Some very creative measures were needed to bring women to the new colonies, thus helping to build the backbone of any successful endeavor of this kind...the family!
Pelican Girls and Casket Girls
When the French controlled the Gulf of Mexico territory containing Louisiana, they had a problem—too many men. The male settlers included soldiers, farmers, and tradesmen. Valuable assets, of course, but as all governments of the time understood, a really successful and lucrative colony needed families, not just single men. To do that, the men needed wives. It comes as no surprise that most men involved eagerly agreed with the idea.
However, finding ladies willing to marry a stranger and endure the rough frontier with their husbands for the rest of their lives wasn’t easy. Beginning in 1704, the Compagnie des Indes (Company of the Indies) which held the monopoly on trade in the area decided to send 20 young and virtuous French women aged 14-18 to Louisiana via the ship Le Pélican. These “Pelican girls” were snapped up by men desperate for marital bliss and/or the generous dowry and other benefits subsidized by the King.
Other shipments of volunteer brides occurred periodically. Many were orphans, some less than respectable from houses of correction. Perhaps the most famous were the seventy-eight upstanding “casket girls” or filles à la cassette, named after the small caskets (like suitcases) that carried their belongings. Upon arrival, they were popped into the newly built Ursuline convent in New Orleans and supervised by the nuns until they found husbands. Today, claiming a “casket girl” as an ancestress is a matter of pride for native Louisianans.
Despite the pressure put on new arrivals, not all girls chose to marry. Some entered convents, received the education denied their secular sisters, and became nuns. But most women married, many were widowed, and if they survived the hardships of childbirth and frontier life, they often prospered due to generous inheritance laws.
I guess it's true that women have always had a very strong influence on the development of any city, state, or country! We probably would be better off not forgetting that!
Better have our coffee inside this morning. The rain came back and that's good for the roses, but bad for the patio sitting!