ARNOLDI, PHEBE (rebaptized Apolline), named de Sainte-Angèle (Diehl), teacher, shopkeeper, and Ursuline; b. 22 May 1767 at Fort St Johns (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.), daughter of Peter Arnoldi, a soldier from Hesse (Federal Republic of Germany), and Philipina Maria (Phébé) Horn; d. 16 May 1825 in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada.
Phebe Arnoldi was only 15 when her father forced her to marry John Justus Diehl on 22 Feb. 1783. Diehl was a German merchant at Quebec, 32 years old, with little money, a gloomy temperament, and an inflexible personality. The couple had one son, Peter, who was baptized on 4 June 1786. But by that time they were not getting on well together. Keen on making deals, Diehl was unsuccessful in business and became steadily gloomier. In 1787 Phebe sought shelter with her brother Michael*, a silversmith at Saint-Philippe-de-Laprairie, taking her son with her.
The Diehls were granted a legal separation on 15 Jan. 1789. Phebe obtained custody of her son, got back her furniture, jewellery, and clothes, but renounced the jointure of 1,000 livres provided for in her marriage contract. She then managed to assure herself of a modest income by giving English, French, and sewing lessons in Montreal. In November 1794 Michael put up the money for her to purchase a property on Rue Notre-Dame in Trois-Rivières. In return she agreed to keep him for the rest of his life.
Phebe opened a drapery store in Trois-Rivières, and in 1796 she bought another lot on Rue Notre-Dame. However, her enterprise was not doing well, and as a result in 1799 she made both properties over to her mother, who kept an inn at Trois-Rivières. She then wound up her business, assigned the income from it to her son, and entered the Ursuline convent in Trois-Rivières. Remaining there despite her mother’s entreaties, she abjured Protestantism and was rebaptized Apolline on 3 May 1802. She took the habit three months later and on 6 Aug. 1804 made her profession. Now Apolline de Sainte-Angèle, she was assigned to teach the day pupils. Her new condition as a convert and her past as a businesswoman were to make community life in a semi-cloistered convent very difficult for her.
Apolline de Sainte-Angèle lost her brother Michael in 1807 and her mother the following year. In 1810 she became bursar of the community. But, suffering from dropsy and a liver ailment, she received permission in August 1813 to go to convalesce at the home of her brother Charles in Saint-Sulpice. After a few months she refused to return to Trois-Rivières. Pressure from vicar general François-Xavier Noiseux and the intervention of Bishop Plessis of Quebec were necessary to persuade her to return to the convent in January 1814. She died there on 16 May 1825 and was buried under the chancel of the convent chapel.
ANQ-M, CE1-63, 22 mai 1767, 22 févr. 1783. Les ursulines des Trois-Rivières. Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “Une famille d’orfèvres,” BRH, 46 (1940): 310–15; “Une ursuline d’origine allemande aux Trois-Rivières,” Le Canada français (Québec), 2e sér., 28 (1940–41): 117–30.