Interview of Jean Lestage
|Interview with Jean Lestage
August 23, 2006
Jean Lestage is a founding mother of the Labrador West Status of Women Council.
Q. What prompted or enticed you to become involved in the Women’s Movement?
A. I wanted to make a difference with regards to relationships between men and women. It was important to me that there would be a mutual respect and equality between men and women. How could I work to make this happen?
Q. What was your greatest victory being involved with the Women’s Centre?
A. Getting to know women from different walks of life and getting to know women with totally different life experiences than I had as a young woman.
Q. How did others react to your involvement with the Women’s Centre?
A. Many friends had a very negative reaction to my involvement with the woman’s Centre and many thought my marriage was unhappy or in “trouble”. Here we are after 33 years of marriage.
Q. What role did your involvement in the Women’s Movement play in your life?
A. It gave me a broad perspective in terms of the diversity of what many women were experiencing in their relationships. I have to be honest some of it “Blew me out of the water” so to speak. In some ways it took away my innocence as up to this point I thought people got into relationships, married and lived “happily ever after”. I had never heard of the various types of spousal abuse before I got involved with the Women’s Movement.
Q. How did others react to your involvement?
A. As stated above many friends and coworkers thought I had a “troubled” or unhappy marriage. Little did they realize I was pursuing my interests with women’s issues m husband was happily pursuing his interest with the Carol Players.
Q. How easy or difficult was it for you to become involved?
A. It was very easy for me to get involved as there were so many issues that I knew nothing about and were so interesting to explore.
Q. 7. Can you think of a particular issue, event, or activity involved with the Women’s Movement that you were part of and that stands out as being important to you?
A. The whole issue around abortion and a woman’s “right to choose”. This was a particular difficult issue as I have always been a practicing Catholic and if you know anything about the Catholic faith you know that when you agree with the “right to choice” it creates major problems within your faith community.
Q. What was the hardest obstacle you had to overcome?
A. Helping people understand that I was in the Women’s Movement because I wanted a better life/relationship between men and women. I was not a “man hater” so to speak.
Q. What is your fondest memory of your involvement in the Women’s Movement in the 70’s and 80’s that you would like young people today to know about?
A. As I think back it was a way to meet women that I would probably not have met. We got together weekly on a volunteer basis to discuss issues that were important to women and that impacted on our community and society as a whole.
Q. What was it like being a woman in the 70’s and 80’s?
A. For me it was good in the 70’s and 80’s. I had a family that encouraged me and supported me in my educational pursuits. I married in 1973 and y husband always encouraged my growth both on a personal and professional level. I was a very lucky woman.
What has changed, certainly access to a variety of careers, our place on committees, in politics (on all levels)
Q. What issues were you most concerned about?
A. Today I see young women not looking towards education as a means of “autonomy”. What do I mean by this? My observation is that many young women today do not seem to value” financial” independence and look to someone to “support” them.
Q. What are your memories around the Matrimonial Property Act?
A. I remember being excited as it would mean women who had worked “ side by side: with their husbands (weather outside or inside the home) would now have equal share in all property and money.
Q. What are your memories around the International Year of the Woman?
A. Great suppers and guest speakers who were so knowledgeable in so many women’s issues.
Q. Do you have any comments on or memories about the women’s movement’s efforts in the 70’s and 80 to combat violence against women?
A. We started out in a house in Labrador City and then IOCC gave us an apartment in the Embassy. This was like winning the jackpot. Many women put in years of volunteer work to help women who were living in abusive situations. We put a lot of time and effort into education around spousal abuse.
Q. Do you have any comments on or memories about the women’s movement’s efforts in the 70’s and 80 to address daycare issues?
A. Daycare issues were always on the agenda and many women lobbied long and hard around daycare funding.
Q. What work do you think still needs to be done in the Women’s Movement?
A. As I see young women I think that many are falling back into what we once called the “Cinderella” syndrome. In other words they want someone (a man) to look after them. It seems to me that we have to work at this otherwise women will be back to where they were in the 50’s and 60’s.
Q. Why was getting a Women’s Centre in Labrador City so important to you?
A. It is the “focal” point, a “concrete” place where women can gather to work towards a better life for women and men, daughters and sons.
Q. How important is having a feminist voice to the Women’s Centre?
A I think it is very important to have a “feminist” voice but I also think it is very important that we always keep in mind that the aim of the movement is to create a better life for women as we aim for equality with men. Many women want to live with men as equal partners thus the “grass roots” for the movement (at least as I understood it).