Union organizer, feminist, and student activist Madeleine Parent fought for scholarships for low-income students at McGill University in the late 1930’s. She became involved in the student movement in Montréal over seventy years ago, at a time when men were considered to be the predominant force in university settings and women took second place. After the Second World War, the sons of rich families had the right to access higher education, while the daughters of rich or poor families did not. Parent insisted that scholarships should be given to both women and men, who she argued, should have equal rights to education, learning, and making a better living. Parent’s activism and determination played a pivotal role in the creation of numerous scholarships and bursaries for low-income women and men in Canada.
In a 1989 interview, Parent spoke about the rising costs of education and the negative impact of such costs on society, stating that “the pressure on social programs and educational programs are such nowadays that unless we are constantly vigilant, active and united, governments will increase the costs of education and only the children of the rich will receive a higher education” (Interview from Studies in Political Economy 30, Autumn 1989). Today Canadian provincial governments continue to increase the cost of university tuition, reducing the ability for students from lower income families to afford post-secondary education.
Parent believed in bringing people together in social solidarity to fight for an increase in accessibility to social and educational programs and an economy based on the ‘greater need’ for all people. She passed away recently on March 12, 2012 but her legacy will not be forgotten, especially as the student movement thrives.
Click on this link: Interview with Madeleine Parent for the full interview from Studies in Political Economy 30, Autumn 1989.