BOURDON, ANNE, dite de Sainte-Agnès, first Canadian superior of the Ursulines in New France; b. 29 Aug. 1644 at Quebec, daughter of Jean Bourdon*, 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.” Anne, a precocious child, 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 the Algonkian, Huron, and even Iroquois languages. Anne Bourdon had as her teacher of Indian 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, in beaver furs, and in 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 annalist or author of the Vieux Récit. After the fire of 1686 she reconstructed from memory the 50 years of archives 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 French superior, 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 had been reared in their way of thinking. Moreover, in her family, she had heard the problems of the colony and the kingdom discussed. Furthermore, she possessed a superior 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; as for us, Lord, our trust is in your protection.”
A “violent and incurable pleurisy” carried her off on 4 Nov. 1711; “her saintly life,” the Registres say, “having spared her all dread of death.”
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 l’histoire des Ursulines de Québec (Lévis, 1939), 40. Les Ursulines de Québec (1866–78), I, 224–27, 299, 449, 472–73; II, 42, 74–78.