150+ Canadians Day 121: Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys contributed to peace by providing education to girls, the poor, and indigenous peoples in New France. #Canada150

Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620 – 1700) came to North America from France as a young woman ready to serve the community. She opened the first public school in what is now Montreal in 1659 and worked to provide all children with an education. She also set up skills training classes for women in the community to help them earn a living. She always devoted the majority of her time to helping the more needy members of society. In 1692, her congregation opened a school in Quebec that specifically catered to girls from poor families.

After a few years, she established the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, a non-cloistered religious order whose members worked in the community. She had to resist continued efforts by the church to require the sisters to remain within a cloister.

The Catholic Church recognized her as a saint in 1982.

“Not only has she performed the office of schoolmistress by giving free instruction to the young girls in all the occupations that make them capable of earning their livelihood, but, far from being a liability to the country, she has built permanent buildings, cleared land-concessions, set up a farm…” – King Louis XIV of France

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