While Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord are generally regarded as the outstanding heroines of Canada, there were many others whose bravery and devotion to duty equalled that of any man.
Among them was Jeanne Mance, who came to Canada with Maisonneuve. She called on a Jesuit father in Paris and told him she had a divine call to serve in Canada. After she had been questioned by the Queen, Anne of Austria, and other women of the court, money was provided for her to go with Maisonneuve and found a hospital, the Hôtel Dieu Hospital, which was opened on October 8, 1642.
As was expected, the Iroquois were bitterly opposed to the building of a settlement at Montreal, and they attacked mail and supply boats going between Montreal and Quebec. It was not even safe to go outside the palisade to cut wood. On one occasion three men were killed and three others were carried off and tortured to death. Louis XIII sent out a ship, Notre Dame de Montréal, with supplies and a number of expert workmen to reinforce the settlement. One of the workmen was a leading engineer, Louis d’Ailleboust, who was accompanied by an unwilling wife. Madame d’Ailleboust was soon so impressed by Jeanne Mance that she became one of her most faithful helpers.
D’Ailleboust strengthened the defence of the settlement and then turned his attention to building the hospital, for which he had brought an extra gift of money. The worst problem was lack of room inside the palisade, and so the hospital had to be built on the other side of the St. Pierre River, a small stream that flowed through Montreal. D’Ailleboust chose high ground to protect the hospital from the spring floods. The ground was easier to defend than the settlement itself, and Maisonneuve would have been the wiser if he had built there at the outset.
In 1653, the hospital was attacked by 200 Iroquois when Jeanne Mance was there alone with her patients. A brave soldier, Lambert Close, went to the rescue with 16 men, fought the Iroquois for twelve hours, and managed to drive them away. There were many such adventures ahead for Jeanne Mance.
If you would like to read more about Jeanne Mance, I suggest the Library and Archives Canada, and the Catholic Encyclopedia, and Gates of Hell, and finally, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
To think, that the Iroquois would attack a hospital, A place of healing. I’m surprised! :O
Oh, there was much violence back then that would be unacceptable today …
Different yet scary times!
… and also a time when heroes stood out! 🙂 … and so much progress from such men!
mmm! true that! 🙂