Osgoode Hall Law Journal

Document Type



Based on a reading of archival material stored in a convent in east-end Montreal, the author describes the career of Marie Lacoste Gérin-Lajoie, a self-trained jurist who taught and wrote about law for women in convent schools, teachers' colleges, study circles, temperance union meetings and the like over a forty-year period in Quebec at the beginning of this century. Her career as a law teacher is presented as a sign of a less visible facet of the history of legal education in Quebec-beyond the formal institutions of law teaching-that was closely tied to the home and the private world of domestic life in which law and women were perceived to meet. Marie Lacoste Gérin- Lajoie had a well-defined sense of mission in her career, rooted in a carefully thought out conception of law and law's social purpose depicted as partaking of an apostolat juridique Inspired by devotional zeal and enabled by social opportunity, Gérin-Lajoie decided to teach law to women so that they would understand the rights and duties inherent to their roles in life as wives and mothers. Her multiple-edition Treatise on Everyday Law, the articles she wrote in womens' magazines on matrimonial law and the law of the family, and the dozens of lectures and courses she taught to women during this period give expression to a parallel way of imagining law-perhaps even a parallel body of law-that she characterized as droit usual. Quebec law, particularly the private law touching on family relations, was described differently as everyday law, and it may be fair to suggest that we should adjust our understanding of early twentieth century law to take into account its perspective. Indeed new insight as to the meaning and perceived meaning of the incapacity of married women, community of property and paternal authority over children can be gained from reading Gérin-Lajoie's articles and lecture notes. Historicizing the family law of the period invites an exploration of how law was contemplated, as everyday law, in the private world of the family.