First school for French and Aboriginal children opened in Montreal

On today’s date in 1658, Marguerite Bourgeoys opened Ville Marie’s first school for French and Aboriginal children in a stone stable borrowed from the Company of Montréal measuring 12 metres by 6 metres.

In 1975, Canada Post commemorated Bourgeoys on an 8-cent multi-coloured stamp (Scott 660) as part of its Canadian Personalities issue. Printed by Ashton-Potter, the stamp has general tagging along each side.

Marguerite Bourgeoys was born in France. When she was 20, she believed to have received a vision, which inspired her to devote her life to God. Bourgeoys came to New France to teach at the request of the governor of Montreal.

When she reached Ville-Marie, Bourgeoys found no children of school age because of the rate of infant mortality.

“For about eight years we were unable to find any children to raise,” she wrote.

However, her natural disposition urged her to teaching, and on April 30, 1658, Bourgeoys finally received her first pupils. The deed of grant stated it was “a stone building 36 feet long by 18 wide, situated at Ville-Marie, near the Hôpital Saint-Joseph.”

Bourgeoys was canonised in 1982 and became Canada’s first female Catholic saint.

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