In historical drama, there is a dearth of material featuring groundbreaking women. These women are known to have existed: in Montreal alone, in the 1940s, for instance, four such women made powerful and long-lasting contributions that continue to inspire us today: Mavis Gallant, Daisy Peterson Sweeney, Léa Roback and Françoise Sullivan. These four women are The Quiet Radicals.
Mavis Gallant (b. 1922, in Montreal): writer “During her lifetime, scholars, critics and fellow writers acknowledged Gallant as one of contemporary literature’s foremost practitioners of the short story.”
Daisy Peterson Sweeney (b. 1920, in Montreal): musician and educator “An accomplished musician in her own right, Daisy Peterson Sweeney is perhaps best known as the older sister, and early teacher, of celebrated jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.”
Léa Roback (b. 1903, in Montreal): Jewish labour activist “Léa Roback was an ardent, vocal and tireless activist who fought social inequality in all its forms.”
Françoise Sullivan (b. 1925, in Montreal): dancer/visual artist and co-signer of the Refus Global Manifesto “An innovative dancer and choreographer, Sullivan and fellow dancer Jeanne Renaud completely modernized dance as it was practised in Montréal at that time.”
The Three Seamstresses
We are compelled to tell the untold stories of women from the past, those who reflect our own cultural and ethnic identities, and those who managed, despite their place and time, to break new ground. Just because these women are not stand-out figures in the popular imagination does not mean they did not exert influence and have a major impact on culture and society. We want to share their stories.
The Three Seamstresses are Alexis Diamond (Montréal), Marcia Johnson (Toronto) and Adriana Palanca (Montréal).
Alexis Diamond is a Montréal-based playwright, opera librettist, musical book writer and lyricist and translator. Recently, Alexis won a Glassco Translation Residency in Tadoussac, Québec, and an Individual Artist residency at the international Saari Residence, Finland. Her award-winning plays, operas and translations for audiences of all ages have been presented across Canada, in the U.S. and in Europe. She is currently working on the plays Strange Land and White Hotel, a historical diptych set in Montréal in the early 1940s, and two musicals. She is co-founder of Composite Theatre Co. and a long-standing member of Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal and the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada.
Marcia Johnson’s plays include Courting Johanna based on Alice Munro’s “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” (Blyth Festival); Late (Obsidian Theatre Company); Say Ginger Ale (SummerWorks) and Perfect on Paper (Toronto Fringe). Her play Binti’s Journey, based on The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis, has toured on and off throughout Canada since 2008. She wrote the libretti for two operas with composer Stephen A. Taylor: My Mother’s Ring (Tapestry Opera) and an adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Paradises Lost (University of Illinois; Musical Works in Concert/SummerWorks). Marcia Johnson is the Vice President of Women Playwrights International. Her plays have been featured in the 2009 (Mumbai) and 2012 (Stockholm) Conferences. She led the workshop “Making the Factual Theatrical” at the 2015 Cape Town Conference.
Adriana Palanca is a writer, writing coach, workshop facilitator and translator living in Montréal. Her graduate studies in creative writing and English literature prepared her in no way for the rigours of the real world, but a healthy imagination and curiosity have filled in the gaps nicely. Committed to “good stories, well told,” her inspiration comes from other writers—Katherine Mansfield, AJ Kennedy, Alice Munro, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf—whose quiet stories speak loudly of the fragility and beauty of memory, love and the ties that bind. She also shares more random thoughts on her website at adrianapalanca.com.