The Fonds contains material reflecting Lea Roback's activity in politics, union organization and activism in addition to personal records that document her relationship with family. Records from her political and activist work include radio addresses, correspondence, fliers, reports, and periodical…
The Fonds contains material reflecting Lea Roback's activity in politics, union organization and activism in addition to personal records that document her relationship with family. Records from her political and activist work include radio addresses, correspondence, fliers, reports, and periodicals. Personal records include correspondence wit her family members, the narrative of the Roback family written in prose, and various pieces of memorabilia belonging to Roback. The majority of the photographs in the collection are of Lea and her family from their time in Montreal, Beauport (QC) as well as Lea's travels in Europe. The series included within the Lea Roback Fonds are the following:
Series 1 -- Professional activity
Series 2 -- Biographical and personal material
Series 3 -- Correspondence
Series 4 -- Bibliographic reference publications
Series 5 -- Videos
Series 6 -- Photographs
Series 7 -- Graphic material
1901-1998 ; predominant 1930-1998
Activist and organizer, Lea Roback was born on November 3rd, 1903 in Montreal. She was the second of nine children of Fanny (1885-1973) and Moses (1870-1935) Roback, both of whom immigrated from Poland. She spent her childhood in Beauport, Quebec where her parents ran a general store.
The Robacks spoke Yiddish at home; outside it was French or English. Léa was able to switch freely between languages, a skill that became useful in work with labour organizations. When Léa was fourteen the family returned to Montreal where, two years later, she began working in the city's factories. It was at this point that she became accutely aware of the inequality between Montreal's affluent English-speaking families and the mostly French and Jewish working class.
In the mid-1920s, Léa spent a two years at the University of Grenoble in France, supporting herself by privately teaching English to students. In 1928, Léa joined her older brother Harry in Berlin where he was studying medicine. She enrolled at the University of Berlin studying Sociology and German. Léa became involved with leftwing student groups and eventually joined the Communist Party.
In 1932 Lea returned to Montreal, finding work as a youth group director at the Young Women’s Hebrew Association, where her mentor was Saidye Bronfman, wife of Sam Bronfman. In 1935 she managed the Modern Bookshop on Bleury Street, the first Marxist bookstore in Quebec, which became a gathering place for local radicals. That same year Lea coordinated Fred Rose's bid for election. Eight years following this campaign, Rose became the first communist elected to the House of Commons.
In 1936 she was recruited by Thérèse Casgrain, legendary women’s suffrage leader, to assist in her work to obtain the vote for women in Quebec. Léa also became involved with the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU) during their attempts to improve conditions in the garment industry. In 1937, Léa was a leader – along with organizers such as Rose Pesotta and Bernard Shane – in organizing over 5,000 women who walked off the job from the garment industry factories of Montreal.
During the war years, Lea began working for the Radio Corporation of America (R.C.A.) and became an organizer for the United Electrical Workers, where she was a business agent for the 3,000 R.C.A. workers in Montreal.
Lea was an active advocate for social justice and human rights for the majority of her life. She was affliated with numerous organizations in Montreal including the Québec Aid to the Partially Sighted, the Voice of Women, as well as anti-nuclear and anti-war groups. Lea was a continual presence within the ranks passing out leaflets, demonstrationing, providing support and lending her respected voice to so many causes.
This material was donated to the Jewish Public Library Archives by Lea Roback in 1998. The material of the Fonds was in the possession of Ms. Roback until the date of the transfer.
The arrangement of the Lea Roback fonds maintained the order in which it was donated to the archives with the exception of Series 3. In the correspondence series, letters were grouped by sender and when without date or an identifiable author, were grouped together. In 2015, as a result of entering unprocessed material into the database, the intellectual arrangement of this fonds was also updated. To consult the original finding aid please contact the JPL-A directly.
In addition to textual and photographic material, the Lea Roback Fonds contains sound recordings (10 audio cassettes) and graphic material (2 prints, 7 posters)
Some privacy restrictions apply to material within the Léa Roback Fonds. Please contact the JPL-A directly for further information.
Some Copyright restrictions may apply
Detailed finding aid available; file level control.
This series includes working documents and material produced through and used for Lea Roback's professional activities. It includes records on various social justice causes, such of reproductive rights and labour activism, awards and certificates, as well as interviews with Lea Roback and her writi…
This series includes working documents and material produced through and used for Lea Roback's professional activities. It includes records on various social justice causes, such of reproductive rights and labour activism, awards and certificates, as well as interviews with Lea Roback and her writing.