Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Re-enactor brings Canadian history to life for StFX students

September 29th, 2017
L-r, Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Peter McInnis, Annettte Assad, Alanna Rayner, Melissa Aycock, Catherine Culhane, Anna Doyle, Rayleigh Richards, Guy Lalande and Barry MacKenzie

Ever imagined what it was like to live in Canada during the 17th century? Ever wondered about the role of pioneer women of that era living in a colony dominated by soldiers and fur traders?  On Wednesday, Sept. 27, StFX students had an opportunity to get answers to these questions from Ottawa-based re-enactor Annette Assad who was attired in period costume and played the role of Anne-Marie Vansègue, a Fille du Roi and Ms. Assad’s 7th great-grandmother, who came to New France in 1673.

StFX professors Barry MacKenzie and Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, who organized this StFX Department of History event, agree that historical re-enactment is “a deeply enriching way to connect with history and one’s part in history.”

In her monologue, Ms. Assad related details about her ancestor’s journey through hardship and heartache, navigating the challenges of widowhood, childrearing, and an abusive second husband, while operating a tavern as a means of survival.  Ms. Assad recently discovered that she is descended from three other Filles du Roi and is looking forward to unearthing and re-enacting their unique stories, they said.

Ms. Assad belongs to an organization in Quebec. which, through historical re-enactments, are heightening public awareness of the contributions of the Filles du Roi, sometimes called “The Mothers of Quebec,” to Canadian history. Almost 800 of them were sent to New France, their passage and dowries paid by the French king, and they helped populate the struggling colony with approximately 4,550 children in the first generation.

The audience found the performance moving and informative. “I really enjoyed the presentation,” StFX student Melissa Aycock said. “It was nice to hear stories about les Filles du Roi since we don't usually hear a lot about them when learning Canadian history. I also liked that she brought an example of a trousseau and was wearing handmade clothes to give a sense of what living as a Fille du Roi was like.”

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