, where she closely followed the political career of her father, the Honourable Dr. Charles-Aimé Kirkland, in the Jacques-Cartier riding. By the early 1960s, not only was she already involved in politics as an advisor to the Young Liberals in the Jacques-Cartier riding, she was also President of the Mariana B. Jodoin Club's Constitution Committee and the Fédération des femmes libérales du Québec. She was also the founding member of the Association des femmes avocates de la province de Québec. During these same years, she wrote for Châtelaine magazine.
For Kirkland-Casgrain, the 1961 by-election marked the beginning of an accomplished political career. She played an outstanding role in the defence of women's issues and the adoption of several laws: in 1964, the renowned Bill 16 on the legal status of married women; in 1969, the bill governing matrimonial regimes and establishing sociétées d'acquêts, and in 1973, the bill establishing the Conseil du statut de la femme.
Kirkland-Casgrain was also the first woman in Quebec politics to become a Cabinet minister (1962), to appear before the Private Bills Committee of the Quebec Legislative Assembly and she was the only female member of the Quebec provincial government (1961-1973). She was also the first woman ever appointed as interim Premier of a provincial government during the absence of its representative (1972).
After her appointment as a provincial court judge and president of the Minimum Wage Commission on February 14, 1973, Kirkland-Casgrain withdrew from the political scene. From 1980, she worked as a judge in the Montreal judicial district until she retired in 1991.
Allaire, Emilia B. Têtes de femmes : essais biographiques. Québec: Éditions de l'Equinoxe, 1964, P. 89-94.
Kirkland-Casgrain, Claire. "A woman in politics, my own story", Chatelaine, no. 49, September 1976, P. 47, 99-103.