When women became “mayors”

In 1957, Eileen-Elisabeth Consiglio was elected “mayor” of Piedmont, without resistance. She was then the second woman in Quebec to hold this position, after Elsie Gibbons, elected in 1953 in the small Outaouais village of Portage-du-Fort. Portrait of a woman paving the way.

Christiane Brault, from the Pays d’en Haut History and Genealogy Society, sent me several newspaper clippings about Mrs. Consiligo. By following her career, we discover a hard-working and relentless woman, but also a bygone era, where customs and societies are in full transformation.

In Le Devoir of 18 July 1957, the election of Mme Consiglio is reported in the column “Wives IN THE HOME AND IN THE WORLD”. On the same page there is an article about nylon stockings, and another on the increasing access to running water in the cabins, thanks to a new invention: plastic pipes.

“The 1,500 inhabitants of Piedmont […] elected a female mayor. […] Many of the inhabitants of Piedmont only spend part of the year there, during the summer holidays. This is the case with Mrs Consiglio, who stays in Piedmont for six months and spends the other months in Montreal. (…) She expressed the hope that the village could grow, situated as it is at the gates of the Laurentians, “in a magnificent country easily accessible”. »

In Le Soleil of 19 July 1957 it is announced the news as a curiosity, next to the facts various. In addition, we qualify “Mrs. Franco Consiglio” (named after her husband) “model housewife”.

Eileen E. Consiglio preferred the title of mayor to the mayoress, to remind her that it was she, and not her husband, who was elected. Credit: Michel Guertin Photographer

Mayor or mayor?

These articles always state that Mrs Consiglio has been elected mayor, not mayor. Why? In the Le Petit Journal of July 24, 1960, journalist Arthur Prévost writes this in a photo report Mrs Franco Consiglio does not like to be called ‘Madame Mayoress’ because her husband is not mayor. This lady knows how to handle speech and political action as well as foil: in fact, she was once Canada’s fencing champion. »

Throughout the articles, we note several results by Mrs. Consiglio. While problems water supply slow growth in Piedmont, it modernizes the aqueduct network. To entertain young people (who have nothing to do in the country), she builds a leisure park and makes a youth association. She is waging a long legal battle to close an underground landfill. We also note the improvement of streets, removal of snow and sanding of streets in winter, as well as stabilization of municipal finances.

Under his mandate, Piedmont will acquire the old village school to transform it into a municipal office. The building now occupies the central part of the current town hall.

Of course, tourism is also one of the priorities of the first citizen. “I do everything in my power, with the help of my colleagues, to attract to Piedmont as many people as possible. And my faith, it’s coming! The land is easily accessible to city dwellers looking for rural pleasures »she is quoted in La Presse of July 20, 1961, where she has just been elected for a third term.

“The woman’s interference”

‘The mayor of Piedmont admits to us that she still have to fight against the old prejudice of women interfering in public affairs., we can also read in La Presse. Fortunately, Mrs Consiglio has seen progress since her 4 years in power.

It must be said that the mayor is always busy, punctual, approachable and prepared, also knows how to defend himself with humility. In Catholic action of 1eh September 1961 it is reported that on two occasions charges were brought against her. “Last year, at the first meeting,
I invited the nobles to repeat their accusations before me. It was totally quiet; we would have heard more noise in a cemetery ”
is quoted.

Mrs. Consiglio remained mayor of Piedmont until 1965. When she took office, she had committed “to serve the people of Piedmont and not to serve oneself”which will remain his maximum in all his years as mayor.

Open the road

However, it took some time before the Laurentians again elected a woman as mayor of a municipality. My research may be incomplete, but the next one in the area is probably Liane Nightingale. From 1961 to 1976 she was Secretary-Treasurer of New-Glasgow (which merged with the Sainte-Sophie in 2000), while her husband Harold Nightingale is mayor. When she became a widow in 1976, she lined up and won. Ms Nightingale would remain in the post until 1986.

In Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson, Mayor Violette Gauthier would have sat from the 1980s until her death in 2003. Then we note Huguette Blondin-Taylor, Mayor of Saint-Hippolyte from 1981 to 1985, then Claire Boivin -Boisvert, Mayor of Prévost from 1990 to 1992, and Jocelyne Légaré, Mayor of Saint-Colomban from 1993 to 1997.

For other municipalities, their first mayor is even newer, such as Louise Gallant in Sainte-Sophie (2013 to 2021), Nadine Brière in Sainte-Adèle (2017 to 2021), or even Sophie St-Gelais and Janice Bélair-Rolland in Saint-Jérôme (2021).

Some municipalities in the region, such as Saint-Sauveur or Morin-Heights, have never had a female mayor.

Make your place

Today, it can seem almost trivial to have a woman at the head of a municipality. The last choicescities have seen a record number of women stand up and be elected.

After the election, 23% of the mayors were female mayors. It may not seem like much, but tell yourself that in 2017 they were only 18.9% and in 2005 small 13%.

In the MRC des Pays-d’en-Haut, the mayor’s council is even on a par with Danielle Desjardins in Wentworth-Nord, Corina Lupu in Lac-des-Seize-Îles, Catherine Hamé Mulcair in Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs, Nathalie Rochon in Piedmont and Michèle Lalonde in Sainte-Adèle. However, the MRC in La Rivière-du-Nord elected only men as mayor.

Women’s suffrage in Canada: 1918

First woman to sit in the House of Commons: Agnes Macphail (1921-1940)

First woman to represent the Laurentians at the federal level: Lise Bourgault (1984-1993), in Argenteuil-Papineau

Women’s suffrage in Quebec: 1940

First woman to sit in the National Assembly: Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain (1961-1973)

First woman to represent the Laurentians at the provincial level: Solange Chaput-Rolland (1979-1981), in Prévost

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