In researching early Louisiana history, I discovered some racy stuff. Well, a little racy. Those bold Frenchmen who sought their fortune in a wild and unknown country found themselves daunted by one particular trial: no women.
It was hard to be an effective colonist when you were distracted and lonely. What was a man to do? At different times, the Church turned a blind eye to Frenchmen taking up with Native American women. (I always wondered what Native American men thought about that.) At other times, the Church cracked down on such disgraceful activity. Finally King Louis, fond of women himself, decided to solve the problem of his lonely Frenchmen. He sent them French women.
Today, many old Louisiana families proudly trace their lineage back to some of these women. They were chosen from convents and orphanages to insure they were women of good character, and when they arrived in Louisiana, they were carefully chaperoned until they had chosen a husband among the colonists and were married by a Catholic priest.
Because each bride-to-be was provided with a small chest, a casket, of basic needs, they were known as casket girls.
Now, the convents and orphanages were not the only source of French brides to be sent overseas. Prisons and asylums provided young women, as well, unfortunates who had been prostitutes, thieves, criminals. Perhaps these inmates welcomed the chance to become respectable wives, and perhaps some of them had to be dragged aboard a ship headed to a life in the New World, a wilderness where there were not even any croissants.
These latter, more interesting women are the subject of my newest novel, Here will I remain. I hope you’ll explore with me what Fate has in store for these women who have nothing left to lose.