GUILLIMIN, MARIE-FRANÇOISE, dite de Saint-Antoine, Ursuline and superior of the convent of Trois-Rivières (Que.); b. 10 Jan. 1720 in Quebec, daughter of Charles Guillimin* and Françoise Lemaitre-Lamorille; d. March 1789 at Trois-Rivières.
Marie-Françoise Guillimin entered the Ursuline noviciate in Trois-Rivières on 8 April 1735 and pronounced her perpetual vows two years later. She then performed almost all the tasks required of the nuns, who devoted themselves to teaching children and caring for the sick.
In May 1752 a disastrous fire destroyed the convent and 45 houses in Trois-Rivières. The Ursulines had to spend the next 18 months in the house of the Recollets, who in turn accepted the hospitality of a brother-in-law of Marguerite-Renée de la Croix, the superior of the Ursulines and a daughter of René Godefroy* de Tonnancour. In the spring of 1753, Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil*] arrived to direct in person the rebuilding of the convent-hospital. According to a letter written at this time to his brother, the Comte de Nevet, the bishop had, over a period of six months, “to foresee what has continually to be done on the building site to make my people work.” He added: “From being a bishop I have become a joiner, a carpenter, a labourer.” In the absence of documents it is not easy to picture the financial situation of the nuns during the years after the fire, but the loans they had to raise suggest that they must have been in considerable difficulty. Marie-Françoise de Saint-Antoine, entrusted in 1754 with the office of bursar, displayed great organizing abilities in putting the convent and hospital back on solid foundations; she had the encouragement of Bishop Pontbriand, who continued to take an interest in the fate of the Ursulines of Trois-Rivières.
In 1765 Marie-Françoise de Saint-Antoine was appointed superior of the community for a three-year term. In January 1769 she was recalled to this office to replace Marie-Geneviève Godefroy de Tonnancour, dite de Sainte-Hélène, who had had to resign because of ill health. During the American invasion in 1775–76 Marie-Françoise de Saint-Antoine was in charge of the hospital, assisted by another nun born in Quebec, Marie-Josephte Paquet, dite de la Nativité. The Ursulines’ annalist wrote that “all the Boston soldiers were suffering from want of the most necessary articles; . . . they were reduced to wretched poverty; they lived largely on alms in our town, and many were in our hospital for several months.” Promissory notes signed by American military commanders to pay for care given to the wounded were not honoured; “they have never been worth more than the paper they are printed on.” Some historians have suggested that at the beginning the nuns used pressure to obtain reimbursement. In fact they had entrusted this commission to notary Jean-Baptiste Badeaux, and the list of sums due, signed by the bursar, Marie-Josephte de la Nativité, and certified by the commander of the American forces, Colonel William Goforth, on 12 March 1776, is in his registry. The American debt to the Ursulines, according to this document, amounted to “£26 36s. (in Halifax currency).”
Marie-Françoise de Saint-Antoine was again called to direct her community from 1778 to 1784 and from 1787 until her death in March 1789. She was buried in the Ursuline cemetery.
ANQ-MBF, Greffe de J.-B. Badeaux, 10 sept. 1792. ANQ-Q, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 10 janv. 1720. Archives des ursulines de Trois-Rivières, Annales. J.-B. Badeaux, “Journal des opérations de l’armée américaine lors de l’invasion du Canada en 1775–76 . . . , ”Revue canadienne (Montréal), VII (1870), 186–202, 267–76, 329–45. Hervé Biron, Grandeurs et misères de l’Église trifluvienne (1615-1947) (Trois-Rivières, 1947). A.-H. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada jusqu’à la Conquête, III, 183–84, 188–93. Jouve, Les franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières. Les ursulines des Trois-Rivières depuis leur établissement jusqu’à nos jours (4v., T’rois-Rivières, 1888–1911), I. Raymond Douville, “La dette des États-Unis envers les ursulines de Trois-Rivières,” Cahiers des Dix, 22 (1957), 137–62.