“Midinette” [mid-n-et; French mee-dee-net] is a combination of the French words midi (noon) and dinette (light lunch). It may refer to a young Parisian saleswoman or seamstress, but it was also a term used to refer to the young French-Canadian women who, during their lunch breaks, would rush out of the garment factories on de Maisonneuve and flood into the surrounding diners and cafes for a bite to eat. These same women, despite having been deemed by male union leaders as ‘unorganizable,’ brought the garment industry to its knees when they went on strike in April 1937 and forced the owners of industry to the negotiating table.
Predominantly Catholic Francophone women, but also including some men, Anglophones, Jews, and Ukrainians, dressmakers proved to be the most difficult to unionize in all sectors of Montreal’s massive garment industry.
But they unionized anyway.
The midinettes inspire us. We chose the name Midinette to look back on an important moment in Montreal’s history, to honour the diverse group of women who broke the rules, pushed boundaries, and sought power in collectivity. We are looking for writers who do the same. We provide a platform for polished work that is brave, that junks or reshapes the molds of traditional writing, that plays with the space of a page, with form and content, and creates something unique and electrifying.
In 2017, Briarpatch published an essay by Sofia Cutler titled “The Midinette Spring” which detailed the history of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) in Montreal.