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350 The Canadian Historical Review Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal, 1640-1665. PATRICIA SIMPSON. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press I997· Pp. xxvi, 247, illus. $49·95 cloth, $19.95 paper Patricia Simpson effectively reminds us of links between past and present in Marguerite Bourgeoys and Montreal, 1640-1665, as she traces the career of the seventeenth-century religieuse in the founding of the Congregation de Notre-Dame of Montreal, an uncloistered community dedicated to the education of children in New France. The author, herselfa member ofthe Congregation, offers an understanding analysis of her subject and of other young French women who committed them• selves to the Christian life during the Counter Reformation. Their devotion to the Roman Catholic Church and to its teachings led them from their provincial towns to the wilderness of the Saint Lawrence valley. Because little writing remains in the hand of Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), Simpson has written her book primarily from printed sources - seventeenth-century accounts, nineteenth-century biographies , and more recent histories. In addition, she brings to light a few new documents found in the French archives on the Bourgeoys family and on Marguerite's early life in her birthplace, Troyes, in Champagne. The author situates her subject between 1640 and 1665 - from Bourgeoys's religious conversion in Troyes to the end of the early colonizing period in Montreal. She argues that '(t]he Montreal that evolved after 1665 was not the settlement of which the founders had dreamed' (10). Not daunted by the paucity of Bourgeoys material, Simpson has woven a history rich in the contextual detail of early modern Troyes and the Congregation de Notre -Dame, where Bourgeoys became a member of the 'extern,' a group of secular women who lived outside the cloister but were devout and committed to teaching young girls and to aiding the poor. Much later, Bourgeoys wrote, 'I joined the lay Congregation where I learned that a settlement had been made in Canada and that the religious hoped to go there' (56). In 1652 she met Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, a founder of Montreal, who was in France looking for a schoolmistress. Within months, on 20 June 1653, she and de Maisonneuve set sail for the colony. Five years later, 'the religious community of women that "God had not willed in Troyes" had its birth in an abandoned stable in Ville-Marie on the island of Montreal' (10). The author sensitively highlights Bourgeoys's early years, her conversion, and her commitment to teaching within the context of Book Reviews 351 women's religious orders. Moreover, in a careful balance between imperial and colonial forces, she explains the conception and establishment of Montreal. For instance, she skilfully interprets key events such as the political and ecclesiastical wrangle between Bishop Frarn;:ois de Laval and Gabriel de Queylus over jurisdiction of the island colony. Additionally, she sets right several historiographical errors, such as those found in earlier biographies, and many written by hagiographers intent on seeking 'in the childhood of the subject evidences of future sanctity' (24). Simpson's text is enlivened with rich descriptions of seventeenth-century overland and transatlantic travel, and with intimate portraits of Bourgeoys's associates, particularly de Maisonneuve and Jeanne ,Mance, founder of Montreal's Hotel-Dieu and Hospitallers of Saint Joseph. The book succeeds in setting the scene for Bourgeoys's life in this period by providing context and supporting players. It falls somewhat short, however, in bringing Bourgeoys onto centre stage. One is left wanting to know more about her Montreal community of women and their instruction' of colonial and Native children - unfortunately described in only a few pages. More -work in the French archives, perhaps those of the mother house of the Congregation de NotreDame , and the Seminary and National Archives of Quebec (particularly in the personnel files), might yield some important information, as might Roger Magnuson's work on education in New France. Although the book has some excellent illustrations, two maps are needed for the travel sections: one of the French provinces, with delineation of Paris, Troyes, and the west-coast ports; and the other of Montreal and the Saint Lawrence region. In sum, for students...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 350-351
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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