OTD: Marguerite Bourgeoys arrives in Québec

On today’s date in 1653, Marguerite Bourgeoys landed in Québec with Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, and 100 of his soldiers to defend Ville-Marie (present-day Old Montréal) against the Iroquois.

Bourgeoys, who intended to establish a school upon arriving, was commemorated on an eight-cent stamp (Scott #660) issued by Canada’s Post Office Department in 1975. Printed by Ashton-Potter, the multi-coloured stamp has general tagging along two opposite sides and had a print run of 13,400,000.

Bourgeoys was born in 1620 in Troyes, France. She became deeply religious after seeing a vision and offered to go to the outpost of Montréal as a teacher. She arrived in 1653 after several more visions; unfortunately, most of the children had died and there were not enough youth to establish a school as planned.

She occupied herself with charity and social service, convincing settlers to begin work on Montréal’s first stone church. In 1658, in a barn, Bourgeoys opened the colony’s first school before returning to France to find more teachers. Eventually, she and the women she recruited came to be known as the “Congrégation de Notre-Dame,” which was largely self-supporting and earned the respect of King Louis XIV, who felt the colony “could not support a large number of materially unproductive ecclesiastics,” explained a press release issued by the Post Office Department in 1975.

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