On today’s date in 1653, Marguerite Bourgeoys landed in Québec with French military officer and founder of Montréal Paul de Chomedey.
They were joined by about 100 other colonists, who were sent to defend Ville-Marie (present-day Old Montréal) against Iroquois attacks, which had reduced the young colony to less than 50 inhabitants.
According to Simone Poissant’s 1982 book, Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620-1700, Bourgeoys took in the situation upon disembarking the ship: “In Quebec, there were not more than five or six houses … everything was so poor that it was pitiful.”
“Nevertheless, this post, which had been established in 1608, was the oldest post of the colony,” continues Poissant.
1975 BOURGEOYS STAMP
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 (now Canada Post) 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 shortly before her departure to Montréal and offered to go to the post as a teacher. She eventually arrived at the colony with Chomedey in 1653; however, most of the children had already died, so Bourgeoys couldn’t establish the school as planned.
She occupied herself with charity and social service, convincing settlers to begin work on Montréal’s first stone church.
In 1657, Bourgeoys opened the colony’s first school in a barn before returning to France to find more teachers. Eventually, she and a 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.”