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On the year of 1969, the month of June on the 25th a young woman who had gotten married for a year appeared before the sovereign council. The young woman was in her advance stages of pregnancy. The sovereign council was the highest colony in the country of Canada.
This young lady by the name, Marie Bourgois had come to the sovereign council to charge her husband and the in laws for denying her with the basic rights.
In her moving appeal, she reminded the councillors that she is a poor girl who had left her family in France so as to sail through the Atlantic Ocean to Canada so that she may get married there.
This case was not unique to Marie bourgios alone, but was a common issue to many ladies who had been leaving the comfort of their homes and friends just to get into the hands of very brutal husbands in the new land of North America.
Many ladies however have decided to cope up with this situation and accepting it as the normal present life that they have to go through.
This should not exclude the nuns, ladies who are wealthy and women with no economic resources. Through this we will be able to see the situation that the French women go through when they come to North America.
It is evident that many French women who migrated to the North America were married people; there were those who were single that managed to migrate in the company of friend and relatives. This journey of migration from France to North America used to take between six to twelve weeks on boats.
Once these women and the other sailors set out for the migration, they used to face very many hazards along the way, for instance the Spanish marauders, the storms and the sea sickness that used to claim the life of a few of them.
There is no doubt as Guyart who was among the female sailors, on arrival to the state of Quebec wrote back to one of her brothers back in France telling them of the trouble and very terrifying moments she had gone through as she sailed through the Atlantic ocean.
She however concluded acknowledging the almighty God for leading them through these hard moments. Some of the ladies who migrated from France to Quebec did not stay there forever but returned back to France after accomplishing their mission like Marie Joly.
Many of the women went there with the intentions of getting married immediately, but had to delay their marriages because of one issue or the other. Lastly, there were those women and people who went to North America so as to dedicate their lives for serving the almighty God through the mission work.
The first married European woman to remain in the New France was Marie Rollet who went there in 1617 and died there at her old age. However, not all the women who went to the New France were of good morals and of high quality.
Most of them were viewed as rejects that were picked from the slums to be taken to New France. The whole of this task was done by a contracted company that was given the duty of ferrying people to the New France.
Marriage and family
Many of the women from France decided to move to North America as single women so as to do missionary work. In 1639, there were two sisters who arrived in the North America to direct the first medical mission. This loving of ministry later led to the formation of a Coventry school in Quebec.
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For instance, jean mance was a single woman who arrived in Canada in the year 1641 and founded the Montreal’s hotel-dieu. In addition, margnerite bourgeoyt joined the fellow single women in Quebec as an educator working in the schools belonging to the convents.
All the women who moved to the New France with intentions of getting married were put under the management of the nuns.
This led to the increase in numbers of the women who moved to Canada to about 800 per decade. Despite this, there was always the fear of these women not being able to adapt with the different weather conditions of Canada.
During the seventeenth century, the rate of marriage and remarriage in this region of Canada especially Quebec was very high, for instance Anne Le Sont went through the issue of marriage and remarriage for a long time.
This New France region was also characterised by low marriage ages of up to as low as twelve to thirteen years for the teenage girls. However this marriage age later grew to the ages of twenty two for women and twenty seven for men. Even other men preferred no to marry at all or marry at an age of more than thirty years.
This led to the crown that is the king to encourage people to get married at an early age of, twenty years for women and twenty five years for men. This encouragement was through the giving of gifts, for instance twenty livres (French currency) as a present for the couple who got married at this early age.
All this was being done to promote population growth of this new region of the world. Due to these encouragements, the seasons of marriage changed from the usual autumn. In addition the seasons changed because of the economic factors, unequal number of European men and women and the high rate of marriage and remarriage.
The early marriages experienced in the New France boosted the number of children per family. Most marriages were happy during there stay. However, this was not the case in all marriages as there were cases where women always presented separation requests to the sovereign council.
Child birth was also a social event done at homes. The new mother was always assisted to give birth with the help of mid wives behind the houses.
After a successful birth, it was always followed by celebrations and thanks giving to the mid wife who assisted in the giving birth. After this the new mother was assisted by other friend wives for almost a month after the birth.
The rhythms of child birth also depended on seasons. There were clear signs that most of the conceptions occurred during the season of winter and spring.
