The Status of Women in New France
Ages 14-18

MysteryQuest 13
Support Materials 1 (Briefing Sheet)

Quebec Society 1700-1760

Montréal was founded in the 1660s, an outpost in the expanding French Empire in North America. Located on the southwest boundary of the French territory in the St. Lawrence valley, Montréal’s importance grew steadily as both a military and trade center. As a fortified city, it defended French territorial claims. As a center of trade, it was the St. Lawrence base for the lucrative fur trade in the interior. Montréal was also the regional seat of administration. The city's profile was reflected in the social structure and economic activity of its citizens.

By the 1730s, the city’s population had increased to 2000 people. Montréal’s population was predominantly French, but it was also inhabited by allied Amerindians, numerous slaves from enemy nations, and a large garrison of soldiers from the Marine troops. Montréal was therefore more diversified than we might have thought.

When New France was first founded, the population was overwhelmingly male, but French government policy to sponsor the emigration of young women, the expanding merchant class, the increasing size and permanence of colonial administration, and the establishment of religious teaching and nursing orders resulted in a steady increase in the female population in the colony.