She was a Parti Québécois minister under the leadership of Premier René Lévesque and National Assembly of Quebec member for the riding of Dorion. During the campaign for the 1980 Quebec referendum Payette denounced women supporters of the "Number" side as Yvettes (the name of a docile young girl in an old school manual). She went so far as calling Claude Ryan"s wife, Madeleine, an Yvette.
This backfired spectacularly as "the Yvettes", led by Madeleine Ryan, held a number of political rallies in response to her remarks.
As Donald Britain put it in his documentary series of René Lévesque and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, The Champions, "The old women were proud to be "Yvettes". The young women resented being "Yvettes".
Payette had galvanized them into a fighting force". The first of those rallies happened on March 30 when a group of 1,700 women held the brunch des Yvettes at the Château Frontenac in Quebec City.
The major rally occurred at the Montreal Forum on April 7 when 14,000 women denounced the minister"s declarations about women and manifested their support for the "Number" side.
This was the first major rally for the "Number" side in the campaign. This would be followed by many more smaller rallies particularly by women groups. Lise Payette would eventually apologize for her remarks.
Her daughter, Dominique Payette, ran unsuccessfully for the Province of Quebec in the riding of Charlesbourg in the 2014 election.