This Week in History
Heroine of Verchères
For the week of Monday March 3, 2003
On March 3, 1678, Madeleine Jarret was born at the Seigneury of Verchères in New France. Little Madeleine would soon be caught in the struggles between the French colony and the Iroquois Confederacy for control of the district around Montréal.
In October 1692, Madeleine’s father, the Seigneur of Verchères, and his wife were called away on business. During their absence, 14-year-old Madeleine was left in charge of the fort. As the little fort was situated on the path the Iroquois took on their raids around Montréal, its occupants lived in dread of sudden attacks. Nevertheless, the habitants had to leave the safety of the fort to work in the fields. On October 22, the habitants were caught unawares by Iroquois warriors and were captured within minutes. Madeleine was also outside the fort during the attack. As she ran for safety, an agile assailant managed to catch her scarf, which she quickly untied. Freed from his grasp, she slipped inside the gates and took up armed defence of the fort, beginning by firing the fort’s cannon.
Madeleine’s fame spread throughout the colony, and she was awarded a military pension. Madeleine’s popularity surged during the 20th century, when she re-emerged as a symbol of bravery for French Canada. Madeleine de Verchères is commemorated through innumerable works of literature and art, including a statue erected by the Canadian Government in 1913.
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