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 sent to defend Ville-Marie (present-day Old Montréal) against Iroquois attacks, which reduced the young colony to fewer than 50 inhabitants living in “not more than five or six houses,” according to Simone Poissant’s 1982 book, Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620-1700
“Everything was so poor that it was pitiful. Nevertheless, this post, which had been established in 1608, was the oldest post of the colony.”
Because many of the colony’s children had died, Bourgeoys was unable to establish the school as planned and instead focused on charity and social service while convincing settlers to begin work on Montréal’s first stone church.
Finally, on April 30, 1658, Bourgeoys “opened the first school proper in Montréal” in a converted stable measuring 11 metres by 5.5 metres, according to William Atherton’s 1914 book Montreal, 1535-1914. The stable, which faced Hôtel Diéu on St. Paul Street, was donated by Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve.
1975 BOURGEOYS STAMP
Bourgeoys is 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 died in Montréal on Jan. 12, 1700.
In 1982, Bourgeoys was canonized and became Canada’s first female Catholic saint.