TROTTIER, MARGUERITE, dite Saint-Joseph, sister of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, superior of the community (superior general); b. 21 April 1678 at Batiscan, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Trottier and Geneviève de La Fond; d. 6 Oct. 1744 on the St Lawrence River, opposite Île d’Orléans.
Marguerite Trottier belonged to one of the founding families of Batiscan. When the Jesuits opened their seigneury to settlement in 1666, four brothers by the name of Trottier were among the censitaires. They came from Trois-Rivières, where their father, Jules, had settled in 1646 after emigrating from Saint-Martin d’Igé (dept. of Orne) in Le Perche. It has been impossible to find Marguerite’s certificate of baptism – in 1678 Batiscan was only a mission served by the Jesuits. This fact explains why Cyprien Tanguay* and the few historians who have spoken of the Trottier family, among them Étienne-Michel Faillon* and Benjamin Sulte*, disagree about Marguerite Trottier’s genealogy. But according to the census of 1681 which, it appears, was followed by the Histoire de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Marguerite was the daughter of Jean-Baptiste Trottier, youngest of the Trottier brothers, and Geneviève de La Fond, daughter of Étienne de La Fond and Marie Boucher, Pierre Boucher*’s sister.
Marguerite became acquainted with the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame in her native village. In 1679 Marguerite Bourgeoys* set up missions at Champlain and Batiscan. But “lacking the resources which were indispensable for living and for giving charity in their turn,” the sisters had to withdraw in 1685. Even though their mission had been temporary, it brought the community several recruits. Marguerite and her sister Catherine, who was four years older, were sent to its boarding school in Montreal, then asked to be received into the community. They made their profession in 1694.
Sister Marguerite Trottier immediately left for Château-Richer, where, according to a report made in 1698, she earned the unusual reputation of being a “very good schoolmistress.” In August 1698 she was one of the sisters representing the Quebec district called together by Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] to witness the ceremony of approval of the community’s regulations. Sister Trottier then took the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and the vow to teach girls. Later she made her profession a perpetual one by taking the vow of permanence in the community. On this occasion she received the name of Saint-Joseph. In 1705 she was called back to Ville-Marie from Château-Richer and was appointed depositary of the community. Since she displayed great aptitude for business matters, she held this office for 17 years until she was elected superior general of the congregation in 1722.
During Sister Saint-Joseph’s superiorship the first biography of the foundress, Marguerite Bourgeoys, appeared: it was a small volume, 123 pages long, published by Abbé Sylvestre-François-Michel Ransonnet in Avignon in 1728, and entitled La vie de la sœur Bourgeois. . . . Although she did not approve, as superior of the institution Sister Saint-Joseph presided over the founding of the mission at Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), in 1727 by Marguerite Roy, dite de la Conception.
After leaving the office of superior, Sister Saint-Joseph was appointed to run the mission at Louisbourg. The task promised to be a difficult one, and an able person was needed to sustain this establishment, the future of which had been endangered by Sister Roy’s improvident administration. Bishop Dosquet* chose Sister Trottier because, as he wrote, “she is very capable in temporal matters and is of never-failing virtue.”
Sister Saint-Joseph left for Louisbourg in the autumn of 1733 with two companions: her cousin, Sister Saint-Benoît [Marie-Josephte Lefebvre Belle-Isle], and Sister Saint-Arsène [Marie-Marguerite-Daniel Arnaud]. The sisters soon wrote to their superior, Marie-Élisabeth Guillet, dite Sainte-Barbe, that they were not able “to cope with teaching the boarders and day-pupils, especially since they were burdened with housekeeping tasks, being unable to find suitable servants in Louisbourg for their house.” Consequently reinforcements were sent them the following year from Ville-Marie: Sister Saint-Placide [Françoise Boucher de Montbrun], Sister Sainte-Gertrude [Marie-Geneviève Hervieux], and a lay sister, Catherine Paré, who was to make her profession at Louisbourg in 1736 under the name of Sister Saint-Louis-des-Anges. Because travelling was so difficult Bishop Dosquet had authorized the sisters to train novices at Louisbourg; he had even granted the sisters the liberty of returning to Montreal when they considered that the institution could get along without them. Thus he authorized a type of institution which was contrary to the spirit of Mother Bourgeoys and to the practice followed up till then in the community [see Marguerite Le Moyne, dite du Saint-Esprit].
The six missionaries lived on the annual pension of 1,500 livres which the king had granted Sister Roy. Nevertheless, in the period 1733–40 Sister Saint-Joseph succeeded in reducing from 8,000 to 2,500 livres the sisters’ debt to Josué Dubois Berthelot de Beaucours. Such a reduction implied many sacrifices and labours of all sorts, even though the governor, Saint-Ovide [Monbeton], had assigned the sisters certain fines and the minister, Maurepas, had made them a gift of 3,000 livres in 1739. In 1740 the governor of Île Royale, Isaac-Louis de Forant*, who appreciated “the services which the country received from the labours of the teaching sisters” and wanted “to make firm and solid their institution in this colony,” set up in favour of the community at Louisbourg an annual allowance for eight places for boarding pupils, intended for daughters of officers on the island. To guarantee this allowance the governor had mortgaged all his belongings. But his sister and sole heir, Mlle Marguerite de Forant, offered to replace the perpetual mortgage with the sum of 32,000 livres. When this arrangement was agreed to, the money was “invested with the clergy of France,” who by a contract signed 1 June 1742 guaranteed the sisters at Louisbourg an annual income of 1,600 livres, all of which the king confirmed by letters patent on 22 Aug. 1742.
Sister Saint-Joseph did not long enjoy M. de Forant’s liberality. After 11 years at Louisbourg she was exhausted, and in the autumn of 1744 she was authorized to return to Montreal. But she died at sea, opposite the Île d’Orléans, on 6 Oct. 1744, without having the consolation of setting foot again “in Canada” and of dying in the bosom of her community. She was buried on 8 October in the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Piété in the church of Notre-Dame de Québec. She had given 54 years of her life to the Congregation of Notre-Dame and to the church in New France.
ACND, La Congrégation de Notre-Dame : son personnel, 1653–1768; Fichier général des sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame; Plans des lieux de sépulture depuis 1681-CND; Registre des sépultures des sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame; Registre général des sœurs de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal. “Recensement du Canada, 1681” (Sulte). Tanguay, Dictionnaire. [Prosper Cloutier], Histoire de la paroisse de Champlain (2v., Trois-Rivières, Qué., 1915–17). [É.-M. Faillon], Mémoire pouvant servir à l’histoire religieuse de la Nouvelle-France (2v., Paris, 1853). Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Histoire de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame. Albert Jamet, Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620–1700 (2v., Montréal, 1942). Raymond Douville, “Les lents débuts d’une seigneurie des Jésuites,” Cahiers des Dix, XXV (1960), 249–77.