Your Stories

At the Montreal Forum with Mom for an "Yvettes" Rally Against Quebec Separation

STORY BY: Christine Whitney
YEAR: 1980
LOCATION: Montreal, QC

Christine was born in 1960 in Laval, QC, and she tells the story of the "Yvettes". In 1980, Christine was 21 and part of a largely non-political anglophone family. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom, and Christine remembers her as being understated, meek, and never too involved in politics. One day mom says to her daughter that she's coming with her on a yellow school bus with a group of women, and they're all going to the old Montreal Forum. It was their first adult activity together, and they were surrounded by women at the political rally, who called themselves the "Yvettes". Lisa Payette (see below) was onstage, and the "Yvettes" were actively supporting the movement against Quebec independence, which was at stake in the upcoming referendum. Many feel that the actions of these women helped change the course of the referendum. Thanks for sharing, Christine!*

*Christine also pointed us to the following information about "The Yvettes":
"A powerful and possibly game-changing symbol in the 1980 Quebec referendum. Yvette was a fictional female character in French language Quebec school primers in the 1940s and 1950s – akin to “Jane” of “See Dick and Jane” fame in English-language primers.Polls during the 1980 Quebec referendum campaign persistently showed women to be more resistant to separatism than male voters. Consequently, the PQ’s Status of Women Minister, Lise Payette – prior to politics a phenomenally popular Quebec television personality – exhorted Quebec women to reject the docile, subservient “Yvette” personas of their childhood and embrace the separatist (or, in the parlance of the YES side, “sovereignist”) option. Fatally, she accused Madeleine Ryan, the wife of Claude Ryan, the leader of both the Quebec Liberals and the NO forces in the referendum, of herself being an “Yvette.”The move – to use typically Canadian understatement – backfired. Badly. Aside from the fact that Mme. Ryan was herself an accomplished and respected social activist, a huge swath of francophone Quebec women took immediate and deep offense and Payette’s dismissiveness. Out of nowhere, women-only “Yvette” rallies sprang up across the province.Woman of all ages and walks of life adopted the term “Yvette” as a badge of honour. And far from narrowing the gender gap, Payette’s gambit enlarged it. The fate of the referendum was sealed thanks to the revenge of the “Yvettes”." Source:

Back to Stories