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BOURDON, ANNE, dite de Sainte-Agnès, first Canadian-born superior of the Ursulines in New France; b. 28 Aug. 1644 at Quebec, daughter of Jean Bourdon*, engineer-surveyor and attorney general of New France, and Jacqueline Potel; d. 4 Nov. 1711.

As early as 23 Aug. 1648 the “Registre des entrées des pensionnaires” mentions the girl’s presence at the Ursuline seminary: “Her mother brought her there through fear of the Iroquois.” Like her sisters, including Marguerite, Anne was raised by nuns. A precocious child, she applied to enter the order of the Ursulines of Quebec at the age of 14. She was admitted to the noviciate on 8 Sept. 1658 and made her profession on 30 Sept. 1660. Bishop Laval received the young Ursuline’s vows, “a thing which had never occurred before in Canada.” The wording of the vows required her “to concern herself to the best of her ability with the teaching of little French and Indian girls.” Hence the necessity of learning, in particular, the languages of the Algonquin and Huron (Wendat) peoples. Anne Bourdon had as her teacher of Indigenous languages Marie de l’Incarnation [Guyart*], who wrote in 1668: “My task during the winter mornings is to teach Indian languages to my young sisters.”

Although a seigneur, M. Bourdon did not possess the 3,000 livres required for his daughter Anne’s dowry. Marie de l’Incarnation gave him eight years to complete his payments. According to the terms of the contract drawn up by the notary Guillaume Audouart*, the entire sum was to be paid in cash, beaver furs, and funds to be received from his estate. On 12 Oct. 1660 M. Bourdon donated his arriere-fief of Sainte-Anne to the Ursulines. On 14 July 1664 Marie de l’Incarnation announced that she had received from M. Bourdon the sum of 1,000 livres, “all in good beaver.” Finally, in 1666, the dues of Sister Anne Bourdon were discharged by the payment of 1,000 livres tournois.

During her religious career Anne Bourdon assumed the most important offices in the convent. She was in turn depositary, secretary of the chapter, zelatrice, assistant superior, and mistress of novices. In addition, she distinguished herself as the compiler or author of the Vieux Récit. After the fire of 1686 she reconstructed, from memory, 50 years of archival information that had been destroyed. For this task she was well fitted by her qualities of birth, mind, and heart. On 7 June 1700, although Bishop Laval wanted another superior from France, the members of the chapter gave their votes to Mother Anne Bourdon de Sainte-Agnès.

Having been with the Ursulines since her childhood, she had known the foundresses and been reared in their way of thinking. Moreover, she had heard her family discuss the problems of the colony and the kingdom. Furthermore, she possessed a remarkable intelligence, and an orderly and inquisitive mind. The last words she wrote reveal her faith and her patriotism: “They [the English] put their trust in their number[s]; as for us, Lord, our trust is in your protection.”

She died of a “violent and incurable pleurisy” on 4 Nov. 1711. According to the Registres, “her saintly life... spared her all dread of death.”

Marie-Emmanuel Chabot

AMUQ, Constitution manuscrite des Ursulines de Québec (1647); Registre des entrées des pensionnaires. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain), 250. Marie Guyart de l’Incarnation, Lettres (Richaudeau), II. DCB, I, 111–13. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 225–27. P.-G. Roy, A travers lhistoire des Ursulines de Québec (Lévis, 1939), 40. Les Ursulines de Québec (1866–78), I, 224–27, 299, 449, 472–73; II, 42, 74–78.

Bibliography for the revised version:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 29 août 1644.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Marie-Emmanuel Chabot, “BOURDON, ANNE, dite de Sainte-Agnès,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 15, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bourdon_anne_2E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bourdon_anne_2E.html
Author of Article:   Marie-Emmanuel Chabot
Title of Article:   BOURDON, ANNE, dite de Sainte-Agnès
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   2023
Access Date:   June 15, 2024