Donalda Charron (1886–1967)

Donalda Charron was born in 1886 in the St-Francois-de-Sales parish of Gatineau, Quebec. Her father, Jérémie Charron, was a cart driver. Her mother, Amélia, died at the age of 31 when Donalda was just nine years old.

Not much is known about Donalda’s early or private life. Her first job was with a mining company, separating mica sheets by hand. She would have been paid very little, and paid by volume of sheets produced. By 1912, at the age of 26, she was making matches for the E. B. Eddy match company. At some point, she was promoted to the role of contremaîtresse, supervising female employees, and shielding them from male factory workers.

We know that sometime between 1918 and 1924 she became president of the Union ouvrière féminine de Hull. It was Donalda who, in 1924, led the employees in a wildcat strike. As union president, she attended strategic meetings, and organized protests, public meetings and fundraisers. She boosted morale among the women on the picket line. But, as a woman, she was not allowed to speak on behalf of women. Only the union leaders — all men and all priests — could negotiate with Eddy Match. They were concerned only about the moral safety of the female employees, not their physical safety.

As a result of the 1924 strike, the workers won union recognition and were able to maintain the pay and hours they had fought for in 1919, but working conditions were not improved. The E. B. Eddy Company made an example of Donalda Charron, and refused to hire her back. The union offered her a job working for the union at its headquarters, but she hated office work.

In December 1924, a month after the strike ended, Donalda Charron suffered a terrible accident. She was waiting to catch a train but slipped on the platform just as the train arrived at the station. She lost her leg. She was fitted with a prosthesis and presumably required a lengthy period of recovery. This setback did not dampen her drive. She worked as a laundress at a local hospital, where she created her own recipe for laundry bleach, which she sold door to door. Later, she took a position as a seamstress at the Woods textile company. It was there, at the age of 60, that she led another strike over union recognition.

Donalda Charron lived out her last days in a Gatineau nursing home, where she died alone and unknown at the age of 82.
National Capital Commission
1886 - 1967
© 2013, National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

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