GAUTHIER, MARIE-ANGÈLE (baptized Marie-Louise-Angèle), named Sister Marie-Angèle, Sister of St Anne, teacher, superior, and author; b. 9 Feb. 1828 in Vaudreuil, Lower Canada, daughter of Louis-Pascal Gauthier and Marie-Charles Chôlet; d. 25 May 1898 in Duncan, B.C.
Marie-Angèle Gauthier’s childhood was spent in Vaudreuil, where her father was a farmer. Expected to help with household duties, she also attended the local parish school for some time. On 6 Nov. 1849 she entered the congregation of the Sisters of St Anne, taking the name Sister Marie-Angèle. The community, recently founded at Vaudreuil by Esther Sureau*, dit Blondin, ran the establishment known locally as the Blondin academy, which served as both a school and a noviciate. There were at the time no qualified teachers in this rural area, and it was at the academy that Sister Marie-Angèle and the other novices were instructed in the rudiments of pedagogy by the clergy who supervised the course of studies. They also received training in various aspects of domestic work, which included cooking, sewing, weaving, knitting, lace-making, and care of the sick. The young sisters were thus provided with the general skills necessary for educational and missionary service. Sister Marie-Angèle took her vows on 17 Nov. 1851.
On 30 Aug. 1854 Sister Marie-Angèle was chosen by Bishop Ignace Bourget* of Montreal to serve as the second superior general of the congregation, which for financial and social reasons had moved its headquarters to Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan (Saint-Jacques) the previous year. When her three-year term expired, she was appointed to the mission the sisters were about to establish in Victoria, Vancouver Island, at the request of Bishop Modeste Demers*. Her delightful journal of the voyage from Montreal via Panama and San Francisco to Victoria, written for her parents, was published in Montreal in 1859. Charming in its natural simplicity and gentle humour, the work describes the arrival in June 1858 of the first four women religious on Vancouver Island. In it she notes: “[Our fellow passengers] were astonished that we were not concerned about gold but only for the welfare of society by devoting our lives to the Christian education of youth.”
In Victoria the sisters, under their directress, Mother Marie du Sacré-Cœur [Salomé Valois*], established St Ann’s Academy, a convent and school, where Sister Marie-Angèle served for six years. Her training served her well at each of the four subsequent missions to which she was assigned: St Joseph’s Hospital in Victoria, St Ann’s Academy in Vancouver, St Mary’s mission on the lower Fraser River, and the mission in Quamichin (near present-day Duncan). Her letters home indicate a strong dedication to the Indian and black children, and reveal that she knew how to compress into each day her teaching, care of the poor and the sick, housekeeping for the clergy, and other domestic responsibilities. All her activities were sustained by a strong spiritual life that was integrated into every task she performed. Her charismatic presence endeared her to those with whom she came into contact. Children welcomed her whenever she appeared, and she was sure to have a hidden apple or a bit of candy for them. Her relatives sent her seeds and she taught the children to plant gardens. Of the five water springs on the property of the sisters in Duncan, one is registered in her name. She made an important contribution by teaching Indians to knit, a skill that would be used in the production of the famous Cowichan sweaters of Duncan.
Sister Marie-Angèle’s 50 years of religious life were dedicated to the Christian education of youth and to the alleviation of the ills of mankind. Her insights into the immediate needs of the communities she served would influence subsequent generations of missionaries on the northwest coast. The success of the sisters’ early efforts is attested to by the numerous educational institutions founded and maintained by the congregation throughout British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska. Sister Marie-Angèle was buried in Victoria on the grounds of St Ann’s Academy, and her remains now rest in the sisters’ plot at Victoria’s Ross Bay cemetery.
Marie-Angèle Gauthier’s account of her journey to Vancouver Island in 1858 was published as “Lettre de la sœur Marie-Angèle, Sœur de Ste. Anne, à Vancouver,” L’Ordre (Montréal), 1er, 5, 19, 22 avril 1859. A typescript translation, “Journal of Sister Mary Angèle, Vancouver, 1858,” is available in the archives of the Sisters of St Ann in Victoria.
ANQ-M, CE1-50, 9 févr. 1828. Arch. de la Congrégation des Sœurs de Sainte-Anne (Lachine, Qué.), Sœur Marie-Angèle [Gauthier], corr. (copies in Sisters of St Ann, Arch.). Sisters of St Ann, Office of the Treasurer (Victoria), Burial book, 28 May 1898; Water licences for the Sisters of St Ann (Nelson, B.C.), Victoria water district, C 026604 00 E, C 026605 00 7. É.-J.[-A.] Auclair, Histoire des Sœurs de Sainte-Anne; les premiers cinquante ans, 1850–1900 (Montréal, 1922). Jan Gould, Women of British Columbia (Saanichton, B.C., 1975). N. de B. Lugrin, The pioneer women of Vancouver Island, 1843–1866, ed. John Hosie (Victoria, 1928). Sœur Marie-Jean de Pathmos [Laura Jean], Les Sœurs de Sainte-Anne; un siècle d’histoire (1v. paru, Lachine, 1950– ) [a copy of the translation by Sister Marie Anne Eva, A history of the Sisters of St. Anne (New York, 1961), is in Sisters of St Ann, Arch.]. Sœur Marie-Rollande, Mère Marie-Angèle, deuxième supérieure générale des Sœurs de Sainte-Anne, 1828–1898 ([Montréal, 1941]) [Sister Marie-Angèle’s “Lettre” is reproduced on pp.116–33]. Margaret Meikle, Cowichan Indian knitting (Vancouver, 1987). Eugène Nadeau, The life of Mother Mary Ann (1809–1890), foundress of the Sisters of Saint Ann, trans. Sister Mary Camilla (Lachine, 1965).