Women of New France to be presented March 8

For much of the 17th and 18th centuries, France claimed land in North America that covered more than 15 current states, including all of Michigan.
Mar 2, 2012


On March 8, in honor of Women’s History Month, the Tri-Cities Historical Museum and Loutit District Library will host a special presentation that will focus on the lives of women living in what was then known as New France. Using historical and archaeological resources, Dr. Jose Brandao — a scholar of North American native history and New France — will offer an illustrated presentation of the integral roles played by native and European women in the social, economic, religious and political life of France’s empire in North America.

The program will begin at 7 p.m. at the library, 407 Columbus Ave. It is free to the public.

Most women of the period, both native and Euro-American, could neither read nor write. Researchers have had to rely on limited personal and legal documents to learn about the women of New France.

The archaeological record has proven equally important — artifacts recovered from historic sites such as Fort St. Joseph in southwestern Michigan and other regional settlements have shed valuable new light on the daily lives of women associated with those places. 

The diversity of women’s roles included responsibilities as merchants and fur traders, and often as negotiators and translators between French and native cultures. Diplomatic activities were especially common among native women who married French fur traders. Their language skills and familiarity with the values and practices of the two worlds in which they lived allowed them this unique role. 

Some French newcomers served in religious orders such as the Ursuline Sisters, introducing Christianity to Native Americans in their respective Algonquian, Montagnais and Iroquoian languages.                  

Women of New France is the first in a series of special programs offered at Loutit District Library to complement the Tri-Cities Historical Museum’s new exhibit, “Birchbark and Bateaux: Fur Trade Culture on the Great Lakes” is scheduled to open March 15.

For more information, call Loutit District Library at 842-5560 or the Tri-Cities Historical Museum at 842-0700.   


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