In focus

Almanda Walker-Marchand: pioneer of the Franco-Ontarian feminist movement (1868-1949)

Few women have left as much of a mark on the history of the feminist movement in French Ontario, and Ottawa in particular, as Almanda Walker-Marchand.

Born in 1868 to a British father and a French-Canadian mother, she moves to Ottawa at the age of 20, settling in Sandy Hill. A mother of nine children, including two sons who enlist in the military, she establishes the Fédération des femmes canadiennes-françaises (FFCF) in 1914. The first secular organization of French-speaking women outside of Quebec, the FFCF initially focuses on coordinating the war effort of Francophone women. But the organisation quickly broadens its scope to diverse charitable, religious and patriotic works under the leadership of the woman who will be its President for more than 30 years. The FFCF works, for example, at the forefront of the fight against Regulation 17, raising funds as far away as Montréal and Québec to help Ontario schools “resist”.

A close friend of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and his wife Zoé Lafontaine, Almanda Walker-Marchand is one of the first-wave feminists, most often associated with suffragettes campaigning for women’s right to vote. But Almanda’s work goes far beyond the realm of civil rights, to include the rights of Francophone women to education and work. She advocates for the hiring of bilingual nurses in Ottawa, and campaigns increasingly for the appointment of Francophone women to key positions in the public service. Over the years, Almanda Walker-Marchand establishes links with a wide range of feminist groups in English Canada and Quebec, making the FFCF a very important link in the Canadian women’s network. She dies on January 4, 1949. Lucie Brunet is the author of this remarkable woman’s biography.