Lise Payette, Quebec author, journalist, feminist and politician, dead at 87

Lise Payette, a popular Quebec feminist, author, journalist, politician and television personality, has died at the age of 87.

Her family said in a news release she was surrounded by family and friends at home when she died Wednesday.

Quebec sovereignty and equality for women were the causes that marked Payette's life but she is perhaps best known for unintentionally jeopardizing the Yes campaign during the 1980 referendum by comparing the wife of then-Quebec Liberal leader Claude Ryan to "Yvette,'' a docile young girl from a textbook.

Those comments were denounced in the media and by the rival No campaign, which organized large federalist rallies involving mostly women.

Some observers called the so-called "Yvette incident'' the crucial moment of the referendum campaign and a direct cause of the defeat of the sovereigntist camp — an opinion Payette never shared.

Beginning her career as a journalist, she jumped into provincial politics, representing the now-defunct riding of Dorion for the Parti Quebecois under Rene Levesque between 1976 and 1981.

Despite serving just one term, she held multiple cabinet positions and accomplished numerous feats, including beefed up provincial consumer protection rules and bringing in changes to allow children to carry the surnames of both parents.

She was also responsible for the creation of Quebec's automobile insurance board and updated the province's licence plate slogan in 1978 from "La Belle Province'' to "Je me souviens,'' which is still in use today.

Payette did not seek re-election in 1981 and returned to a successful TV writing career.

She also wrote newspaper columns until recently.