Inquiry question: How does Elisabeth Aubert’s story give us a deeper understanding of New France?”
A: Outline the focus of your inquiry and provide background knowledge. Why is this an important question to ask about the past? Provide evidence from primary and secondary sources.
When diving into this inquiry, it’s important to remember that Elisabeth Aubert was one of the Filles du Roi women, meaning that her story could be very similar to the other women being brought to New France. The Filles du Roi women were the first French women to settle in New France, and they were sent there in order to populate New France and outnumber Britain. Elisabeth Aubert’s story shows us how women were treated and viewed in the mid-1600s, particularly in France and New France. Of approximately 800 Filles du Roi women, only a few have had their story passed down through generations, Elisabeth Aubert’s being one. In the mid-1600s, women weren’t needed for much more than reproduction, giving a reason as to why many women were not given a chance to tell their stories.
Continuity and Change: How are our lives and conditions similar to those found in your research? How have they changed?
In the 1600s, France and New France were both completely Roman Catholic, and marrying outside of one’s religion was absolutely unthinkable. In modern times, this can still be the case in some cultures and beliefs. Depending on the culture or beliefs of a family, interfaith marriage can mean terrible consequences. However; as time has past and our world has become more social, interfaith marriage has been more widely accepted, even in some typically strict religions.
Secondly, in mid-1600s New France, women (like Elisabeth Aubert) were given the choice to who they wanted to marry. Elisabeth was not given much time or options, but she was never forced to marry immediately. To this day, the Roman Catholic religion does not enforce arranged marriages, rather, they only occur when it’s a family’s wish.
Is what happened right and fair by the values and standards of the time? How about from our current values and standards?
Elisabeth’s life in France was dark and lonely, as she was a young, orphaned woman without a family to lean back on. She was sent to New France with a mission to marry a man and grow a large family, in order to help grow New France’s population. Elizabeth was forced into this with no say, but this seemed “fair” at the time. The Filles du Roi were given resources such as money and clothing (such as a coiffe), and this seemed like a fair exchange at the time.
As mentioned earlier, a woman’s value in the 1600s (and for longer) was based on her fertility, rather than her beliefs and ideas (like in current times). As long as Elisabeth fulfilled her mission, she was seen as “worth” the resources and time, which was a common norm amongst many women in New France. In our current times, forcing a woman (or anyone for that matter) to move across the globe and start a family, seems unethical and inhumane.
What conclusions can you reach about your question, based on the research you conducted?
As mentioned earlier, Elisabeth Aubert was one of many women who was shipped to New France against her will, to begin a new life. This shows New France’s determination to grow their population and their competitiveness against Britain. The Filles du Roi were sent to New France with very little resources, little knowledge, but with nothing to lose. France’s determination influenced them to use the most vulnerable women, knowing that their voices would not be heard or at least considered. This seemed smart and ethical at the time, but one story (like Elisabeths’s) can show a lot of backstory in the future.