January 4, 1916

The Battle of the Hatpins breaks out in Ontario

Guigues Elementary School in Ottawa is taken over by French-speaking mothers and teachers.

On that day, faced with a provincial law banning French instruction, 2 teachers and 19 mothers took control of their school. Police surrounded the building, but the women stood guard with their famous hatpins. They occupied the school for weeks and continued to teach the children in French. Then 30 police officers armed with clubs broke down the door and tried to take back the school. But the women fought back with rolling pins, cast-iron skillets and hatpins and drove the police officers away.

The actions of the Guigues guardians inspired people across Ontario to fight for French-language education. Other women would continue the battle, including Florence Quesnel in Green Valley, Anne-Marie Lemelin in Welland and Jeanne Lajoie in Pembroke.

Courtesy of 400 Years of Francophone Rebels in Ontario, LesRebelles.ca

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