Émilie Bordeleau

Émilie Bordeleau 1879-1946

Welcome to Saint-Stanislas, my wonderful native land!
My name is Émilie Bordeleau, daughter of Caleb Bordeleau and Celina Dessureau, second born of ten children. No one could have guessed the popularity that my name would eventually get, and yet, millions of readers and TV viewers fondly remember a cult series about me, written by my granddaughter, Arlette Cousture. But who am I, really?

I was born in 1879 on a beautiful land located in Côte Saint-Paul, nearby. As most farmers’ daughters, I was destined to quickly leave school and get married. But I wanted none of it! Despite my father’s opposition, I became a teacher in Sainte-Thècle even though I had no diploma and was only 15 years old at the time. I can’t say it was easy! Some students, barely younger than me, enjoyed challenging my authority. By dint of determination, however, I managed to gain some respect in that small class of the fifth borough.

At the beginning of the century, I found myself hired at Le Bourdais school in Saint-Tite. I did not suspect that my life would be turned upside down there and then. Ovila Pronovost, a mysterious pupil of unparallelled beauty, was to become the love of my life. This handsome student did not take long to ask for the hand of the one he called his "schoolmistress”. We got married in the autumn of 1901. We had 10 children together, that was the biggest role of my life.

Over the course of births, however, problems arose between Ovila and myself, because of our increasing responsibilities. After some troubled years, he finally disappeared in Abitibi, never to return again. I found myself alone to support our children at the age of 38. We were the talk of the town ! But I rolled up my sleeves and went back to teaching. Some of my children had to be registered as orphans in order to study. I was ashamed, but what else could I do?

People say I was secretive, strong and avant-garde. But in reality, I was driven by my passion for education and my love for my children and Ovila. I hope I inspired you to discover or rediscover my incredible history.

Jean, Nathalie: La vraie histoire d’Émilie Bordeleau, Éditions de Mortagne, 2004, 192 pages. 

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