Mother of the Colony
Marguerite Bourgeoys
(1620-1700)
Marguerite Bourgeoys was born on Good Friday, April 17, 1620; at Troyes, Champagne, France; the sixth child in a family of twelve. Her parents were Abraham Bourgeoys, a civil servant, and Guillemette Garnier.

When Marguerite was just nineteen, her mother died and the young girl realized that it was time to prepare for her own future.  She'd had suitors and certainly considered marriage; but on October 7, 1640; during a procession in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, it became clear that she wanted to become a servant of God.
There are many biographies of Marguerite that lean heavily on her religious beliefs and selfless devotion, that rose her to sainthood; but few that portray Marguerite Bourgeoys the woman.  She was strong, independant, generous to a fault and had a wonderful sense of humour that comes through in her correspondence.  Ville Marie or Montreal, became not only her home, but her mission, and she spent most of life ensuring that the women of the colony were well looked after, spiritually and emotionally.

She was recruited by the head of the colony, Maisonneuve, who chose Marguerite because of her charity work with the Congregation of Troyes, an association of young girls devoted to teaching children in the poor districts of town.  She left Troyes in February, 1653; to teach French and Native children in the new colony, and became a close freind of another 'founding mother', Jeanne Mance.

Both women poured their hearts and souls into making Ville Marie a success.  This settlement in itself was unique, since instead of beginning with settlers and then building a church, they built the church first and then added the settlers, designing it to be a religious community.  Jeanne Mance, as a nurse, was the driving force behind a  hospital, while Marguerite undertook the construction of a chapel dedicated to Notre-Dame de Bon Secours.
From the beginning, Marguerite knew the importance of family, and the significance of the role of women, to nurture the infant colony.  Therefore, much of her life was devoted to training young girls, not only in religious instruction, but the practical skills required of a backwoods' housewife and mother.

In 1658, she opened the first school in Montreal, in a stable given to her by the governor; where she could respond to the needs of the women and young girls. 

When the
Filles De Roi (King's Daughters) arrived Marguerite was always on hand to welcome and comfort the young ladies before they were put on the auction block as future wives of the habitant's sons or widowers.  This earned her the fond title of  "Mother of the Colony".
Maisonneuve Meeting with Marguerite
On three separate occasions, Marguerite journeyed to France for financial aide, and to recruit teachers for her school.  Her Congregation de Notre-Dame finally received a civil charter from Louis XIV in 1671, the authority by decree of the Bishop of Quebec in 1676;  and the Constitutions of the Community approval in 1698.

But Marguerite Bourgeoys owes her success to her own initiatives, and in the way she dealt with people; especially the young women in the community.  She never sat in judgement and made herself available to everyone, for whatever reason.  When one young King's Daughter ran frightened from her home upon realizing what her new husband expected from her; Marguerite offered comfort, as well as sex education, and encouraged the young man to be patient.  It all worked out in the end and the frightened young lady would eventually become the mother of a large brood.  She also organized 'courting' events, like 'Taffy
on the Snow'; to bring young people together, and was not afraid to roll up her sleeves and lend a hand where and when required.

Marguerite died on January 12, 1700, after almost half a century of social work in what would become one of the most successful French colonies, and later a major city:  Montreal.
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