Conception were also affected by the religious beliefs because there were hardly any conceptions during the seasons of advent and the Lent as this times people used to deny themselves of the bodily pleasures to serve God.
During this period there were high rates of death for men through work related accidents. This left the women very bored and helpless as the men were always the bread winners and comforters. This further increased the rate of remarrying.
Work was an issue which mainly revolved around the women in the New France. Child birth, rearing and household chores like cooking, washing, cleaning were mainly left to women.
The cooking was mainly done in open fire. The married women equally participated in dairy farming and caring for the poultry and other farm animals.
At times the women even shared in the work and duties of their spouses. However, some of the chores were not meant for ladies, for instance only one lady by the name madelaine De Verchires could fire a gun among very many women present in the New France.
The presence of very many and prolonged wars between the European powers and the Aboriginals always left the women alone hence they engaged in the normal family chores alone. Most of the women were not engaged in any commercially productive activities like business.
It is only in the eighteenth century that the women started participating in the textile industry for the production of spun and the woven goods using the imported materials like the needles. Women’s social positions were determined by the positions of their fathers and husbands.
Highly positioned women could play influential roles in politics, trade and medicine. Leadership roles were only available to ladies through the missionary churches.
However, the women enjoyed the freedom of choice during the time of marriage. However, the churches intervened to prevent the occurrence of marriages between closely related people. The churches mostly encouraged the approval of the marriage by the parents.
As the marriage partners had the freedom of choice, most of the marriages in the New France were made under the signing of a contract that bound both the wife and the husband.
The issue of gender equality was embraced in the New France very early as the issue of sharing inheritance was done equally between the boys and the girls of a family.
Some of the women also played significant role in the in the commercial life of the New France through the participation in running of taverns and illegal as well as legal trade operations.
In the eighteenth century, no woman was allowed to hold any public office, though a few of them who were married by influential husbands played an underground role of influencing the decision of their husbands.
In addition, women from humbler backgrounds participated in protests some of which looked political like the food shortage protest in the year of 1750 that was done to protest against the creased prices of commodities.
Women also played a key role in the field of medicine in the colony. This was through serving in the mission hospitals and working as mid wives that assisted during child birth. In fact, during the mid eighteenth century, the mid wives had started receiving salary from the colony leadership.
Though most of the ladies served in the convents, the financial issues were also common in these convents that seriously affected the operation of the daily activities. The convent women were also involved in managing the community, carrying out the spiritual and the spiritual duties.
Many of the women in the New France were poor and others were victims of abuse like beatings by husbands and sexual abuse. This was through the inhuman beating of married women by their husbands. In fact there is historical evidence of some men who were punished because of wife beating.
Some of the women who were domestic servants also faced sexual abuse that made them pregnant. Most of them carried out abortion, infanticide and newborn baby abandoning so as to save their jobs as they could lose their jobs if found to be pregnant. In addition, some women were taken as slaves so as to assist in cooking, cleaning and carrying after children.
The women lived in a life that they were imposed to very many legal, social and moral restrictions. The convent teachers, who were mainly women, taught children about regularity and discipline. However, the girls in the rural areas did not actually get this education fully because they could not afford the expenses of boarding education.
The education during the eighteenth centaury was not common to everyone. There were those women who could not afford the formal education. Girls who did not attend school were taken into service as the form of education.
This was the best form of education who as it did not involve the paying of any fee but involved learning through participation. The people of the New France faced a lot of hardship. This hardship was usually felt most by the women as they were the ones who lived in the homes.
These hardships were mainly evidenced by the high death rates in the missionary hospitals during the eighteenth century. These hardships later made many girls go to the convents because they could get dowry and the basic needs could be provided. In addition they could also exercise the leadership qualities and duties in the convents.
In conclusion, the life that the women faced as they moved across the Atlantic Ocean from France to Canada was not smooth. The journey through the ocean was risky as there were fears of waves and sickness picked along the way.
On arrival to Canada, the life was equally hard as those expecting to get married had problems of finding husbands. Those whom managed to get married faced problems too as poverty were great and the husbands were always away leaving them to carry out all the family chores.
Those who decided to dedicate their lives to serving God equally faced problems as the convents also used to face financial problems. This is a clear indicator that the life of the women in the New France was faced with many and challenging issues.